Recruit wins two - year battle to become Marine
By Cpl. Ethan E. Rocke
| | December 06, 2002
MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT SAN DIEGO, Calif. --
They told him he couldn't do it. His parents didn't want him to do it. He wasn't given the chance to test his meddle or prove that he was physically able. In the expert opinions of medical doctors and eventually an entire medical review board, he wasn't qualified to be a Marine. He was told "thanks for coming. Good luck in the civilian world."
PFC David T. Ferreira, Platoon 3123, Co. I, tried to enlist in the Marine Corps in 2000. A mild case of asthma in his medical history was an instant flag for the doctors at the Military Entrance Processing Station in St. Louis.
When they told him his plans to be a Marine were sunk, his amphibian instincts kicked in, and he tread water for two years.
"I checked in with the recruiting office at least once a month," Ferreira said. "It was the same thing every time, 'Sorry, can't do anything for you.'"
Ferreira was told for more than two years that his was a lost cause, and like anyone else with a history of asthma, he could not enlist in the Marine Corps.
Like a battered warrior determined to reach his objective, Ferreira refused to let his dreams be smothered. In the spirit of the devil dogs he so desperately wanted to be a part of, he never quit.
"The Army, Navy and Air Force all said they would take me," said the 21-year-old. "I just kept telling them 'no thanks; I'll wait for the Marine Corps.'"
Ferreira waited for a long time, continuing to believe he would someday be a Marine and working to prepare for that day. He attended pool functions with future Marine recruits, and his desire and motivation to be the one of the best showed.
"At the pool functions, I was always the most motivated," he said. "The recruiters loved my speed, intensity and volume. I think they wished all the recruits had the same motivation."
Ferreira's faith and patience eventually paid off when he met a new recruiter named Staff Sgt. Asa J. Russell.
"When I walked into the office and met (Russell), he seemed very enthusiastic about my determination to become a Marine," Ferreira said.
Russell said initially he didn't see much hope for Ferreira's case, but he was impressed by the energetic young man's determination and positive attitude. That was enough for the rookie to dig a little deeper.
"I could see right away he was a young man who had a great persona. I knew he was honest and had a genuine burning desire to be a Marine," Russell said. "We can tell when a recruit is Marine Corps material, and I knew this kid was that and then some."
Despite the odds being stacked against Ferreira, Russell promised him he would do some research on asthma. Russell asked his wife, Courtney, a medical assistant and asthma sufferer, if there were any tests he could take to measure the severity of Ferreira's asthma. Much to his surprise, there were two.
"I told (Ferreira) what he had to do, and that was all I had to say," Russell said. "He paid for the two tests out of his own pocket, and he made it happen as soon as possible. The way he followed my instructions, it was like he was a Marine already."
The two tests proved Ferreira had probably been misdiagnosed with asthma in the past, and, in fact, his respiratory function was better than average. Ferreira and Russell finally had what they needed to end more than two years of waiting and disappointment.
They submitted the new evidence to a medical review board. Then they waited and hoped.
"Staff Sgt. Russell said if I didn't get the waiver he'd quit as a recruiter and go back to the fleet," Ferreira said.
Russell didn't have to quit, and Ferreira's determination finally paid off. He would get his chance to become a Marine.
"I called him at work to tell him the good news," Russell said. "He started screaming with excitement, and I could hear his coworkers and friends cheering and clapping in the background. That experience is one of the highlights of my career. Stuff like that makes you feel like you're really making a difference in people's lives."
Today Ferreira graduates as the platoon honorman for Platoon 3123. For two years, his flame of hope was fueled by the belief that he was meant to be a Marine. His passion and never-say-die attitude has finally made him one of the few and the proud.
"He's a highly intense individual who is very mature for his age," said Staff Sgt. Robert R. Bender, senior drill instructor, Plt. 3123, Co. I. "He is what every recruit should aspire to be."
Today this strong-minded young Marine puts on the dress blues that until now he could only covet and admire with a child-like fondness. Now he bears the title Marine, and it is up to him to carry on the tradition that began for him long before he stepped on to the yellow footprints.