'Perseverance is the key' - Injuries deter recruit's progress, can't smother desire to earn title
Submitted by: MCRD San Diego
Story Identification Number: 20031024154613
Story by Lance Cpl. Jess Levens

MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT SAN DIEGO, Calif.(October 24, 2003) -- A baby is normally born in nine months. An entire college semester can pass in that amount of time. A national regime fell and was wiped out of existence in less than nine months.

A lot can happen in nine months. Three complete training cycles go through the Depot in nine months, but for one Marine, nine months is how long it took him to graduate recruit training.

Company D moved to Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., for weapons and field training. The first week there, Lance Cpl. Mike Passe was diagnosed with multiple stress fractures in the pelvic region.

Now the guide for Platoon 3021, Co. I, Passe was dropped in the middle of training and sent to Medical Rehabilitation Platoon to recover.

Unlike his glamorous Marine Corps dream, the 25-year-old saw his unhatched career slipping down the throat of the serpent called injury.

"I was really unmotivated when I was in MRP," said Passe. "I felt like I was just spinning my tires and going nowhere."

When Passe signed the dotted line, he said he never expected anything like that to happen.

"I wanted to be a Marine for a long time," said Passe. "I came close to enlisting after high school, but my dad told me I should go to college first."

College is just what Passe did. He left his home in Hebron, Ill., and set up shop in La Crescent, Minn., to attend Winona State University.

Passe studied there for five years and earned a bachelor of science degree in business and marketing. He used his degree to land a job as a sales representative for an industrial construction company.

Although Passe made good money, he said he needed more in his life. He still wanted to be a Marine.

"I originally tried to join the Corps as an officer," said Passe. "The recruiter told me it would take close to a year to get me in because there weren't many spots open. I didn't want to wait that long."

Passe was ready then and there, so he enlisted. He chose to be an artilleryman and was ready to ship out.

In December 2002, Passe arrived on the Depot and was picked up by Co. D. While in the company, Passe served as his platoon's scribe, helping the drill instructors take notes and perform other administrative work.

"We got to the point in training where it was time to go 'up north,'" said Passe. "While we were at Camp Pendleton, I got two stress fractures; one in my right hip and one in my pelvic bone."

Passe was unable to continue training, so he was dropped to MRP. Finally, after six months, he was allowed to train again.

Company I was about to go up north, so Passe was inserted into Platoon 3021.

"I had been on the Depot for so long, I knew what to expect and what was expected of me," said Passe. "I just moved fast and was always motivated."

After two days in the platoon, Passe was made a squad leader. Three days after that, he was made the guide.

"Passe used his age and time on the Depot to inspire the rest of the platoon," said Staff Sgt. John P. Saul, senior drill instructor, Platoon 3021, Co. I. "He came out fired up and used great leadership that we saw from the first day he was here. He had to be the guide."

Although Passe was now able to train and in a position of leadership, he said he still felt the pain from his injuries.

"It still hurts," said Passe. "But the thought of finally getting out of here as a Marine is more than enough to get me through the pain."

Passe's pain didn't go unnoticed by his platoon members either. His perseverance inspired them to excel through training.

"He was in pain during the whole Crucible, but he struggled on to his goal," PFC Jason Jarentowski, Platoon 3021, Co. I. "He struggled through the pain. He wouldn't let himself fail."

During his nine months on the Depot, Passe said he missed a lot of the simple things in life.

"I have no idea about any new music or movies," said Passe. "I had a girl, but while I was in MRP, she stopped writing. At first, all I wanted was to go home and drink a beer with my friends. Now all I want to do is sit down with my family and have dinner."

The pride of being a Marine was worth the pain and time, and Passe said he would do it all over again if he had to.

"Perseverance is the key," said Passe. "All that I've gone through with my injuries and being here so long makes earning the title that much sweeter."


Lance Cpl. Mike Passe, guide, Platoon 3021, Company I, sounds off during a warm up session before his final physical fitness test. Passe graduates recruit training today after spending more than nine months on the Depot.
Photo by: Lance Cpl. Jess Levens


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