Contribution by Catarino Trevino III,
Former United States Marine Corporal
What the Marine Corps Gave Me
Growing up, I knew education was important. My Father would constantly remind me about the value of college. After losing him at the age of 16, it felt as though life was cruel and unfair. A few years later, I graduated from high school. Then, I started college only to drop out within a year. It was sometime after that the United States Marines found me.
I remember meeting with a recruiter who promised I’d travel the world and presented vast opportunities. A short 6 months later I shipped out to basic training after having married. Following basic, I was stationed in South Carolina.
At the young age of 19 most of my days consisted of being sent to to “the pit”. Essentially the “pit” was a cruel punishment to test a recruits will to continue. It’s 25-30 minutes of physical exercise isolated from others.
Ultimately, I got placed in a Marine Aviation Logistic Command Unit. This is a fancy term for working in a warehouse. I learned a lot about how many screws, nuts, and bolts go on an FA-18 Aircraft. However, I enjoyed working with Marines.
Soon after, I was reassigned to a Supply Response Division that would spearhead mission-critical supply parts for pilots. “We supply them with parts so they can put bombs on bad guys”, as my Sergeant would say.
Mission-critical deployment to Afghanistan.
My unit was chosen to deploy to Afghanistan for mission-critical aviation supply procurement. At 22, I boarded a C130, said goodbye to my family, and traveled to the desert. I distinctly remember the emotions of saying goodbye. Will I be returning home?
Upon arrival, we were required to always carry our rifle, be responsible for cold weather gear, and report to the new SNCOsNCOs, Staff, Non-Commission Officers, and Non-Commission Officers. The next 8 months were spent working with a new team to support new types of aircraft and ensure they had the parts needed to complete the mission.
My routine was rigid. Our days started at 3am and our work weeks were 6 days long. Quickly I was promoted to the rank of Marine Corporal. It was one of my proudest moments to become an NCO and wear the rank. While on deployment, my unit would get reports of suicide attempts. Marines were heavily affected by the stress of combat zones and would often attempt to take their lives in any way possible. Once, my acting NCO once told me about a KIA, Killed in Action, report where I was asked to attend a ceremony to honor the fallen. That day changed my outlook on how my fellow Marines and families were affected by war.
One day, news that we took down the leader of the group al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden reached me. Given that he was the one responsible for the Sept 11, 2001 attacks on America, I thought, “Great my work has paid off and I can go home”.
I was wrong.
I would still need to fulfill my deployment obligations to the mission.
Eventually, I did return home. It was an open-arms welcoming committee. I was among the first unit to return to the US. After one more year of service, I separated from the US Marines in 2012.
What the Marines Taught Me –
Honor, Courage, Commitment.
The Marines allowed me to gain confidence, financial independence, and discover the pride of working on a team. Physically I was in excellent shape, and learned how to be a leader. Additionally, I got to be a subject matter expert in my Military Occupational Specialty (MOS).
In the Marines, you are taught that discipline and hard work will get the job done. Seeking help at Medical was viewed as a sign of weakness. This translated to Civilian life where I would soon experience PTSD or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I’d describe it as a heightened sense of awareness that you cannot turn off. It leads to high anxiety and stress levels.
In 2015, I lost everything and finally sought the help I needed. Divorced, separated from my 2 year old son, and on the brink of home foreclosure at 27, I put myself through counseling. A formal diagnosis from the VA helped me realize I had survivors guilt. Carrying the shame of survival after my fellow Marines died in combat was the root of my struggle. Striving to cope with the symptoms, I gradually began to understand this would be a long-term struggle.
For the better and worse, this is my story of how the military changed my life.
Hearing and seeing “Thank you for your service” is a constant reminder that I am a survivor of the tragedy that is war. I would prefer “Welcome home”.
To all my fellow veterans, welcome home.
Catarino Trevino III
Former United States Marine Corporal
2nd Marine Aircraft Wing
Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 31