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thedrifter
03-26-07, 11:20 AM
U.S. Military
Devotion - a veteran Marine's story
By Staff Sgt. Tyrone C. Marshall Jr., Task Force Lightning Public Affairs
Mar 25, 2007 - 6:33:47 PM

Blackanthem Military News, AL ASAD, Iraq - Devotion.

Miriam-Webster defines devotion as the fact or state of being ardently dedicated and loyal.

The U.S. Marine Corps could quite possiblly define it as Staff Sgt. Howard S. Stormes II.

Stormes is a fire support noncommissioned officer, or Fires NCO, for the Region 2 Border Transition Team. He primarily serves as a driver for the BTT.

"Fires basically deals with artillery," Stormes explained. "We're supposed to be teaching [the border policemen] artillery, but due to border transition they don't have artillery so I got shifted to do other things that were needed for the team."

Stormes, currently stationed at Camp Lejune, N.C. and deployed to Contingency Operating Base, Speicher, Iraq, has spent 15 years in the Marine Corps.

"I was originally born in Los Angeles, California," said the Marine. "I was recruited in the Marine Corps back in '92 out of Seattle, Washington."

Stormes began to discuss where his interest in the Marine Corps began.

"I spent three years in Marine Corps ROTC in my high school and that fascinated me," said the artilleryman. "The war kicked off and I felt that was my call to come serve with the Marine Corps."

"I had a crazy belief when I was young where my only ambitions were to fight and die for my country," he continued. "I didn't see myself living past the age of 25. So thought what better way than to go to combat and die for my country."

Although Stormes was fortunate to spend a large portion of his career in his native state he was still able to see the world.

"I've been stationed most of my time down in Camp Pendelton in San Diego, California," he said.

"I spent about 11 years there. I've done a lot of deployments all over the place," said Stormes. "I've been to almost 50 different countries - I don't know I can't keep count."

"I've been all over," he added. "I'm well traveled."

A benefit of longevity is veterans have the opportunity to witness their organizations change over periods of time.

Stormes discussed some differences in the "Corps" now as opposed to when he joined in 1992.

"It's a lot different now. I can't really pinpoint what it is," he said thoughtfully. "You'd actually have to be in my shoes to see where I started out from to where it is now."

"It's definitely changed with time and technology, and with personalities as far as people," Stormes said. "Their mentalities and what their beliefs are."

"Things of that nature," he said. "It's progressed with society."

Even with the natural evolution of the Marine Corps with time and technology, Stormes has been able to adapt.

How important has that been to the Marine, sometimes referred to as "Stormey" by his team?

"It's been the best thing I've ever done with my life. I've spent almost half my life in the Marine Corps," he stated. "It's what I know. I did a couple of odd-end jobs before I joined and this is what I'd rather be doing. My primary job in the Marine Corps is artillery - shooting big guns. What better place to come and get paid for blowing stuff up and shooting weapons all the time?"

"Stormey" fully believes enlisting in the "Corps" saved his life.

"If I wasn't in the Marines I probably wouldn't be alive," he said. "Hanging around me, I was pretty much reckless."

"I fly by the seat of my pants. I go at a 100 miles an hour," Stormes said with a grin. "Before I joined the Marine Corps, I thought I wouldn't be alive by 25 years old. So the Marine Corps has radically changed my life for the better."

After 15 years of service, Stormes took a second to reflect on his favorite.

"I'd have to say section chief," he said. "Running a gun crew, on the average, I had about 10 Marines under my belt."

He revealed what was special about being a section chief.

"Teaching them everything I learned and was taught by my superiors," Stormes said. "I see Marines now that I trained as privates that are basically equivalent to me. [They are] staff sergeants that have been successful. And I look at it because of all the things I taught them."

He continued saying, "That's got to be one of the most viable things in the Marine Corps - being a section chief and passing that knowledge on to them as they go out there to be in charge and run a gun [crew].

After 15 years, Stormes is a testament to the level of devotion it takes to be a Marine.

"The toughest part about being a Marine is keeping yourself motivated to live up to the standards of the Marine Corps," said the veteran.

"The Marine Corps is pretty challenging no matter what you are - what rank you are or who you are. You've got to find that motivation to keep going."

"You not only do it for yourself, you have to do it for your peers, your subordinates, your superiors you have to do it for everybody. It's a tough challenge to constantly keep up and keep going," Stormes said passionately.

Stormes also spoke about his other devotion - family and the strong support system they provide for him.

"I'm married and have three kids. I've got a teenager and two younger kids - ages 13, 11 and nine years old. I've been married for over 14 years now," Stormes said proudly.

"It's been pretty good, a typical marriage in the military," he said elaborating. "It's had its ups and downs but I've got a strong wife."

She's been through thick and thin. She struggled with me through three years of recruiting duty," he chuckled.

His also passed a message to his family.

"I hope to see them soon. I can't say if I'll be home or not because every day changes around here. Hopefully, if all goes well, I'll see them in a couple of weeks."

"Stormey" also revealed part of his secret to longevity.

"I love to make people laugh. Laughter cleanses the soul. It helps people feel at ease," he said laughing heartily.

"And more relaxed in doing what they're doing," he continued. "Especially in an environment like this where you constantly hear about people losing their lives everyday. Laughter and humor is a way to help relieve the soul. It helps a person cope."

With that Stormes left a final word to the friends and comrades he has devoted himself to. The latest are at Camp Lejune.

"I just want to say that I'm glad to be alive and glad things are going well," he said. "I pray to God I'll be home in less than a month."