Twentynine Palms -- I grew up in a little place called Mount Vision in Central New York.
I come from a big family: 6 boys and 6 girls. Because of the differences in age, the older kids had a little more responsibility and I think that was a good thing for us.
It was an interesting place to grow up and it was fun because there was always something to do and somebody to do it with in a family that size.
My parents are great people. They were very hands off with us as kids and they weren’t overly worried about what might happen.
We were farm people. My dad had acres and acres of gardens and we were always busy pulling weeds, harvesting crops or cutting flowers. There were horses, cows, chickens and all kinds of ridiculousness going on. It was a fun place to grow up.
My father was a counter intelligence officer in the U.S. Army for a period of time. He was an enlisted man who went to [Officer Candidate School] and was doing his reserve time because he had a family and was running his business.
He was a big reason why I joined the military. He would always say “there’s no harm in having some military service.”
Because of his greenhouse business, my father was gone a lot. My mother was always in charge and she was very serious about things. She had more influence on my character development of anyone because of the way she ran our family.
The work ethic I have is definitely to her credit because as a kid I was tough to corral.
I can remember one summer my older brother and I didn’t score well on a standardized test, so we had math tutoring every day for the whole summer. It was horrendous; I didn’t want that to happen ever again so, I developed a good work ethic and had a healthy respect for how worthwhile it would be to me.
After high school, I attended Cornell University and I majored in floriculture. The program at Cornell was famous and it accommodated us greenhouse guys.
The purpose of college for me was to gain a degree in something I would do for the rest of my life. At the end of my first tour in the Marine Corps I remember calling my father on the phone and asking him if he was ready for me to come home. His response was “I can’t pay you what you’re worth. You should stay in the military for now.”
It’s a very civilizing influence to have a family and children. They make me a lot more human. I think it’s extremely important for children to have the right influences growing up so they can become members of society that are valued, and that makes you think of the way you present yourself.
I thought once I got married I would get out because you don’t want to put your family through the kind of craziness that involves moving once every couple of years. Well it turned out they like it.
Whenever my family and I moved, my books traveled with me. Everywhere we went there were books stacked waist high along all the walls. We moved again and my wife said to me “If those books don’t have a shelf, they’re going away,” and I thought “Oh no, my books!” So I got a circular saw and a power screw driver and I built some book cases. The shelf didn’t look that good, but it was the beginning of my interest.
I’m always learning new things and figuring stuff out. Because of this, I developed an interest in building things. It was also partially out of necessity with my books.
I think it’s worthwhile to reflect on things and think of what you’ve learned. Periods of reflection aren’t all bad, I just think you shouldn’t dwell on it.
I always say the best part of my life is tomorrow. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but it’s going to be something great.
It seems like yesterday I was at the basic school figuring out what it was like to be a guy at the thin end of the whip and now, I’m here. It’s pretty astonishing looking back to think [30 years] passed by in the blink of an eye.
I have indelible memories of time spent with guys excelling at really hard things. That’s the Marine Corps, the ‘get it done’ guys who won’t quit and won’t except anything less than the best from everyone.
Some guys I worked with showed me what it really meant to be a Marine and I’ve gotta tell you, it’s fun being around those kinds of people and watching them work.
When I reflect on the best parts of being in the Corps, I think about the men I served with. We did some really hard, crazy things but the Marines always came through, they never disappoint. And that’s the special thing about Marines, that’s what it all really comes down to.