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Marine Corps Recruiting Command

Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va.

3280 Russell Road, 2nd Floor Quantico, Va. 22134
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Dropped from training once, L Company Marine earns his destiny

By Lance Cpl. Kaitlyn M. Scarboro | | March 03, 2006

MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT SAN DIEGO -- Pfc. Joseph M. Saenz, Platoon 3065, Company L, has wanted to be a Marine his entire life.

When Saenz’s uncle was awarded a Bronze Star for heroic efforts during Desert Storm, it inspired his desire to enlist into the United States Marine Corps.

Saenz began talks with Marine Corps recruiters his freshman year in high school. His senior year in high school, he scored a 98 on his ASVAB and was encouraged to join the U.S. Air Force by his peers and family.

Saenz was a member of the Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps program in high school and knew what it was like to wear a uniform. But his ultimate intentions were to wear a uniform he could have full pride in. Saenz’s desire to wear the Marine Corps’ emblem continued to flourish.

“I tried to talk him out of it. I wanted the structure for him without the war,” said his mother, Eloise M. Saenz. “He just couldn’t do it. He had to be a Marine and that was it.”

After high school, Saenz mother wanted him to attend college despite his intense desire to enlist. An agreement held between the two: If Saenz attended college and was unhappy, his mother would then support whatever else he chose to do with his life.

During his first semester at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, Saenz ran into a Marine Corps officer recruiter. Saenz joined the Marine Corps officer program, allowing him to stay in college and pursue his career as a Marine, but in the middle of his second semester Saenz became impatient.

“I dropped out of it because I didn’t want to wait four years to be a Marine,” he said.

Saenz enlisted into the Marine Corps and was shipped off to boot camp for the first time Feb. 22, 2005.

On the seventh day of training, Saenz was sent to the depot Branch Medical Clinic and dropped from training when doctors discovered that the heel of his right foot was completely hollow.

“He came (home) and he just couldn’t wait for the day to go back,” said Eloise.

Saenz knew of his condition before boot camp. During high school, he learned that a cyst in his heel bone had never solidified as he grew up, leaving a hole filled with liquid. Doctors had injected his heel with a fluid that was supposed to fix the problem, according to Saenz.

He was told he wouldn’t have any further problems with it and didn’t think twice about it while enlisting.

“I didn’t understand why they were going to put more liquid in to get rid of the other liquid,” he said of his high school surgery.

But when his heel was checked during recruit training, doctors weren’t sure that Saenz would be able to complete training with his heel the way it was.

Saenz was given a choice to stay at the depot pending surgery but declined to have the Marine Corps pay for his surgery because he would be away from his daughter for an estimated nine months during rehabilitation. Instead, Saenz decided to go home to his family and rethink his decision to enlist. With so many problems, Saenz was unsure if he was intended to be a Marine, according to him.

“If this happened, maybe God didn’t want me here. Maybe God didn’t want me to be a Marine,” Saenz told himself. 

“It was the first phase of boot camp so I hated being here … but I wanted to be a Marine so bad,” he said. “Going back to the real world was hurtful.”

Saenz returned home March 22, exactly one month after leaving for the depot, and had a second surgery done on his heel April 1.

This time doctors performed a more extensive surgery, cutting open Saenz’s heel, extracting the liquid in it and stuffing the hole with man-made bone, according to Saenz.

This time Saenz was able to return to recruit training, after spending several months on crutches and three months working at a hunting and game store. There was no doubt that was what he wanted to do.

“I never wanted a nine-to-five because I think it would bore me. I think something like (the Marine Corps) would be a little more unusual,” said Saenz.

The nearest recruiting station was an hour north of his hometown in Pearsall, Texas, but Saenz drove as often as he needed to in order to make sure his second time at recruit training wasn’t going to end with anything less than a new Marine.

While at boot camp, Saenz proved himself worthy of the title Marine.

“He carries himself as a professional,” said Senior Drill Instructor Staff Sgt. Jesse James Dorsey, platoon 3065

“He’s ahead of the other recruits. He looks out for (their) welfare. To me he’s like one of the best recruits we’ve got,” said Dorsey.

Saenz was selected by his drill instructors to hold the billet of company scribe where he is tasked with clerical and logistical responsibilities for the entire company as well as his own platoon, according to Dorsey.

“I’m proud of him. I know he’s joining an honorable organization. Before he went, he told us he was going to be the best. I realized that when he got somewhere he likes, he will strive to be the best,” said Eloise.

His loyalty to the eagle, globe and anchor encouraged Saenz during his struggle to become a Marine. Through minor set backs in his training, he has made it through boot camp. The pride of wearing the emblem of the Marine Corps is all Saenz wanted in return, and that’s exactly what he earned.

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