[Editor's Note]: Today is Veteran's Day, a day when the United States recognizes the immense sacrifice and bravery of our current and former armed forces personnel. As a symbol of our gratitude for those who serve in the military, we have invited long-time reader and friend Jimmy Thompson to share his story with us. Jimmy is a former United States Marine; despite standing about 6 foot 5 and weighing as much as a grizzly bear, he has one of the biggest hearts in the Bay Area.
Thanks again to Jimmy for giving us his time, both today as well as when he served. Enjoy.
Hello to all out there in FTF land!! My name is Jimmy Thompson, although you might know me better as SetoThorMarChooSki (formerly) or currently as jimmytmerced (too many trades to keep the old handle unfortunately). I’ve been a member here for going on 3 years now and have thoroughly enjoyed the competent banter and rather intriguing pundits that come and go around this site. Although I’m not as active at posting as I used to be, I am still an avid reader and enjoy coming to this site for all of the insider info for my favorite team in all of hockey-- the San Jose Sharks!
Now, with that being said, Mr. Plank has come to me with a request that I share some insight about my service in the United States Marine Corps with you this Veteran’s Day.
I joined the Marines when I was 17, signing up for the "Delayed Entry Program" shortly after my birthday in October 1999, serving on an "inactive reserve" status until I graduated high school in June of 2000. In July of 2000, penniless and damn near homeless, I left for boot camp where MCRD (Marine Corps Recruit Depot) in San Diego would be my new home for the next 12 weeks.
We went through 16 hours a day of basic training which consisted of:
- Customs and Courtesies (Classroom instruction)
- Marine Corps History
- Military Order and Drill (Marching)
- TONS of Physical Training (2, sometimes 3 times a day of an hour or more)
- Basic Field Training (swim qualification, ropes and rappelling, unit structure and tactics, first aid)
- Marine Corps Marksmanship
We had one 5 minute phone call upon arrival to boot camp, reading off a script in front of you to tell whoever you called that you made it alive and that your contact would be limited for the duration of boot camp. Outside of 2 hours a night and 4 hours every Sunday of "Personal" time, which usually consisted of writing letters home or other "assigned" tasks by the drill instructors, we were training.
Upon graduation, and after your 10 day post-training leave at home, you return for 4 more weeks of Marine Combat Training (further infantry training for non-infantry Marines) or 8 more weeks of training for strictly infantry Marines. Then it’s off to attend whatever school of the MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) you picked when you signed up.
As for myself, I was a Heavy Equipment Operator.
I had the privilege to serve my first tour overseas in Okinawa, Japan. As an 18 year old kid turned loose on the world, it was a very intimidating place. Being 10,000 miles away from home, after just having to worry about where the kegger was going to be that weekend, to worrying about not getting caught drinking underage off-base.
Quite the transition if you ask me personally. The first 5 months were fun and helped me to learn how to be a jackass and not get caught, all the while performing my military responsibilities exceptionally.
But then 9/11 hit and everything instantly changed.
It was during a Typhoon when we watched live on T.V., as the planes hit the towers and the drama and aftermath that followed. I had instantly gone from a peacetime serving Marine to a combat ready deployable Marine in the span of merely a few seconds, and the realization of what I had signed myself up for hit all at once.
After my year in Okinawa I was then transferred to the 1st Marine Division at Camp Pendleton, Ca where I served with the 1st Combat Engineer Battalion. Needless to say coming from overseas (and an Air Wing support unit) I was in for another shock upon my arrival.
The 1st Marine Division as many of you may, or may not know was the Marine Corps spearhead into Iraq. Myself being a part of the Combat Engineer Battalion I was placed with a forward deployed infantry units during the invasion (March 2003) in direct support of infantry operations on many different levels (of which I will not get into on here). After 7 months of being deployed I was on my way back to the states aboard the USS Anchorage, and after 45 days underway (with limited email/phone communications) I arrived back to Camp Pendleton, Ca.
During the period of time before I got out, I helped to train the next generation of Marines for the missions that awaited them when they went to Iraq/Afghanistan and those missions that still continue to this day for some of them.
The Marine Corps is a special place, as are all branches of the military. They encompass a brotherhood and teamwork mentality, not unlike a well oiled sports team on a trek to a championship.
We come from all walks of life; the good, and sometimes the not so good. I have made lifelong friends while traveling around the world; some came home, and some didn’t. I have memories that will last me a lifetime; some good, and some bad.
But I wouldn’t trade any of the bad for the good, because they all helped me to become the person that I am now.
So raise a glass today and thank a Veteran. We love you guys as much as you love us. Cheers and Semper Fidelis.
-- Jimmy T.