News: Oregon native overcomes obstacles to become a leatherneck
Story by Cpl. Walter D. Marino II
SAN DIEGO - Each recruit has their own personal hardships. For one Oregon native it began at eight months of age when his parents divorced.
The hardships continued in high school when he struggled for motivation to make good grades and then once more when his weight ballooned to 260 pounds.
However, Pfc. Thomas S. Breiter, Platoon 1073, Company D, 1st Recruit Training Battalion, who just graduated from Recruit Depot San Diego, says it all changed when he made the decision to join the Corps.
Breiter explained, knowing he couldn’t join the Marines without graduating high school and losing weight motivated him to get it done.
Breiter’s love for the Marines started at an early age. Both his mother and father are former Marines. Breiter enlisted to be military police, the same military occupational specialty his mother served as.
“Both my parents said they’d disown me if I joined any other branch,” said Breiter with a laugh.
When Breiter acknowledged his grades needed improving, he signed himself up for six months at the Oregon National Guard Youth Challenge Program. He returned his senior year a new teenager, active in athletics and choir. Breiter graduated high school with a 3.85 grade point average.
After graduation, Breiter’s weight was the only speed bump left. For boot-camp Breiter needed to slim down from 260 to 212, but ended up slimming even further to 203 pounds. Breiter said he cut out sweets, alcohol, restricted his calorie intake and ate a lot of fruit and protein.
“I wanted to start over. I’ve wanted to join since I was a kid,” said Breiter, 22-years-old. “I plan to stay in shape. I’m strong but I could be a lot stronger. Now that I’m a Marine I hold myself to a higher standard.”
During the initial phases of boot camp Breiter said he was solely focused on himself and just getting through training. He changed his mind when he saw other recruits needed his help. By encouraging others and being vocal Breiter became a squad leader.
Breiter’s drill instructors explained they noticed his efforts, when his voice was heard louder than others.
“He showed the willingness,” said Staff Sgt. Johnnatan Lopez, drill instructor, Platoon 1073, Company D, 1st RTBn. “He stood out when he encouraged others. He was always vocal and getting people going.”
When Breiter’s rack mate Pvt. Steven J. Caasi, cried after repeatedly not receiving any letters, Breiter consoled him and helped lift his spirits up.
“He was there when I was down or alone in a corner,” said the 18-year-old Caasi. “When I found out my family wasn’t coming to the graduation he told me that I could hang out with his family. He made me feel like there was someone I could depend on. I made a really good friend in boot camp.”
Breiter said in the beginning he took Caasi under his wing and now Caasi is doing much better.
“I helped him a lot during first phase. He would cry and I could understand,” said Breiter. “A lot of times he would want to quit, but I just helped him keep his head up and he’s here now. He’s definitely the type of person I’m going to stay in touch with the rest of my life.”
Now that he’s graduated Breiter said, “my parents gave me constant motivation through their letters because I know they were thinking of me. I definitely feel like I’ve come a long way. I’m looking forward to going to my military occupational school and continuing to grow in the Marine Corps.”