MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, CA, UNITED STATES
I am the third of four boys. Growing up, we moved around different places in Virginia but Prince George is where I spent my formative years.
We were very close growing up. We were homeschooled K through 12 so it was just us four boys, going out in the woods, shooting BB guns, setting up target ranges and blazing trails. I remember connecting those old radio shack walkie talkies and sticking metal clothes hangers on them to see what kind of communication you could hear from other places. We did a lot of stuff together.
We didn’t participate in organized sports as a family however, any chance we could get to go outside and play basketball, football, even baseball to a limited extent, we were outside doing something. So we were very active kids even though we weren’t training.
We were involved in Boy Scouts as well. My brother and I always wanted to play football against other Boy Scout troops and we had our own little play that we would run, that would always confuse the heck out of the defense. We even designed camping trips around the ability to play snow football.
Another one of my pastimes was reading. I’ve been reading since I was four years old. I enjoyed video games too, but whenever we made a library run, Madden paled in comparison to what I had in my hands. I had a college level reading ability when I was 8 because I read anything I could get my hands on. I like to learn, that’s why I enjoy reading because it keeps me informed.
Our parents decided to home school us in part due to religious reasons and also to try to give us the best education they could. They felt that they could take care of us better and that we could learn better at home.
My family and I were very involved in the church. Growing up in the
church has influenced every decision I’ve made because understanding that Christ is my sole purpose, motivates and drives me to do things in a different way; to live out my faith as a Marine, a husband and a person. It influences absolutely every aspect in my life.
I have a very non-traditional educational path. I graduated high school at 16 and then I went to community college. I went to community college for a couple of years got my associates degree but then I did my bachelor’s degree online. The first time I actually really had a traditional educational experience was when I went to law school at [Pennsylvania State University].
During the time I was in community college is when I also joined the Marine Corps. I ended up having an extra semester added on because I joined the Corps in the middle, as a reservist, and then went back to college.
I don’t come from a military background at all. I am the first Marine in my family. I was always a bit interested in military service however, my branches of choice were Army, Airforce, not the Navy and definitely not the Marines.
I was working at Dunkin Donuts while I was in school and one day a recruiter came in. He saw a military aged male in reasonably good shape and he started talking to me. I didn’t really commit to anything then, but that night I felt God’s peace saying, “you’re going to join the Marine Corps.” I knew I was going to join that night but it took several months before I followed through with the process.
When I told my parents I wanted to join, my dad was hesitant but my mom was fairly supportive. I was 17 when I joined so both of them had to sign on the dotted line and they’ve been really proud Marine parents ever since.
My little brother was also a Marine. He was the one we all thought would end up in the military because ever since he was young, he wanted to play with GI Joes and Army Men and that sort of thing. Whether he would’ve joined the Army or Marines, who knows, but I think me joining the Marines and him seeing that’s the best of the best absolutely motivated him to join the Corps and go infantry.
It feels good to know that I was an influencing factor in my brother’s decision to join. He enjoyed his time but he’s ready to do something different now. It’s kind of cool to set a good enough example of being a Marine to where your brother thinks he can do it too.
Music was a very big thing for our family, all of us played an instrument at some point. In our family we all had to learn to play piano and then we all played a string instrument. My other three brothers played the violin and I played the cello because I wanted to be different. I have another brother who played trumpet and I played clarinet but the other brothers didn’t pick up anything else.
Piano is probably my favorite instrument because that’s the one I’m best at. Through the years I’ve also picked up a smattering of other instruments. I’ve had the opportunity to play for memorial services and it makes a huge difference to folks to hear some of the favorite hymns and songs of their loved one played.
I got a chance to play at a memorial service for a Marine who was killed at The Basic School and his family was desperate to have somebody to come in and play a little bit of music. The fact that I was able to play for what was really a packed memorial service of folks was very much appreciated by the family and by the commanding officer and that makes me feel good.
Music brings people a lot of comfort, it can address moods, bring back a lot of memories. If you can play it well then it makes a difference in people’s lives.
My wife and I lead worship together at the Protestant Chapel traditional service, and from time to time I am called upon to lend my vocal skills and I enjoy doing that. I refer to myself as a choir singer. I much rather sing in a group, but if need be I’ll sing solos.
I’ve been in the Corps for 10 years come May. I think I’ll get to 20, in what capacity I don’t know, but I think I’ll get to 20.
When I went active duty, I did so as an officer. Once I joined the Marine Corps enlisted, I thought there’s no other branch that I’d want to be an officer in or else I’d feel like I chickened out.
I kind of always wanted to be an officer, but I didn’t have a degree when I enlisted. I’ve wanted to be an attorney since I was young and when I found out the Marine Corps had a judge advocate program, it didn’t take much convincing to sell me on that.
I’m currently serving as the Aide-de-Camp for the Commanding General. My [officer-in-charge] told me about the position and encouraged me to submit my name. I did, not thinking I would get it. Then I interviewed with the Chief Of Staff and he made a recommendation to the previous commanding general and I was hired to be [Brig. Gen. William F. Mullen III’s] aide.
It’s been a great experience. I’m getting to do a lot more than I ever thought possible. I love traveling so I get to do a fair bit of that and this position is a challenge in other ways. There are parts of me that miss lawyering right now, but I’m also getting to see a much broader spectrum of the Marine Corps than I would have, or had seen, up until this point.
My favorite thing about being a Marine is the challenge. I like that there’s a challenge to becoming a Marine, officer or enlisted, and there continue to be challenges as you move throughout your career to do different things.
I didn’t know that I could graduate recruit training, but I went for the challenge. I didn’t know I could graduate [Officer Candidate School], but I went for the challenge. I went through The Basic School and that was also a challenge. All throughout my career I’ve been faced with challenging things and the Marine Corps has a great way of pulling stuff out of you that you never knew was possible.
Something that will always stick with me is the importance of mission accomplishment in any task that you take. Seeing it through to the end and not being a quitter. In life and the Marine Corps, getting the job done matters.
||MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, CA, US
This work, What I’ve Learned: Jason Samuel, by Cpl Medina Ayala-Lo, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.