MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT SAN DIEGO --
With his uncle’s boot camp photo watching over him while he slept in his bed at home, Pvt. Eddie Gomez grew up hearing stories about a Marine who held a very prominent place in his family members’ heart.
His uncle, Warrant Officer Thomas Diffenbaugh, received the Bronze Star for his actions during the first Gulf War. While driving back from work during blackout conditions, he went to pass a car and was hit head-on by an armored vehicle which killed him instantly.
Gomez’s family tried to keep his legend alive by speaking about him often and by having his former Marine friends come to family gatherings, said Lynn Duncan, Gomez’s aunt.
“Although I never met my uncle, I was told that my personality was a direct reflection of his,” said Gomez. “He was said to be courageous and a good Marine, so I idolized him when I was a child.”
When Gomez was 10 years old he made his first trip to the depot to attend his cousin’s boot camp graduation.
After seeing the pride and confidence his cousin had developed, Gomez knew he wanted to be a Marine.
Gomez spent his adolescent years in Bakersfield, Calif., working as a stock boy at a local grocery store, a job that he considered dead-end. Life at home was difficult for Gomez, so he decided to move in with his aunt in hopes of finding direction in life.
While living with his aunt, Gomez played a very active role in his community.
He volunteered and helped organize military sponsored events such as Toys-for-Tots and the Marine Mud Run.
“When my nephew said he was joining the Marine Corps it didn’t surprise me at all,” said Duncan. “With all of our volunteer work and a cousin who is a Marine, he was always exposed to the Marine Corps.”
Gomez said he joined for many reasons—to gain motivation, escape a dead-end job, a challenge, but most of all, he wanted to follow in his uncle’s footsteps and defend his country.
After being in the Delayed Entry Program for two months, Gomez departed for recruit training Nov. 5, and picked up with Company H, Platoon 2171.
Gomez found his first challenge when his platoon traveled north to Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., for marksmanship training. Unable to grasp the fundamentals of marksmanship, Gomez was held back for two weeks to repeat the rifle range where he picked up with Company M, Platoon 3273.
Duncan said that after Gomez dropped back in training, he wrote numerous letters to her stating that he had tried his hardest, which is all that he could do, and that he just needed more training.
“Gomez arrived in our platoon lacking motivation,” said Staff Sgt. Bryan Lampe, senior drill instructor. “But once he qualified on the range, he didn’t have any more difficulties with training.”
Gomez said that recruit training instilled a teamwork mentality in him. He now realizes that in order to complete a mission, teamwork is essential because it is impossible to do everything
Lampe said he has noticed an extreme transformation in Gomez since he picked up with their platoon. He said he is now more confident, disciplined and exemplifies the Corps’ ethos of honor, courage and commitment.
As Gomez stood on the parade deck during the Emblem Ceremony, he said he thought about his uncle who once shared in the same experience.
“Before recruit training I lacked any drive or ambition, but I feel like the Marine Corps has given purpose in life,” said Gomez. “The Marine Corps is the first thing I have ever been fully committed to and I am proud to have earned the title Marine.”
Following graduation, he will return home for 10 days of leave and then continue his training at the School of Infantry, Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif.
Gomez enlisted with a supply administration and operations clerk military occupational specialty. He said he chose this job because he has always been interested in business logistics, and hopes to pursue a career in it after the Marine Corps.
“He has come very far over the past few years, and the Marine Corps has given him the much-needed discipline,” said Duncan. “I am proud of all he has accomplished, and I know his uncle would be very proud of him.”