Little brother big influence; Eager sib hauls older bro from rut
By Lance Cpl. Jess Levens
| | November 05, 2004
MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT SAN DIEGO, Calif. --
Jacob Mahaffey's life was at a standstill. Full-time work as a pizza guy and three years of seemingly meaningless college wasn't cutting it. Day-in, day-out, it was the same thing in Kewanee, Ill. He was stuck in the normality of his insipid small-town life.
"I was just sitting around the house thinking my life was going nowhere," said Jacob. "Then something clicked. Jeff just graduated high school and was always talking about the Marines and how he couldn't wait to go to boot camp."
Big brother Jacob decided to join his 18-year-old baby brother Jeffrey's pilgrimage into the Corps.
"It seemed like a great idea," said 21-year-old Jacob. "I wasn't doing anything important at home, and Jeff was just the spark that made me realize it."
Jeff enlisted in December 2003, and only high-school graduation and a summer stood between him and the Corps. Jacob enlisted several months later, and the brothers shipped out on a buddy program.
"I knew I was going into the military," said Jeff. "I didn't know what branch, but then a Marine recruiter came to my school."
The recruiter set up a Chin-up Challenge. The prize was a Marines key chain for 10 or more pull-ups, and the students lined up to show their stuff.
"I did 18 pull-ups," said Jeff. "I'm not that big, and the bigger, athletic guys got really mad because they couldn't do as many. It was funny, but that's when I decided on the Marines."
Five-foot-10-inch Jeff is no stranger to athletics. He wrestled, played golf, pole-vaulted and ran cross-country. Jacob was an all-state cross-country runner when he was in high school.
The brothers Mahaffey arrived here three months ago for recruit training, and when they joined Platoon 1009, Company A, it wasn't quite what they expected.
"We thought we'd get picked on because we're brothers," said Jacob. "That hasn't happened at all though. I was surprised - in a good way."
"They didn't even know we were brothers until we went up to Camp Pendleton," said Jeff. "It's really funny. We have four guys named Martinez in the platoon, and they're not related. But Mahaffey isn't exactly a common name."
The drill instructors realized the relation when they yelled for "Recruit Mahaffey" to report, and they both came running.
Jeff said it's been great having his big brother in boot camp.
"Jacob's a little older and he's more mature," said Jeff. "He helps keep me in line, but it's also nice to just have a familiar face."
We've helped keep each other motivated," Jacob agreed. "It's nice to look across the squad bay and see my brother there. On square-away time, or whenever we get to talk a little, we remind each other of funny stories or great dinners our mom cooked. I have a piece of home here with me. If Jeff wasn't here, I cant imagine how much more homesick I'd be. It's memories and motivation."
The Mahaffeys' drill instructors see them as good Marines, with a positive future in the Corps.
"They are both above-average recruits," said Sgt. Alexander Ferguson, a Platoon 1009 drill instructor. "I made the older one a platoon scribe because he is mature and organized, and the younger one follows along. They influence each other positively here and I think they've carried each other through."
Jeff graduates today as a private, and Jacob graduates a private first class before he goes to logistics school in North Carolina. Jeff will go to the Infantry Training Battalion, then security forces training in Norfolk, Va. The brothers and life-long friends will split up and fulfill their own destinies in the Corps.
"I want to retire as a Marine," said Jacob. "My step dad is big on saving money for retirement and he said the Marine Corps is a great way to retire. I agree with him."
"As of now, I can't picture myself doing anything else," said Jeff. "I think I'll stay in for a long time, but I'm not 100-percent sure yet."
In most scenarios, the little brother follows his older brother, but now the tables have turned.
"If it wasn't for Jeff joining, I'd probably still be stuck delivering pizza with no degree in the 'hog capitol of the world,'" said Jacob. "I'm glad he is so motivated. It's enough to change my life."