OKINAWA, Japan - On Dec. 7, 1987, Derrick Butler raised his right hand and swore to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, as a United States Marine.
More than a decade later, on July 6, 1999, he swore the oath a second time.
Although the circumstances behind each oath were radically different, both carried great pride and a sense of achievement, said Butler, a St. Louis native.
“My first enlistment was the result of a Marine Corps recruiter calling for my friend, and me picking up the phone. It was completely by chance,” Butler said. “The second time I enlisted, it was because the company I was working for shut down, and I missed the military way of life.”
Working as a cook throughout his first enlistment, Butler was unable to re-enlist at the end of his contract and left the Corps as a corporal. He moved to Missouri where he worked at Cupples Rubber Company, a manufacturing and exporting factory.
When the factory closed its doors in 1999, he re-enlisted in the Corps.
The Corps he returned to has undergone major changes since the late 1980s, but his love for the brotherhood has not changed, said Butler, who is now a staff sergeant.
“The Corps is still near and dear to my heart, no matter how much it has changed,” Butler said. “No challenge I have faced since my return has been too overwhelming to face. I just adapt and overcome.”
Now a construction wireman with Marine Corps Base Camp Smedley D. Butler, Butler said the valuable leadership skills he learned in the 80s still apply today.
His Marines agreed.
“Staff Sgt. Butler is a mainstay in his junior Marines’ lives because he has the ‘Marines are family’ mindset everyone needs when things get rough,” said Sgt. Benjamin Martin, a telephone surveyor who has known Butler since 2002. “He’s the Marine that gives you the safety brief and instills in you the pride in watching out for the Marine to the left and right of you. I couldn’t ask for a better staff noncommissioned officer.”
“We fought hard and played hard back in the day, but the day-to-day battle is much harder now than it was back then,” Butler explained. “I’m so glad the tools I acquired in the past help me to relate to and teach the new generation of Marines today.”
Butler plans to retire in five years and said he hopes to pick up gunnery sergeant before the time comes.
For Marines who struggle day-to-day or regret their decision to join, Butler shared some words of advice.
“Boot camp may not be a dreamboat, but to travel, see the world and embrace so many different cultures can be inspiring,” Butler said. “People look up to who we are and what we do for the world. Many of them only dream of living the life we live. We live it every day.”
This work, Second time around: Marine answers call of Corps twice, by Cpl Jovane Holland, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.