In 2006, Craig native Billy Richards was a 19-year-old seeking more excitement than his sophomore year at the University of Northern Colorado had to offer.
"It was kind of boring," Richards said. "I wanted to do something a little more adventurous while I was still young."
Enter Uncle Sam. More specifically, enter Uncle Sam's U.S. Marine Corps.
Cpl. Richards, a Marine Corps infantryman, enlisted in October 2006 and has toured the globe since joining. His most recent deployments took him to Hawaii, Singapore, Kuwait, Dubai, Jordan and Australia.
But service isn't all about globetrotting to exotic locales. It's also sent him to locations like Iraq, where he spent a month and a half earlier this year, and most likely will send him to Afghanistan next year.
Richards, 22, a 2005 Moffat County High School graduate, arrived Nov. 4 back in the United States from an overseas deployment, and he came home Dec. 12 to Craig for a 22-day leave.
He's said he's spent his time at home - which immediately follows an intense round of training at his home base, Marine Corp Base Camp Pendleton in southern California - mostly laying low.
"My last week," Richards said, "has been spent recovering and relaxing."
His R&R is well-deserved.
Although tensions have cooled somewhat in Iraq, he said he and his unit experienced moments of small arms fire. And there's always the looming danger of roadside bombs.
On patrols in hostile places such as Iraq - and later for him, Afghanistan - Richards said the main priority is simple: Bring everyone back alive, including yourself.
"The No. 1 priority is everyone come home," he said. "Your worse fear is coming home one man less."
Richards said the situation in Iraq is colored by a distorted media view.
"It's not what the media makes it out to be," he said. "There are good people over there. A lot of progress is being made. The Iraqis are being very cooperative and starting to do a lot for themselves."
Richards enlisted for four years. He said he hasn't made a firm decision about whether he'll re-up with the service or follow other, less dangerous dreams.
"I'd like to get my bachelor's degree," he said, "maybe own some land, have a family. But I have no idea where I'll end up."
He said he's satisfied with the decision he made more than two years ago to join the Marine Corps.
"Absolutely," Richards said. "I don't think I was mature enough to excel in college. Now, I think I have the discipline to go back."
The Marine Corps "is a unique experience," he added. "It's definitely pretty cool to say I've been to places like Singapore and Australia."