Once a Marine, Always a Marine
By Jordan Price
David Fetherolf, of Hamburg, Pennsylvania, sits down, dressed casually in a Lactose Polo with a dark blue pair of denim jeans. When first meeting Fetherof, one probably wouldn’t assume that this rather preppy, golden-haired, blue-eyed 22 year-old has already served as a U.S. Marine, including spending time in Japan and Iraq. But the minute he begins speaking about his experience in the Marines, his voice gets serious and his eyes light up with passion and discipline.
Fetherolf’s dream to become a Marine started as a young child. “I dressed up as a Marine every single Halloween. It didn’t take much for the recruiters to convince me to join when the time came that I actually could,” he says.
Fetherolf’s dream finally came true. He entered the Marine Corps June 14, 2004 directly after he graduated from high school. He says the most demanding part of the Marine Corps was boot camp. “It’s completely different from anything else you could ever experience in life, and it takes a lot to get used to the demands it puts on your body mentally, physically, and emotionally. I don’t think anyone can ever really get used to being screamed at 24/7,” he says.
Although the harsh boot camp was rough and unlike anything he had ever experienced, Fetherolf never once thought of giving up and continued to work his way up through the ranks, becoming a sergeant working as a Motor Transport Operator. What exactly does this entail? Fetherolf explains a typical day in Iraq.
“We woke up really early and had breakfast at the chow hall. Went to our Motor Pool, which is where we stored our convoy vehicles, and did a pre-convoy check to make sure they were ready for the trip. We'd mount our machine guns on each vehicle, load up ammunition, and line up the vehicles in convoy order. We'd have a briefing on the convoy mission and known danger areas, and then we'd start the convoy,” he said.
David Fetherolf served in Iraq, after joining the Marines.
Fetherolf says that on the convoy, he was in the lead vehicle, and his job was to move traffic off the roads so the convoy could pass, and find improvised explosive devices before the convoy reached them.
“When we found them, we secured the perimeter and called the explosive ordnance team to detonate the bomb. Once it was clear, we'd continue on. We also searched suspicious individuals and vehicles and relayed information to the rest of the convoy. When we got to the base we were going to, we re-supplied them, and headed back. When we returned to our base, we cleaned our weapons, unloaded our vehicles, and received a debrief. After that, we had dinner, showered, went to sleep, and did it all over the next day.”
One of Fetherolf ‘s jobs in Iraq was to find explosives before the convoy reached
This dangerous work takes an enormous amount of courage, which Fetherolf obviously possesses. It becomes apparent that serving as a Marine is not just a job, but a passion that certain people inherit, just as some people have passions for sports or for dance, although most passions don’t require a daily risk of one’s life.
When asked whether he ever feared for his life and whether he had lost any friends at war. He takes a long moment before he answers.
“Well, there were plenty of times I thought I could die, but I can honestly say I was never fearful about it. We train so much that we can literally handle any situation like second nature. And have I lost any friends at war? Fortunately, no. But a very good friend of mine was severely injured.”
He answers the question firm and almost unemotionally attached, one could assess. When asked if he thinks being a Marine has had some emotional after-effects on him, he says, “Naturally, I think it has to. It makes you tougher mentally and emotionally. Going to Iraq kind of changes things, too. When I came back, it took awhile for me to let my guard down and trust people. That probably sounds weird, but for months we're around nobody except the Marines we trust, and the enemy. You can't trust anyone other than your friends over there,” He says.
Fetherof, now a civilian, plans to get married.
On June 13, 2008, Fetherolf finished his time in the Marine Corps. His life plans now? Ideally, he would like to work for a government agency. When asked if he agrees with the current war that he personally fought for. He does not take a second to hesitate in his answer.
“Yes, I do. The U.S. forces in Iraq have become the main focus for terrorists from all over the world. If we didn't have troops in Iraq, those terrorists would be focusing on repeating attacks like 9/11 on United States soil, rather than in Iraq. I would much rather have them focus on me while I'm in Iraq, than focus on any innocent U.S. citizen on our soil and I know a lot of guys that feel the same way. We trained for it, we signed up to fight, and nobody forced us to,” he says.
As Fetherolf speaks, there seems to be certain sadness in his eyes, a longing to be back fighting and protecting our country. He notes how boring regular life now seems, and when asked whether he has any regrets about his Marine Corps career, he says, “Yes. Not staying in.”