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Joseph M. Hammons has been climbing from a very young age and climbs at least twice a month at Joshua Tree in Yucca Valley, Calif. When he climbs he free climbs which is a form of climbing without a harness or rope.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Medina Ayala-Lo

What I've Learned: Joseph M. Hammons

22 Jan 2015 | Lance Cpl. Medina Ayala-Lo Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms

Most of the time I’ll go down to San Diego and hang out with my brother, so I’ll stay there for the weekend and if I’m not doing that then I’ll be in Palm Springs at the USO.

I went to LAX to pick up around 30 Marines. We swung by the USO there and there was this mother and daughter and they were just getting off their shift. We got there around three [in the afternoon] and they ended up staying and helping us until two in the morning, which was pretty crazy to me. It was something that they did not have to do at all. They were there to help us and I was kind of blown away by it.

I’ve always loved volunteering because it makes me feel good. I love helping others and then the USO the volunteers there are willing to help us and that was something that I want to be a part of. It’s just amazing to see that they see hours of their time to make us feel more at home across the country. It’s something very close to my heart.

I love to cook and bake, so eventually I’d like to open up my own coffee shop somewhere. I’ve been cooking for as long as I remember. In high school I did the grocery shopping for the family, I cooked most of the dinners.

It definitely comes from my parents. Like my dad he’s never at home, hes’ always out working in a different state, and he comes home once or twice a month. To me that is the ultimate sacrifice, being away from your family just so you can provide for them. That’s kind of where my willingness to volunteer stems from.

I always wanted to serve in the military.

I like the family aspect of the Marine Corps. You’ll never find anywhere else working wise, where everyone is so close and has your back. There are people who have gotten out and retire, and I can call them up at any time and ask a favor.

We moved around a lot when we were growing up so we were really close, and we didn’t have a lot of the typical fighting that brothers have.

I like anything outdoors, hiking, climbing. That’s how we grew up, Kayaking, fishing basically anything out doors.

My parents always liked being outdoors, we always climbed when we were little but after that we didn’t really have an opportunity to climb anywhere, until we got here.

Climbing is the only thing that will give me a rush. When it’s actual natural rock you have to think and plan out your next moves otherwise you’ll get up there and you’ll be stuck. It’s the only thing I’m kind of afraid of.

I climb a couple times a month, usually in Joshua Tree. A lot of times I climb by myself because it’s hard to find people to climb with.

The feeling I look for is that fear, because you get that feeling in your gut if you make the wrong move you’ll fall because I usually go without a rope.

You know that you’re alive. When you’re not really scared to do that many things and you do something like that and you have that ‘oh crap!’ moment, it’s just a good feeling because you don’t have it that often. I’ve been sky diving and bungee jumping, but I don’t get that rush. Because you know the parachute is going to open and that you’ll be alright. But for this it’s dependent on you.

To me it’s just recreational. Some people are super into, I just think its fun. It’s a way to kind of just get away. I always bring a book with me in my backpack when I climb and I read it up at the top.

I think being in Twentynine Palms, climbing is really underrated by a lot of the Marines here. I think a lot more people should get out and do it, at a place not even 10 miles away. They should take the opportunity and enjoy what’s here while they’re stationed here.

I guess you can sum it up in one word and that’s adversity. A lot of people join the Marine Corps because they want a challenge and if you don’t challenge yourself in your life and on a daily basis you’re not going to get anywhere. But if you challenge yourself, and try to do better, then you’ll get better, just like climbing. The more hard and difficult stuff you do the better you get and the more experience you have.

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Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms