Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego -- Although the young man knew the next step he wanted to take in life, he also knew he’d have to be patient and finish his schooling first.
Lance Cpl. Justyn K. Jones, Alpha Company, 1st Recruit Training Battalion, wanted to get away from his small town and joins the Marine Corps.
Jones grew up in Battle Creek, Mich., where everyone knew almost everyone, according to Jones. To pass the time, he always spent time with his friends and family or he played sports.
“My friends and I would just jump into the car and we would just go places,” said Jones. “I also loved going to this one hill at night to look at the stars, which was really nice.”
Jones was known for being a social person, and a lot of people knew him.
“I got an award in school for being the happiest person,” said Jones. “It was a leadership spirit award. People were just happy to be around me, and I was told you either love me or you hate me.”
The young Marine also had a huge family who would gather at his grandmother’s house occasionally.
“My grandma had this big yard that we would play in,” said Jones. “I have a lot of cousins, so everybody went to her house all the time.”
Although he enjoyed being around his loved ones, he found himself always on the move. Life at home was challenging, especially since money got tighter as Jones got older. With the family financial struggle, Jones wanted to keep himself busy. He wanted to eventually move on and join the Marine Corps, but he needed a high school diploma.
“Sports kept me busy through middle school,” said Jones. “I didn’t give myself a break. When I finally made it to high school, though, my grades started to slip.”
Jones’ coach, a retired Marine lieutenant colonel, noticed he was having a hard time and decided to take him under his wing.
“He made sure I was doing all the right things and going to all of the practices,” said Jones. “He motivated me for sure, and I ended up playing for varsity for my last two years.”
During his senior year of high school, an incident occurred that solidified his decision to enlist. When Jones got home from practice one day, he found out that someone in his town was killed the night before. Getting away from incidents like that motivated Jones for the rest of his senior year.
“As soon as I was eligible, I asked my recruiter if I could start the enlistment process,” said Jones. “I had already been all around the office since I was 15 years old, so the second I turned 17, I wanted to leave.”
Jones’ recruiter conducted a prescreening process with him, so joining the Delayed Entry Program was quick. After graduating high school, Jones finally left for recruit training and picked up with Alpha Company.
“I had never been this far away from home before,” said Jones. “It’s just like what you see in all the videos, but now you’re feeling it all. I had no doubt in my mind that this is exactly what I signed up for, even after making it through receiving week.”
Shortly after arriving to the depot, Jones was selected to be the guide of his platoon.
“The other recruits would come to me all the time and ask me, ‘What are we doing today?’” said Jones. “I always had to tell them that we’d figure it out together. I’ve never done this before either. Nine times out of ten we’re going to get it wrong anyways.”
Although Jones tried to help the other recruits, sometimes he fell short.
“When the drill instructors discipline the other recruits I tried helping, it made me feel bad,” said Jones. “It made me want to push myself harder for the next time. It was always just a reflection on myself and how I could improve, too.”
Jones wanted to be the best example he could be for his platoon by staying humble.
“There are definitely recruits who are better than me, but even if they’re getting incentive training, I’d be right there with them,” said Jones. “I work hard for me, for my drill instructors and my platoon.”
Completing training and seeing his family again kept Jones motivated day after day.
“I look forward to getting back home to show everyone that I did it,” said Jones. “I didn’t want to go back to being the same person I was. Our company first sergeant told us once, ‘A fail is the first attempt in learning.’ I figured, everything that’s happened, it’s just a learning experience. Sometimes you have to take yourself the extra mile.”
Following recruit training, Jones will report to the School of Infantry at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., to become an infantryman.
“I wanted that job because I love being outside,” said Jones. “I’d get paid to shoot weapons and hike, and I look forward to finding myself at the same time.”
Even after finally getting away from home, Jones can’t wait to return to see his family again.
“My grandma told me she’d have a plate of food waiting for me when I get back,” said Jones. “I love my family to death.”