Oral History 09.2015: Frank G., Marine Veteran and College Student

This interview with Marine veteran and college student Frank G. took place in April, 2015 in Greensboro, NC.

Frank G. is student at Guilford College pursuing his Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. Aside from being a full time student Frank also tutors psychology students during the weekdays and weekends. Not only has Frank helped and cared for others through tutoring but most importantly he has protected the lives of many (American citizens) as a soldier. For this reason and more this makes him unique.

Born in Greensboro, North Carolina, Frank attended a local college but had a hard time succeeding even after several attempts. The same was for the job positions he held. This led him to voluntarily enroll in the Marine Corps. What made him choose this military branch? Frank stated, “I chose the Marine Corps because I wanted the hardest challenge, and because of the reputation and tradition of the Marine Corps; and probably because my parents were pushing me into the Navy.” Although Frank did want a challenge, what he experienced at boot camp was far more than we he thought, from the activities that he participated to his instructors. To him boot camp was very intense, he participated in physical exercise to improve his strength but he also participated in activities that would build his knowledge and prepare him for war. Such activities included team building exercise, confidence and discipline exercise and of course combat, weapons and marksmanship training. Adapting to this lifestyle was shocking at first for Frank but then he did well. His instructors were very dedicated and tough. At first he hated them and then they seemed sadistic to him but eventually he wanted to be like them. It was during his lasts days at boot camp that he understood the need for their harsh methods. Despite the vigorous experience Frank said, “It was a very transformative experience and, I feel, very beneficial.” After boot camp Frank went to my MOS (military occupational specialty) school where he learned more specialized infantry skills such as medium assault rocket launcher, demolitions and urban tactics.

After months of preparation Frank was sent to Iraq-Al Anbar province. Although Frank cannot share every single experience, he does remember seeing hundreds of patrols everywhere, on foot and mounted in vehicles. “We maintained a visible presence in our area of operations (AO) and did a lot of work with the local population. My unit participated in facilitating the 2007 Sahawa (Awakening) movement of Sunni tribes in our area. Unfortunately, the area in which I served (Fallujah) is now under the control of ISIS,” said Frank. Another memory of wartime was being on front lines where he witnessed IED’s, mortars, and small arm fire.  Despite all this and other destruction that was taking place during wartime Frank was able to block it out and focus on what he had to do. His friends played an important role by encouraging him during these moments. “The bonds forged by the shared hardship of military life are deep and I will remain in touch with a few of those guys for my whole life,” said Frank. Aside from his military friends, his family and friends back at home were also encouraging him through letters sent back and forth, and email and phone calls. When he was off duty, Frank worked out, watched movies, read books, wrote letters and played video games. All these activities that served as somewhat of distraction yet didn’t happen so frequently. But he does admit to have enjoyed it…while it lasted!

Although letters, emails and phone calls helped Frank during wartime he still missed being home yet he didn’t know how things would be once he returned. As he sat on the plane, on his way back, he felt both excited and anxious. Many questions ran through his mind. Some family members and friends were excited to see him back but his relationship with his parents was extremely strained as a result of his decision. Till this day he doesn’t know why.  Although he didn’t really know what to expect after coming back Frank only hoped for the best. But things turned out for worse. Readjusting to the “normal life” or civilian life was terrible for him. Not only did he have a hard time with his parents but he also broke up with his fiancé. This led him to drink and suffer from depression. Soon enough Frank found himself unemployed, single and got a DUI. He stated, “It was pretty bad, but I feel I was fine during the war..it was as if my issues stemmed not from the war itself, but by my reaction to the world that I return to that has remained the same while I've changed so much.” Things have changed for Frank despite all that he has been through. It hasn’t been easy but military service has taught him some life lessons such as the importance of hard work, perseverance and leadership but most importantly that determination can accomplish anything! If there’s anything that the future generation can learn from his experience it would be, “Read the news, pay attention to what’s going on in the world and in Washington, DC. Educate and inform yourself. War is a terrible thing. Our politicians who scream for war have no intention of fighting it themselves, or sending their kids to do it. They will ask you to go for them!”

Reflecting back to the interview with Frank, I don’t understand why someone would come up with the phrase “your average Joe” because he like anyone else surpassed that quality. From putting his life at risk to tutoring psychologist students, every experience had made him unique and will impact the lives of others. Yes, he has had his downfall but like he said himself; determination can accomplish anything, and this what has helped him change his life around. Frank will soon be graduating from Guilford College.