View Full Version : Former soldier follows father's footsteps

05-20-03, 01:28 PM
Former soldier follows father's footsteps
Submitted by: MCRD San Diego
Story Identification Number: 200351918341
Story by Lance Cpl. Jess N. Levens

MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT SAN DIEGO, Calif.(May 16, 2003) -- Many sons find themselves stuck under their fathers' shadows. Some are urged to go to school, or play sports. Others are urged to join the military. When old enough, many sons rebel, only to find themselves wishing they were under the shadow again. Maybe their fathers were right.

Lance Cpl. James A. Day Jr., guide, Platoon 3069, Company K, and company honorman, spent most his life in Pittsburgh. As a youngster he wrestled and boxed ... much like his father, a former boxer and Marine.

His peers always said he was becoming very much like his father in many ways, which Day didn't like.

"Once I became a teenager, my father and I started butting heads on many issues, including my future," said Day.

"From the time I was old enough, I remember my father trying to prepare me for the Marines," said Day. "He was overbearing, and I didn't want to be a Marine."

His father was constantly pressuring him to become a Marine, Day didn't want his father's life. After high school, Day moved into his mother's house and began to further his education at Butler County Community College, Pittsburgh.

The pressure from his father continued and Day decided he couldn't take any more. An Army recruiter contacted him, he signed the papers, and left for basic training seven days later.

"The sudden choice to join the Army somewhat disappointed my dad," said Day. "I only joined the Army out of spite; to show him I could join the military, but not as a Marine. I wanted to show him I wasn't like him."

So Day was off to Fort Sill, Okla., for basic training. He finished nine weeks later and made his way to Fort Bliss, Texas, to become a tank driver. Partially through the course, the soldiers were required to obtain a special security clearance, which he was not able to get because of administrative mishaps, according to Day.

Day said he became frustrated with waiting, so he tested for a different job. After testing, he chose to become a medic.

"I wanted to be a medic because I have always been interested in that field," said Day. "In college, I studied physical therapy, so this seemed like an opportunity to get back to that."

He was transferred from Fort Bliss to Fort Sam Houston, Texas, for 10 weeks of medic training.

Upon completion of the class, he received orders to Fort Hood, Texas. Once Day got settled in at his new duty station, he began to box; this time for the All-Army Boxing Team. As much as he didn't want to admit it, Day said he began to see his father in himself,

"I was becoming more and more like my father as I got older," said Day. "I didn't like it, but at the same time, I couldn't help it."

During Day's first enlistment, he was involved in Operation Dust Off America, a mission that involved burning fields of marijuana in South and Central America, in conjunction with other governments.

After the operation, Day returned to Fort Hood. His three-year enlistment came to an end and he decided to re-enlist. Day was promoted to corporal, but it seemed to stop there.

"I had a real problem with the Army's promotion system," said Day. "Kids would come out of basic training as E-4's, then pick up sergeant soon after. There were soldiers in positions of leadership who weren't ready for such responsibility."

Day's time for promotion came up several times, yet he was never promoted to sergeant. He opted not to re-enlist.

Day found himself missing the military. He thought about what his father had been saying his whole life and decided to give it a shot.

"I decided to join the Corps almost two years before I was allowed to come in," said Day. "I was still attached to a reserve unit in Pittsburgh, and they wouldn't release me to become an active duty Marine. My father and I even called my congressman, and the Army wouldn't let me go."

Finally, Day decided to contact a Marine recruiter to see what could be done. The recruiter said it would be no problem and he would get the paper work. Skeptical, Day agreed and said he wanted to leave for basic training as soon as possible.

"I didn't think the recruiter could get me released from my unit, but he followed through," said Day. "That was one of the first things that really impressed me about the Marine Corps."

Day didn't hesitate to leave for basic training. He arrived in February and was immediately appointed as the guide for his platoon.

"My experience helped me understand how things worked," said Day. "I expected a lot from Marine Corps boot camp, and the Marines delivered."

His experience helped him so much, Day was selected as the company honorman, the recruit who led and performed the best while in basic training.

"The Army gave (Day) a building block. We gave him extra tools to sharpen his skills as a Marine," said Staff Sgt. Kevin MacCheyne, senior drill instructor, Platoon 3069, Company K. "His maturity also gained him the respect of the other recruits. He's 27; most of them are 18. He came here with a basic idea of what the military is like and that really helped him."

Day said he now understands why his father wanted him to be a Marine. There are small differences that may not seem important to those who haven't experienced them, according to Day.

"When I was picked as the honorman, the other guides and I got to eat a meal with the company first sergeant and the company officers," said Day. "We were able to ask questions about the Corps and talk to them in a relaxed environment. That doesn't happen in the Army."

Day enlisted as an infantryman, but as the company honorman, he is allowed to choose any job he wants. He said he wants to become a reconnaissance Marine.

"I am extremely proud of my son, but I always have been," said James A. Day Sr., his father. "I am honored that he is following in my footsteps and experiencing the Corps for himself."




Lance Cpl. James A. Day Jr., guide, Platoon 3069, Company K, practices for the graduation ceremony. At the ceremony, the guides return the guidons to their drill instructors to symbolize the disbanding of the platoon from recruit training.
Photo by: Lance Cpl. Jess N. Levens