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Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center

"Marine Air Ground Task Force Training Command"

Twentynine Palms, California
What I’ve Learned: Rapheal Trammell

By Cpl. Medina Ayala-Lo | Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms | June 22, 2017

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Twentynine Palms -- >My mom was the only one who raised me. I didn’t meet my father until recently at 20 years old. My mom didn’t really have a job so I was in and out of foster care and we moved around a lot so I attended different schools.

>My mom is better now, but she’s been on drugs all her life. It was really hard for me growing up not having certain things you need in school because I never had the money for it. It was either I was going to go out and do something bad to get the money or I was going to fail the class. But I did everything I could possibly think of just to graduate.

>I have two older brothers and one little sister. My oldest brother is 7 years older than me. I never really grew up with him because he was raised by my grandmother. When he was born and we were younger my mother was real heavy on the drugs so she couldn’t take care of us. My other brother is two years older than me and my sister is two years younger than me.

>My little sister and I didn’t get along growing up. But as we got older we realized we’re grown adults and that we’re all we’ve got so we have to be there for each other. My second oldest brother and I do everything together, we’re very competitive.

>The neighborhood I grew up in was a bad neighborhood. Drugs, stealing, the worst things you can think of happened and that was normal.

>Of course you have a good and a bad side to every place you go but I’m from the real bad side. I know people who grew up and they go through their whole life and didn’t do anything but move a street down. Before I joined the Marine Corps I’d never left Atlanta.

>I really don’t want to go back home all the time but that’s where my family is. I have to go visit them. The more distance you put in between somebody the more you realize how much you miss them. It’s true; you don’t miss somebody until they’re gone. I call them all the time and they’re always there for me when I get sad or just need somebody to talk to. They don’t ask me for anything. People said, “they’re going to use you for your money because you’re in the military” but with them it’s not like that.

>Nobody from my family has graduated from high school. I’m not just talking about immediate family, I’m talking about extended family. I think my grandmother might have graduated but when it comes to my aunties and uncles, I have about 9, none of them graduated and none of their kids graduated. My graduating high school exceeded the expectations of my parents. Most people from my neighborhood would give up and think “okay I’ve graduated high school, I’m done” but I wanted to go further.

>I was the only one from my graduating class who joined the military but I was also in the bottom of my graduating class. I used to have to fight for my life. I used to get jumped a lot because I was really protective when it came to my family. Even though we would argue amongst each other I knew that when somebody outside messed with them it was important to protect each other. So there were times when I’d be going somewhere and I would get off the bus and people would try to jump me. I used to have to be hospitalized but I would still make it to class. Those situations helped me graduate because my teachers saw I was pushing.

>I just felt like you couldn’t really do anything in life without at least a high school diploma. School was a good place to be. If I didn’t go to school, where would I be? I’ve never been to jail, because I was in school. I wasn’t 100% focused on school but I knew I had to graduate and I knew I had to do everything in my power to graduate. I saw people dropping out all the time and I saw where their lives were going. I knew that’s not where I wanted to be.

>I don’t drink, I don’t smoke cigarettes, I don’t do any of that. I don’t drink because I had bad experiences with my mom when she was drunk. I choose not to do those things because I want to be in control of my life.

>My teachers wanted me to do well but they didn’t want me to go to the Marine Corps. My friends all wanted to be football stars and they all had good grades. But the people around me would tell me you’re not going to be anything. My classmates were laughing when we took our graduation photos they said “it doesn’t really matter because you’re not going to graduate anyway.” No one really supported me, they just thought I was going to fall into the bad habits of everyone else.

>I did have some good role models and one of them was my recruiter, I really wanted to be like him. I swear he turned my life around 180. In twelfth grade I was to the point where I probably would’ve done something really bad because of the way I was living; around guns, violence and drugs all the time.

>I was in school walking down the hallway when he saw me and thought I was skipping class. He asked me what I was going to do with my life. No one ever approached me as a man and asked me really heart felt questions and I respected him for that. He was a father figure in my life.

>Before I met my recruiter, I had already determined that the military was not an option. But the way he explained it to me made me aware of my options and the things I could do in the Marine Corps. He didn’t really pressure me to join, but he did let me know that the military would be a good option for where I wanted to be in life and my mindset.

>My recruiter made it possible for me to go to my prom. He said prom is one of the most important moments in your life, you only get one. So he helped me figure out a way to fund it. He didn’t have to do any of that. He helped me out a lot and we still keep in touch.

>I think differently than the people I’m around and the people my age. I remember growing up and being the kid who didn’t have certain things. I looked around at all my friends and I thought “why do they have cars and how can their parents buy them nice clothes” and I just felt like that was normal. Growing up I started realizing small things like the lights being off or us not having food was a result of the way my mom chose to live her life. I’m not blaming her, she gave us shelter and did the best she could but when I was growing up I knew everything around me played a part in the person I was going to become, whether it was positive or negative.

>I don’t blame my mom for the way I grew up because I talked about my upbringing with my recruiter a lot. You start forgetting all the negative stuff that happens in life and you only remember the positive. Even though she was doing what she was doing, we had a roof most of the time, she got food even if it was just a bag of noodles and we survived this long because of her. At one point I couldn’t do anything for myself and she was there for me so that’s how I look at her now. When I see her, I see her as my mom. I only have one mother and she raised me and took care of me when I couldn’t take care of myself. I feel like I owe her the whole world.

>My environment made me who I am. No one had to teach me that, it was just me. I felt like I was different from them, I don’t know what it was. Maybe it’s my thought process but I felt like I wanted more out of life and I didn’t just want it for myself, I wanted it for my family too. So I knew I had to do something different, whatever that might be.

>I was told the Marine Corps is the hardest thing you could possibly. I thought to myself “why try those easy branches when I can try something else.” I love challenges, even if it’s just racing, even if it’s a question, and I felt that the Corps was the ultimate challenge at that part of my life.

>It’s the ‘prove people wrong’ part that I love about a challenge. Graduating guide in boot camp is what gave me that drive. That serious face, that always pushing my limits.

>When I joined, my family was happy but my mom was scared for the most part. She cried but I told her that it’s not what everybody says or what you see in the movies. But they all supported me 100 percent.

>My brother just wants me to succeed. He hits me on the bad decisions. For example, if I want to buy something that I don’t need he’ll tell me I don’t need it. But he supports all my decisions.

>Having my support system is very important to me because where I work gets stressful at times.

>I volunteer a lot because I want to give back my time. I feel like the Marine Corps has given me a lot. It’s changed me. It’s put my life into a different direction and the least I can do is just give some of my time back. I feel like it’s me paying the Marine Corps back for what it’s done for me.

>My favorite part about being a Marine is teaching what I’ve learned to those who come after me and making them better than I was. It’s not really about me, it’s just about my junior Marines. I really want them to succeed.

>Re-enlisting wouldn’t be a bad idea but I don’t want that to be my only option. I’m putting in a lot of work for if I do want to get out but I’m still going to put in a re-enlistment package. If I do re-enlist, I’ll become an officer.

>In my lifetime I want to become successful in everything I do. I want to reach a point where myself and my family don’t have to worry about anything. I know I’ll reach that point, it’s just a matter of time and the decisions I make.

>Something I’ve learned in the Marine Corps is to be the best I can be. Look in the mirror and see what you can improve on a daily basis. I just try to be better and better each day.

>If I could give advice to someone it would be to be whatever you want to be no matter what anybody thinks about you. If you’ve met your life goals and feel like you’ll be accomplished in life, do it. Nobody can stop you; the only person who can stop you is you.
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