Veterans return to college

Jack Williams with Sgt. Maj Zickefoose, the Sergeant Major of the First Marine Regiment, at the Marine Corps Birthday Ball on Nov. 10, 2009. (Photo courtesy of Jack Williams )

Kylie Corbett

After his first attempt as a college student didn’t suit his life goals, Jack Williams chose an optional path he had considered since childhood. In Jan. 2006 he enlisted for a four-year commitment to the United States Marine Corp.

As a little boy, Williams always knew he wanted to be in the military.

“I think every little boy wanted to be in the military at some point in his life. Most of them grow out of it. I’m not sure that I ever did, completely,” Jack Williams IV, 24, history, said.

Williams questioned the idea of joining however, when he thought he’d enter his father’s line of work.

“For a while I thought that I’d follow in my father’s footsteps and take up print journalism,” said Williams. “But the Marine Corps never left my mind completely.”

He later made the decision to join after his first attempt at college ended differently than planned.

“I had something to prove. I was a failure for the first time in my life when I left Mercer University in my native Georgia,” Williams said. “For some reason, I felt like that would be the first of many if I didn’t make a drastic change.”

However, college was not the only thing motivating Williams to become a part of the Marines. Service, sacrifice, and brotherhood also played an important role.

“I thought of the Marine Corps as a kind of unique warrior institution that brought out a man’s best traits,” Williams said.

Reality later set in for Williams after he joined.

“The Marine Corps is not really the egalitarian warrior brotherhood that I expected,” Williams said. “People get ahead that don’t deserve to get ahead, [while] people get left behind that don’t deserve to get left behind.”

In the USMC, there are general job fields and specialties within those fields.

“For example, within the infantry field there are riflemen, mortarmen, machine gunners, assaultmen, and missilemen,” Williams, said. “Many of these jobs, however, do not relate directly to what a Marine does in combat or in training.”

Williams was originally trained as a missileman.

“But in Iraq, I manned a machine gun atop a Humvee for the first part,” Williams said. “Later, I commanded a vehicle and was responsible for four junior marines.”

In northern Iraq, Williams believes the weather was difficult to deal with, as it got very cold and wet throughout the year.

“Living like a nomad in the outback doing border interdiction was pretty bad,” Williams said.

Williams comes from a military family. Both of his grandfathers were enlisted; one in the Navy and the other in the Army. His brother is a former Marine.

“My maternal grandfather was enlisted in the Navy and my paternal grandfather was a rifleman in the Army 4th Infantry division,” Williams said. “He would have been at the front, but his command learned that he could type and speak French. Lucky for him, he was assigned to headquarters as an interrogator.”

After Williams got out in Jan. of 2010, he decided to stay in Southern California and return to college.

Williams is now a student at Saddleback College, majoring in history with an emphasis on the Middle East. He is also the Vice President of Saddleback’s Veteran’s Club.

“Although the ‘civilian’ way of thinking is supposedly bred out of us in boot camp, it tends to creep back in after a year or two,” he said.

Due to Williams giving four years of his life to the Marine Corps, he feels as though he is disconnected from his peers.

“The fact that my peers are college graduates or in grad school is irksome,” he said.

“I don’t relate to recent high school graduates.”

The concepts of authority and responsibility are distinguishably different between the Marine Corps and day-to-day life.

“It’s difficult for me to adjust to lack of authority or responsibility to take action when people are disrespectful in class or around campus,” Williams said. “It was my place in the Corps, it isn’t out here.”

Williams encourages people to join the Marine Corps only if they are a believer in its system and in return, dissuade someone if they aren’t.


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