Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif. -- Sergeant Edwin Lopez, a native of San Marcos, California, fell into the latter category. He’d finished high school but felt he lacked direction.
“At that time I had nothing going for me,” the San Marcos, California native said. “My buddy told me to go see a recruiter.”
Shortly after his visit to the recruiting station, Lopez found himself immersed in a new world that had always existed on his hometown’s doorstep.
“The recruiter changed my life,” Lopez stated. “Six days after meeting him, I was in boot camp.”
Despite growing up so close to Camp Pendleton, he had limited knowledge about the Marine Corps, let alone the fact that a few months later he would join the ranks of more than 42,000 Marines and Sailors stationed aboard the base.
“I didn’t have any exposure to Marines until high school when I saw the recruiters walking around,” the 25-year-old explained. “I didn’t even know what kind of military branch was on this base or what they did here.”
Recruit training is physically challenging for many recruits, but Lopez said his biggest challenge was dealing with new expectations and responsibilities.
“It was hard at first,” Lopez said. “I had never been under any sort of authority or put in charge of anything until I got to boot camp and was assigned as a squad leader. It tested me and I tried to stay out of trouble. It changed me and made me a better person overall.”
After a few long months of recruit training and follow-on schooling at the Infantry Training Battalion, Lopez began taking shape as an infantryman. Directly after his formal schooling, Lopez checked in to 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, the unit with which he would deploy four separate times around the globe.
Lopez said once he returned from those deployments, to places such as Afghanistan and Okinawa, he reflected on the kind of person he was before the Marine Corps, and how much he’d grown.
“I’m happy with my military career, and I’m happy with what I’ve done,” Lopez said. Lopez’ leadership was valued and employed beyond the confines of his battalion; he would go on to be an instructor for the regiment and was later hand selected by Maj. Gen. Daniel J. O’Donohue, the commanding general of 1st Marine Division, to teach at 1st Marine Division Schools’ Corporals Course.
Lopez continues to share his experiences with the young corporals in the course so they have a broader understanding of their roles in their units and the Marine Corps.
Lopez said having the opportunity to lead, train, and mentor Marines has encouraged him to be a better person outside of the Marine Corps.
“I feel like I’m a better citizen and human being in the military and my morals are a lot better,” Lopez said. “It also made me a better father and made me want to succeed in life.”
A passion unique to an infantryman and the bond between Marines has spurred Lopez to continue his career as a warrior, mentor and student.
“I love the overall brotherhood in the Marine Corps, it’s definitely like nothing else,” Lopez said. “I love giving back to the [non-commissioned officer] corps, teaching and giving personal examples. I feel that I do a good job of teaching junior Marines what they should know as an NCO.”
Marines like Lopez are keepers of tradition who share the legacy of the Marine Corps with the next generation, ensuring the leaders of tomorrow are successful today.