Published: May 23, 2008 07:35 pm

He recruited a Marine and a wife at the same time


By Jerry Hogan

I know that if you have talked with any soldier or Marine, they will tell you all kinds of wild stories about their recruiter. From “the guy was a super salesman” to “he really had his act together and he’s the main reason I joined up.”

But I bet no one has ever told you that his recruiter, while a recruiter, went out and recruited his wife into both the service and into being his wife at the same time! Well Corporal Shawn Bentley of Caddo Mills sure went this route and succeeded at being both a recruiter for the Marine Corps as well as being his own recruiter of a lovely wife.

Shawn graduated from Caddo Mills High School in May of 2005 and immediately left for Boot Camp. Once he finished his 13 weeks there, he was then sent to Virginia Beach, Virginia, where he spent the next three months going to specialized job training in his basic job function of being an Intelligence specialist. But since Shawn had enlisted under a reserve option, once he finished his schooling, he reported back to his reserve unit in Grand Prairie. Here he learned he could either go the normal reservist route where he drilled once a month and then spent two weeks in the summer training, or he could volunteer to be a “recruiters aide” and work for a period of time on active duty. He decided to do this and was assigned to recruiting duty in Greenville, a town nine miles from his home town of Caddo Mills.

So here he is in Greenville being a spotless Marine encouraging young men and women to join the service, when one day this special young lady walked in the office. Rather than being overzealous in pursuing her, he decided the best approach was the “gradually get to know each other” approach. After several months of her coming in the recruiting office for paperwork, checking out the various programs the Marine Corps had to offer, and learning more about her recruiting options, they finally went on a date. And from that date came the courtship and then the marriage.

But now there is the big problem. His wife has enlisted in the Marines and leaves for boot camp and then she will be in training to be a heavy construction equipment operator. He is still a reservist and his “volunteering” to be a recruiter’s aide has run its course, so it will be back to a civilian in North Texas while his wife gets assigned someplace a long way from this area. He does the only thing a new husband can do…he requests a call to active duty and now they are both hard-charging Marines together in California.

I asked his wife, Lance Corporal Mary Bentley, the former Mary Pemberton, a 2006 graduate of Commerce High School, why she had enlisted and what she thought when she first met her future husband in the recruiting office.

“There is no one reason why I enlisted,” Mary said. “My granddad was a retired Marine Corps Gunnery Sergeant and always talked about the Corps, so that is where my interest came from. After getting out of school I thought about it and went to talk with a recruiter. I decided that day to enlist. I also met my future husband on that day. I don’t believe in love at first sight, but I knew there was something about him. After we became friends, I knew he was the one. It’s kind of like you know, you just know.”

Currently both Shawn and Mary live in an apartment in Oceanside, California, which is right next to the major Marine Corps base on the west coast, Camp Pendleton. They are currently in the process of buying a house just outside the main gate of the base. I asked Mary what it was like to be married with both parties being Marines versus just dating.

“It is harder being married,” she said. “There is a huge difference in being single in the service and being married. Since we are married we both have more responsibilities as we must consider the other person and we must take care of our family and not just ourselves.”

Shawn, when asked the same question said, “It is a real experience with us both being Marines. And I believe it has the advantage of both spouses being knowledgeable enough about the Marines so it is easier to relate to each other when it comes to our service. It also plays the same role when either of us is deployed as we both know and understand why it is happening.”

The real test of how well this works is in the answer to the question, “What would you tell a couple thinking about joining the military together.” Their answer: “If the person was single, we would tell them this is the best experience of their life. If they were a couple we would say that it is very rough being away from each other for months at a time and it will test your relationship to the breaking point, but in the end it is worth it if you are in for the right reason.”

Caddo Mills, home of Shawn, is a relatively small town of about 1,300 people with a high school that has about 375 students. The town itself is on Texas State Highway 66 about nine miles southwest of Greenville, and about 15 miles northeast of Rockwall. But like many small towns in Texas, the input to our armed services from their high school is significant. For example, in Shawn’s graduating class of 2005, nine classmates enlisted in the Marine Corps and two went in the Army. Since over ten percent of all service members in the Department of Defense come from the state of Texas, these numbers are probably not surprising, but they sure are impressive.

Men and women from our small towns as well as our cities and suburbs make up our armed services today. They are all volunteers and they all are involved in this International War on Terrorism our country was so violently thrown into with the events of September 11, 2001. Our country continues to debate the course we should follow in this war, but there is no debate on the courage and sacrifices these servicemen and women are making. Please make that extra effort to tell our military members “Thank you for your service and what you are doing for us.”

To have the story of your friend or relative told in this column, please contact retired US Army Lieutenant Colonel Jerry Hogan at 214-394-4033 or