Always a Marine: Soldiers celebrate Corps’ birthday
By Erik Slavin, Stars and Stripes
Mideast edition, Monday, November 12, 2007

COMBAT OUTPOST CLEARY, Iraq — Like many former Marines, Spc. Benjamin Block celebrated the Marine Corps birthday on Saturday.

Unlike most, he did it in a soldier’s uniform.

Block, from Sierra Vista, Ariz., is one of about 10 soldiers in the 3rd Infantry Division’s 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment who say they retain a dual identity: soldier and Marine.

“I know where I’m at now and what I do, but I remember where I’ve been,” said Block, of Company C. “Once you make it through Marine basic, you’re a Marine the rest of your life.”

However, Block said what other former Marines echoed about the service’s toughest part.

“The deployment schedule (for Marines) is more aggressive,” said Block. “There is more family time in the Army.”

Cpl. Paul Bliss, of Willits, Calif., says he left the Marines because he wanted to start a family. In more than four years with the Marines he was deployed to Somalia, Rwanda, Iraq, Jordan, Australia and other places.

He joined the California National Guard in 2002, where he met his wife and eventually returned to active duty.

“I get the question a lot: Who’s better, the Army or the Marine Corps?” said Bliss, of Company B. “They both have their good points and bad points.”

The camaraderie was much closer in his experience as a Marine than in the Army, Bliss said. However, Bliss agreed that the Army was more family friendly.

Some of Bliss’ former Marine buddies rag on him for joining the Army, he says, but Bliss believes his experiences make him a more complete servicemember.

“I don’t see any conflict,” Bliss said. “The Army infantry and Marine infantry both serve a purpose and serve with distinction.”

Sgt. Juan Landron, of Company C, left the Marines in 2002 after eight years.

When he decided he wanted to serve again, it was easier to join the Army, he said. It’s been an adjustment at times to adapt to a service that enforces discipline differently, said Landron, of Veja Baja, Puerto Rico.

“Sometimes the Marine wants to come out and I have to hold it back,” he said.

While he understands his role as a soldier, Landron says he never forgets Nov. 10.

“It’s awesome,” Landron said. “I was born that day. I wasn’t really, but the Marine Corps birthday feels that way to me.”