I was sick of school, so I followed my father's lead (he was a 20-year career Marine) by voluntarily joining the U.S. Marine Corps on Nov. 10, 1971. This was during the Vietnam War. My intention was to do my part as an American coming from a military family. My father did two tours in Vietnam as a commanding officer in Da Nang province. I was ready to do my part and finish school later under the GI Bill and Illinois Military Scholarship program.
Out of more than 300 troops in boot camp, I was one of three individuals selected to attend the Naval Intelligence Communications Training school (NCTC) in Pensacola, Fla. I also received the Leatherneck Award in boot camp for outshooting all of my peers during the rifle marksmanship training phase of boot camp. Upon graduation from boot camp, I placed second out of 90 men in my platoon and received a meritorious promotion from private to private first class. My parents were obviously proud. I finished NCTC training in 1972 with a top-secret clearance and was assigned to the Navy in Sabana Seca, Puerto Rico, across the bay from San Juan. I never saw combat as intended, for which my parents were relieved.
My time in the Marine Corps was invaluable to becoming more mature. Boot camp can make or break you. I set the bar and life's goals higher than I probably would have set had I not chosen to serve my country. It taught me leadership and the essence of teamwork, and its role in an organization like the Illinois Credit Union League. I was also proud to serve my country voluntarily and follow orders even when I didn't understand them.
The Corps also taught me that rewards come to those who don't whine, but instead put their nose to the grindstone and strive for individual and team successes. Even though I didn't see combat, I am still considered a Vietnam-era veteran and am very proud to have served.