RA helps recruiters with a view from the front
| 12th Marine Corps District | September 25, 2003
RECRUITING STATION LOS ANGELES, Calif. --
Hitting the ground running and focusing on the mission, living moment to moment, each step taken is perfectly calculated. This is the way of life for Cpl. Brandon S. White, a rifleman on recruiter's assistance with Recruiting Substation Thousand Oaks, Recruiting Station Los Angeles.
White is finding out just what it takes to enlist Marines of tomorrow, a task he doesn't take lightly.
"You have to go out here with the mindset that you are going to have fun," said White. "You can't just think about it as recruiting or you will not connect with these kids or be approachable. I want to make sure they want to be Marines and not just looking for a job."
White is looking for future Marines who want to serve their country. Men who will have your back when you need it most, men who are serious about joining the Corps he said.
Service to God, Corps and country, pride, dependability are all things that White talks about when he is out on the streets, in the schools and around the community.
Although he is only 22 years old and looks like any other young Marine on recruiter's assistance, a total of 48 inches of scar tissue tells another story.
"I get approached every day by curious people who want to know what happened to me. It opens the door for me to talk about the Marine Corps," he said.
Just a few months ago, White was with men he referred to as "brothers of 1/5" (Company A, 1st Battalion, 5th Marines) as bullets flew by them in Iraq.
Living in the desert was quit a life experience he said. "At times everything went by so fast I felt like I was in a dream state, other times it felt like weeks when we were sitting there waiting to move forward. A lot like boot camp."
Nevertheless, training for war was over and the reality hit White after Hussein's 48 hours expired.
"As we drove across the boarder there were big artillery tracers across the sky," White said.
Around 7 a.m. on the first day of the war Marines from 1/5 were the first to spill blood and to shed it. Unfortunately one of their own died. Second Lt. Therrell Childers, White's platoon commander, was shot and killed. He was the first casualty of the war.
"I didn't know right away, but during the time they were giving him aid, he passed away," White said.
Although the Marines were living in strenuous circumstances, they were alive and pressing forward with their mission.
On the evening of April 9th, White's battalion, along with a group including the CIA and Special Forces, received an order to move into Baghdad.
"We were tasked with conducting a raid on a palace in North Baghdad," White said. "Early the next morning we were engaged with a large amount of enemy forces while enroute to the palace. At around 0600 we came to an intersection. While I was covering the intersection, I squeezed three rounds taking down one enemy soldier before taking a bullet in my hand exploding my wrist open. It was a 7.62 mm from an AK-47.
"After we cleared the intersection, I told my driver I had been shot and that I was bleeding a lot," said White. "I was in pain but still under control. He tossed me over a compression bandage. I knew I had to slow the bleeding down so I took off my belt. I was able to use my teeth and right hand to apply a tourniquet."
About five minutes later he was with a corpsman. He was soon in a helicopter along with other wounded men from his unit on their way to a hospital.
"I would have given anything to be back on the ground with my unit," said White. "I was full of rage for what had happened. That whole day on the 10th was the hardest for the unit. I had also lost my platoon sergeant."
Afterward, White spent six painful weeks in various hospitals such as the makeshift one at Kuwait International Airport, Spain and Balboa Naval Hospital in California.
Every day is a painful reminder of what he sacrificed for his country. He took an oath of enlistment to serve and obey the orders of the President of the United States.
"I am proud to serve my country, freedom isn't free and we should all remember those who gave their life for that," he said, with a proud yet soft voice as if remembering those lost from his unit.
In addition to saving lives on the battlefield, White recently helped save a few more lives while going out with a group of friends. Around midnight heading south on the 405, his friends swerved to miss a body lying on the freeway. Once the car was stopped on the side of the road, White ran toward the body. A truck slammed on his brakes and spun around ending inches from him as he continued to run. Just before reaching the body a car screeched and hit the limp figure dragging him about 15 feet. After White quickly assessed the man and determining he was dead by the severity of the wounds he dragged the body from the road to prevent further accidents.
"I later realized many cars had stopped and pulled over but no one knew what to do so they left the body in the road. Who knows what kind of accidents would have occurred had I not removed the body. Later on, I was told I did the right thing by the emergency crew."
"For the time being, I can't keep up as a rifleman, but I want to give back to the Corps in any way that I can. Recruiting isn't as much physical as it is mental," he said. "I enjoy being out here. I want to stay out here for the next six months until my EAS."
Once he is released from active duty, he has plans of attending college to earn a degree in psychology to help troubled teens. He also dreams of overcoming his battle wounds and rejoining the Corps as an officer.
Even though he has some challenges ahead, his parents Jeff and Cema support him no matter what he decides.
His father said that White has always been a tough kid who enjoys physical challenges while his mother admits that he is determined as well.
As for now, when he is approached and a young person asks about his injury and about joining the Marine Corps, White has this to say; "I let them know that I was in one of the toughest jobs in the Marine Corps' infantry. I make it known that if I can go through what I went through and make it back alive they can do it also. I tell them, yes, boot camp is tough but once you make it, you will be filled with a sense of pride and fearlessness that only Marines understand. That you can overcome any obstacle and achieve anything you put your mind to."
In the end, if they want to hear more White will set them up an appointment with a recruiter but if they do not he shakes their hand and continues on in hopes of finding someone he would be proud to claim as his brother, someone who has the courage to tough things out, someone with a warrior spirit, a future United States Marine.