Phoenix native overcomes obstacles to emerge as Company A's brightest
By Cpl. Derrick A. Small
| | June 17, 2005
MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT SAN DIEGO --
The Marine Corps' toughest boot camp challenges, many recruits say, are not the physical ones. The customary rigors of recruit training are hard enough, so being dropped from a platoon and having graduation postponed can be a real nightmare.
Lance Cpl. James McMurchy, 22, completed 13 standard training weeks and shone as Company A's honor graduate, but he also endured setbacks and psychological pitfalls.
McMurchy broke his foot while training with another company, and he was held back 11 weeks in Medical Rehabilitation Platoon. There he said he struggled emotionally, lost confidence and became depressed.
"It was hard staying motivated because MRP was like a black hole," said the brown-eyed Phoenix native. "You are never sure when you'll return to training because your medical appointments are every two weeks and the doctors decide when you can go back to training. Every day is the same (training) day."
McMurchy said he felt even more disheartened because he enlisted into the Marine Corps through a buddy program with a friend who went on to graduate boot camp without a hiccup.
"When my friend graduated, he came by MRP to visit me with his family, and I became even more depressed because we should have graduated together."
Moreover, McMurchy's girlfriend sent him a Dear John, discontinuing their relationship. He was, however, able to overcome this breakup, and other bummers, through his leader's counseling.
"I spent nights mentoring him and assuring him that it would be all right," said Staff Sgt. Gabriel Ronquillo, an MRP senior drill instructor. "I reminded him that everything would be better once we got him back to a training platoon and he graduated."
Although MRP was an emotional burden for McMurchy, the drill instructors made life there a little easier by reshaping the monotony and giving recruits inspiration.
"The drill instructors at MRP boosted the recruits' motivation and morale by trying to change the attitudes there," McMurchy said. "They started doing things to get away from the normal routine. We had a physical fitness contest within the platoons, and they began making us sound off like a real platoon."
The rehab process did not worry McMurchy's recruiter, Staff Sgt. Lonnie McMurchy, who happens to be his brother. The recruiter knew his brother was dedicated to finishing recruit training.
"I was only worried about him being in MRP because I was afraid I would be going (overseas) to Okinawa before he came back," he said. "However, I had no doubt in my mind that he would make it because of the type of family he comes from."
According to Ronquillo, although McMurchy had a stress-fractured foot, he had great potential to graduate at the top of his company.
"After he got through the depression, I made him my active guide and told him with the things he learned here, he could take over any guide's position," Ronquillo said.
Before joining the Marine Corps, McMurchy worked carpentry and construction, which is partly why he chose to be a Marine aviation structural mechanic. He said he likes working with his hands and building things. He said he wanted to be a Marine because he was searching for something that would bring meaning to his life.
"I plan to gain confidence, physical strength, leadership and discipline from being part of the Marines," he said. "I joined to learn new skills and get a career. I also joined because my grandfather is a Marine, and my brother currently serves as a Marine recruiter."
According to Staff Sgt. McMurchy, his brother contemplated joining the Air Force, but realized it took more to become a Marine.
"He joined for the challenge," Staff Sgt. McMurchy said. "He wanted the pride that comes along with being part of an elite group. He also wanted people to be around him because of the things he accomplished. He believed that he would get rewarded in life for his hard works."
Ronquillo said becoming a Marine is not an easy task and McMurchy's triumph over depression and his drive to be the best made him shine.
"Many Marines are decent at doing their jobs and holding up the standards," said Ronquillo. "But McMurchy is going to be a damn good Marine."