View Full Version : Children's love inspires single dad on drill field

10-06-03, 06:06 AM
Children's love inspires single dad on drill field
Submitted by: MCRD San Diego
Story Identification Number: 200310319420
Story by Cpl. Ethan E. Rocke

MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT SAN DIEGO, Calif.(October 3, 2003) -- Two and half years ago, a new drill instructor, not yet accustomed to the ways of the drill field, was assigned to a team in Company M. Like many before him, he brought to his new team a lot of motivation and intensity.

Since his humble beginning in Company M, Staff Sgt. Devron J. Gray, series gunnery sergeant, Series 3013, Company L, has been affiliated with several different drill instructor teams in 3rd Recruit Training Battalion and has trained 10 cycles of recruits.

A single parent since 1998, Gray insists that throughout his tour here, his two most valuable teammates have remained his 7-year-old daughter, Dominique, and his 6-year-old son, Marcus.

"My kids and I are a team - a very tight team," said Gray. "They motivate, inspire me and keep me going. I attribute my longevity in the trenches to them."

After separating from his wife in 1997, Gray took custody of his children while serving as driver and personal security for the assistant commandant of the Marine Corps in Washington D.C.

As his tour in the nation's capital neared its end, Gray felt it was time to fulfill his career-long goal of serving as a drill instructor. Despite the adversity he knew he would surely endure as a single parent on the drill field, he volunteered for drill duty aboard the Depot and relocated Dominique and Marcus to San Diego.

"I'm the type of person who sets goals despite whatever adversity I might face," said the 6-foot, slender Marine. "I constantly tell my children 'There's no such thing as I can't. The only thing that can defeat you is you.'"

According to Gray, the adversity he faced in his early days in the trenches was tiring and difficult, especially for a single father. Rather than sacrifice the quality of care he felt his children deserved, Gray decided to enlist the help of two more supporting cast members. He took the children to his hometown of Cleveland, Ohio, and entrusted his parents with their care until he could adapt to the rigorous duty to which he was now committed.

"I knew what I was getting into coming to the drill field," Gray said. "But the kids and I had to make adjustments to the lifestyle."

Gray kept the separation from his kids as minor as possible. By the time he had two training cycles under his belt, he was experienced enough and prepared to balance the responsibilities of being a loving, devoted father and a committed, focused drill instructor at the same time. After months of separation, it was time to bring Dominique and Marcus back home.

"He's a very loving father, and his kids are a huge part of his life," said Staff Sgt. Robert C. Ixtlahuac, training chief, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, and colleague of Gray's. "It's obvious to anyone who knows him they are his inspiration on the drill field."

When his children returned from Ohio, Gray enlisted the help of a live-in nanny. With the increased support at home and his biggest sources of inspiration back by his side, he has completed eight more cycles on the drill field - two of those as a senior drill instructor and two as a series gunnery sergeant.

Gray received the Band of Brothers Award four times. This is an award for the best drill instructor team in a training cycle. He was also a recipient of the Moral Leadership Award, and one of his platoons was selected as honor platoon.

Gray said during the past eight cycles he has always found time to spend plenty of quality time with his children.

"I don't get to spend a lot of time with them, but the time we have together is always quality time," he said. "I'm a firm believer in quality time. I try to be the dad who catches the karate practices whenever I can - the dad who catches the ballet practices and recitals. I love that stuff."

According to Gray, his free time is reserved for the only two loves in his life, Marcus and Dominique. During breaks in training cycles, he sometimes spends a day with his children at school.

"If they feel like doing something, I feel like doing it too," he said. "Everything in my personal life revolves around them. If I go to a friend's house, I bring them. Everybody knows my kids."

Marcus recalled a time when his dad led the children of his 1st grade gym class in some Marine Corps-style physical training.

"My dad came to school and pretended we were recruits," he said. "It was fun."

Both Dominique and Marcus bubbled with joy, recalling an instance in which their 'DI' dad took an X Games-style spill while jumping off a bike ramp with Marcus' bicycle.

"He wrecked my bike. He was acting crazy and trying to show off, and he hit the ramp and crashed," Marcus said, with a glowing smile.

Both the kids said they love their dad and want to be just like him.

"I think our dad is a great man," Marcus said. "He treats us well, and he's the best dad."

"I want to be like my daddy because he works hard, and he's a good Marine," said Dominique.

After training 10 cycles of recruits, Gray leaves the drill field this month. He says the bond with his children will only grow stronger in the future.

"It's not over yet," he said. "My kids and I will continue to work as a team and keep pushing forward. They look up to me as their hero. They idolize me, so I refuse to ever let them down."


Staff Sgt. Devron J. Gray, series gunnery sergeant, Series 3013, Company L, stands with his children, Marcus and Dominique. Gray, who says he and his children are a team, is a single parent and has trained 10 cycles of recruits with 3rd Recruit Training Battalion.
Photo by: Cpl. Ethan E. Rocke