Part 3: Get Out into the World

“Marine Corps was a decision based on my desire to want to provide for my family.”

Part 3 of an oral history story from an interview with Mayor Jerome Prince, Gary, Indiana. You can find Part 1 here, Part 2 here, and Part 4 here.

Transcript for Get Out into the World

The best or most effective drill instructor that I ever had was my mother, to be certain. In a lot of ways, she prepared me for what I experienced during boot camp and the Marine Corps. But my decision to join the Marine Corps in 1982 was based on a couple of factors.

It’s my senior year in high school and I’m seventeen years old, but like my mother, I’m a teen parent. I’m a parent. My first son was born when I was sixteen years old. Like my mother, I also assumed responsibility very early on and so from the day that he was born, I spent a lot of time with him, I repeated the whole bassinet in the drawer thing. He’d come over on the weekends. I say all of that and I mention that to say that that within itself was probably the most prevailing impetus as to why I joined the Marine Corps versus going off to college initially. I wanted to be able to provide an opportunity and to be able to provide resources for my son. And in addition to that, I certainly needed insurance, and benefits, and things of that nature. And, I was pretty anxious to get out into the world and see if I could shake it up or see what the world had to offer to me. And so, I chose the Marine Corps based on the fact that my father was a Marine, and I enlisted actually before I graduated high school in November of ’81 and I shipped off in November of ’82, so I was in the delayed entry program for a year, having already made that decision of which path I was going to take. Shortly thereafter, almost immediately after my thirteen weeks of boot camp, I came back home and I married De Anna (who’s now my wife) and we began raising our family at a very early age, in Concord, California.

Joining the Marine Corps, again, was somewhat of a decision based on my desire to want to provide for my family but also, somewhere in the late 70s to early 80s, the steel mills continued to decline, and there were just not very many employment opportunities in the city of Gary, and I remember specifically making the decision that I didn’t want to find myself here past that year without having a specific avenue to not only provide for my family but at least to begin to realize a future for myself. And the Marine Corps provided that opportunity for me. In terms of discipline, without question I believe some of the qualities and traits that the Marine Corps instills in individuals certainly exist today: no-nonsense approach, the commitment to excellence, and the desire and the will to never stop until you succeed. And in a lot of ways, I’m absolutely certain that those qualities have contributed to certainly some of the successes that I’ve realized politically.

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