View Full Version : Keeping it in the family

11-15-03, 04:08 PM
Keeping it in the family

Published Tue, Sep 23, 2003
Gazette staff writer
More by Michael Kerr
The Marine Corps is a family affair for Pvt. Laurel Johnson.
When Johnson, 18, received her Eagle, Globe and Anchor emblem last Thursday at Family Day at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, she was following in the proud boot steps of her two older brothers, and possibly setting a path for her two younger sisters.

Johnson's brothers, Sgt. Jacob Johnson, 22, and Lance Cpl. Jonas Johnson, 20, are graduates of Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, who now play in Marine Corps bands at Marine Corps Logistics Base, Albany, Ga., and Camp Lejeune, N.C., respectively.

"Obviously, the first little thing that started me on this trip was my brothers,"

Pvt. Johnson said. "They're inspirational to me, and I wanted to be just like them."

It was a conversation with her oldest brother, Sgt. Jacob Johnson, that convinced Laurel to enlist in the Corps rather than attend college and Officer Candidate School.

"I think I mainly talked her into it more than anything," Johnson said. "I told her I felt the enlisted side of the house had a tighter bond with each other. As an officer, she might find herself not feeling as tight a knit with her subordinates."

But the Marines' mom, Sandi Bennett of Athens, Mich., jokes that her oldest son might have had an ulterior motive in talking Laurel out of becoming an officer.

"I told her, 'Jacob talked you into that because he didn't want to salute you,' " Bennett said. "I said, 'Laurel, do you think your brother really wants to salute you?' He'd do it because he has to, but he wouldn't like it."

Laurel's father, Joseph Johnson, a former band member in the Air Force during the late 1960s who lives in Louisiana, said he felt a little different when his daughter told him she was going to enlist in the Marine than he did when his sons made the same announcement.

"I was a little disappointed...I thought she was going to go to college," Joseph Johnson said. "I'm proud no matter what she does and I know she'll do well."

"They're the elite fighting force of the United States. That's a lot to be proud of."

As the Marine Corps emblem ceremony began, Laurel's family watched on. They had either watched the ceremony before when Jonas and Jacob graduated in San Diego, or, like Jonas' wife Melissa, a Marine Corps corporal herself, had once stood in Laurel's spit-shined shoes.

"This is another milestone in our family's history. I'm very proud of my daughter and the step she's taking," said Joseph Johnson. "This is another step in her progress, an important step. She can look back and be proud of what she's accomplished here."

And the day had to make Joseph Johnson wonder if his two younger daughters would follow the same path as their older siblings.

"When Jacob first enlisted I was like, 'That is so awesome!' " said 16-year-old Mandy Johnson. Mandy said she's 50-50 right now on whether she'll join the Corps after high school.

"It's an option."

Eleven-year-old Rhiannon is busy bragging about her brothers and sister to her friends at school.

"I think it's really cool," Rhiannon said. "The Marines serve their country, and that's cool."

Jacob, the first member of the family to join the Corps, said he knows his little sister will make a tremendous Marine.

"I have no doubt in my mind that she's going to be as successful as she could possibly be," he said. "I'm proud of her, and I wouldn't object if any of my other siblings joined the Marine Corps too."

Laurel, who was one of 114 women and 533 total recruits who became Marines last week, said the support of her family was everything.

"It's good to know they're here supporting me," she said.

And her brothers were there one more time Thursday morning, as they joined Laurel on the Motivational Run, the final activity before recruits become Marines.

"We were allowed to run behind the platoon," Jacob Johnson said. "Near the very end, her senior drill instructor allowed us to run up to the front where she was."

And even though Laurel shouldn't have smiled at them, her brothers say she did.

"I wanted to run up and hug them," she said.

As she stood near the Iwo Jima monument surrounded by family and friends last Thursday in her first few moments as a United States Marine, Pvt. Laurel Johnson was nearly overcome with pride.

"I feel proud," she said. "I'm happy, I'm thrilled, I'm ecstatic. I'm everything all rolled into one."

Contact Michael Kerr at 986-5539 or mkerr@beaufortgazette.com.