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Twentynine Palms

Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center

Twentynine Palms, California
What I've Learned: Bruce Collins

By Lance Cpl. Margaret Gale | Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms | March 9, 2018

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> Growing up my home was very broken. I was born in Englewood, Calif., addicted to meth. My mom was a meth addict and my father passed away when I was two years old. The courts took away my mom’s custody rights and gave them to my great-grandma. Once she passed away, the rights were passed to my grandma.

> I lived with my grandparents until I was seven. Then, my mom sobered up and I was presented with the choice to live with her. I took it because I never had the chance to live with her up until that point.

> At the time, she was living in Jacksonville, Miss, with a girlfriend. My mom spent most of her time arguing with her partner and relapsed. I only lived with her for about a year until my grandma picked us up and moved us back to California. I moved into a one bedroom duplex in Downey, Calif., with my aunt, uncle, mom and cousins. There were a total of seven people living in a small apartment.

> Once I reached fourth grade, I was in and out of trouble. I was involved in my first school fight and didn’t stay in one household for more than a couple of months. My mother moved to New York to live with her dad as she tried to get her life together and I moved with her. But, it wasn’t long before we were on a train ride back to California. It was around this time she met a man named Todd who she fell in love with.

>After a few months of my mother and Todd knowing each other, we all moved to South Dakota. For the first month of living there I fell behind in school. I just didn’t want to go and I was never really disciplined for not going either. I watched a lot happen between my mom and Todd, but I was so young that I didn’t fully understand what was happening with her. Before I knew it, she had relapsed again and was severely mentally unstable. We hopped on another train and came back to California.

> Fifth grade rolled around and I was back to living with my grandma in Montebello, Calif., and was attending a private school but that didn’t last very long. I was an angry child, I was throwing books and temper tantrums on the regular before I got kicked out and put in a public school.

> It was only a few months until my mom entered my life once again and I went to live with her and her newest boyfriend, Tim, in a two bedroom home with my mom’s best friend and her two kids in Downey.

> As I grew older, I started to realize the life I had been living wasn’t normal for a child my age. I didn’t know what it was like to have structure in my life. My mom was able to stay sober while Tim had another relapse, up until she had a miscarriage. It was then that I understood what my mom was going through but I was too nervous to confront her.

> In eighth grade my mom was arrested and was about to be charged with a life sentence in jail. Meanwhile, my little brother was born and going up for adoption and Tim was in jail. I went to move back with my aunt in Bakersfield, Calif. I never enjoyed living with my aunt and uncle because they always talked poorly about my grandparents, so staying with them was short lived.

> Everyone in my family thought I was a lost cause except for my grandparents, so I moved back in with them. We then moved to Desert Hot Springs, Calif., during my freshman year of high school. I thought my life was going to change for the better and that I was going to be in a good neighborhood. Instead, I ended up living in a town just as bad as last the one I was living in before. By this time, I had finally found structure in my life.

> Throughout high school, I became interested in acting. One of my uncles opened a theater company in Los Angeles. I had never acted a day in my life but I auditioned for a high school play and received the lead role. I turned out to have a natural talent and picked up paid gigs outside of school as well. I also gained an interest in martial arts, graffiti and slam poetry. I started doing everything I could.

> Around the same time, my mother regained custody of my younger brother and me as she moved into the trailer park that my grandparents managed. At this point she had been sober since my freshman year.

>My mom is now a big part of my life and is on a path to success. She has been able to stay sober and is marrying a man who is a great role model for my brother.

> My senior year of high school, I decided to drop algebra and join ROTC. My interest in the military stemmed from my uncle, who was prior Navy, and my grandpa, who served in the Army. Both of them were successful men that once had a rough life, but were able to make the right choices and turn their lives around for the better.

> I joined the Marine Corps right after high school graduation. The Marine Corps is known to be the best branch and I wanted to be a part of the best. I also wanted to show my brother that no matter where you come from, there is a path to success.

> Throughout my enlistment, I have been stationed in Okinawa, Japan, and Twentynine Palms, Calif., all while studying to become a commercial truck driver.

>When I get out of the Marines, I want to attend school for business. I’d like to use that degree to start an organization that will help youths receive grants for college and give back to my community. This is a goal of mine because I can connect with children in these situations on a personal level. Growing up, I had a lot of friends who were raised like I was but never saw a way out of the negative lifestyle. There are a lot of children who don’t see the positive opportunities and get sucked into the streets.

> My biggest role model is my grandfather. Even though he is not related to me by blood, he is the closest thing I have to a father. He taught me how to throw a ball, shave and overall be the man I am today. My grandpa worked three jobs to be able to provide for his family, while simultaneously dedicating his life to a child who most people saw as a lost cause. He was very patient with me and taught me that a man’s job is to provide at all costs. I didn’t understand what he meant at first because I thought being a man was going to jail and walking the yard. He showed me that way of living was stupid.

> A quote I live by is, “life is like keys. The more keys you have, the more doors you can open.” Keys are things you can learn that ultimately present you with more options for your life. I want to be a jack of all trades, not just a master of one.
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