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01-21-07, 08:04 AM
Family hears the call
January 21, 2007

By Jean Edwards Staff Writer

PLAINFIELD -- Generations of the Thompson family have served in their country -- building an impressive military tradition.

Family members have answered the nation's call since the 1800s.

This generation's military members include U.S. Marine Sgt. Mark Peters; his brother, U.S. Army Pfc. Jeffrey Peters; his sister, U.S. Marine Pvt. Amanda Killian; and an uncle, 1st Lt. William C. Thompson, a member of the U.S. Army National Guard.

All are on active duty.

It all began at Camp Pendleton for Mark Peters when his commanding officer approached him and told him that he qualified for a position offered in Washington, D.C., on the U.S. Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon.

"My first response was, I became excited about it and couldn't wait to go there and to do my best," Mark said.

Mark and 11 other Marines served two years on the drill platoon in Washington.

"It wasn't easy to get on this platoon. You had to first be recommended by your commanding officer to even be considered; attend ceremonial school for six weeks; and then get screened to even attend Silent Drill School," he said.

More than 100 Marines started the three-month school at the Marine Corps Air Station in Yuma, Ariz. At the end, only 24 remained.

"Training for this team would begin every year in November and end in February. One would not know until February of the following year whether they made the platoon or not. Twelve out of the 24 Marines would participate at any given time, and it grows every year," Mark said.

During the training, Marines often faced a Challenge Day.

"This is when we were tested unexpectedly on uniform appearance, our weapons. Everything had to be in tip-top shape," Mark said. Marines found wanting could be sent home.

As a member of the team, Mark took part in special events, such as National Football League halftime shows; greeted foreign heads of state; and participated in funerals at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. He also participated in former President Ronald Reagan's funeral and the inauguration of President Bush.

It was a merry Christmas for the family when Mark and Jeffrey came home for the holidays.

"I'm so glad Mark's home, and we pray for all of them to come home safely. God bless them all," said proud mom Karen Killian, a student teacher at Wesmere Elementary School.

"Basically every time I go back home, all my friends and family aren't too happy with what they do on their day-to-day jobs," Jeffrey said. "I tell them in the military, you can change your military occupation specialty and do something that you would want to do and you can transfer your skills over to the civilian world."

Mark has served four years active duty, recently returning from a five-month deployment in Iraq.

Mark served with the Regimental Combat Team 5, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, out of Camp Pendleton, Calif., during this deployment. He had 23 Marines under his wings.

"We worked with the military Iraqi transitional team. Our job there was to train and conduct missions with the Iraqi army. It was a joint service effort with the collection of all armed forces. We saw a lot of action," Mark said.

Shortly after Christmas, he returned to Camp Lejeune in North Carolina to end his tenure as an active duty Marine, effective Feb. 10.

"My thoughts began of becoming a Marine while in high school. I joined the JROTC Program, and my mentor at that time was my instructor, Master Sgt. Robert Arvin. I always wanted to travel to see the world and for my education," Mark said.

He plans to pursue his education and receive a degree in finance. He attends Joliet Junior College and intends to transfer later to University of Illinois to obtain his bachelor's degree.

Jean Edwards can be reached at (815) 729-6049 or via e-mail at jedwards@scn1.com