Nothing promised, everything earned
4 Moffat County men prepare for U.S. Marine Corps. service
October 5, 2012
“I always wanted to be in the military, but I didn’t know what branch until my father passed away. My dad was the very best, so I want to be the very best.”
— Zach Hansen, 2012 Moffat County High School graduate, about his decision to enlist in the United States Marine Corps.
“I don’t want to be like everyone else and follow the crowd to college or the mine,” Maneotis said. “I want to earn a GI Bill and go on to technical college after the Marines.”
— Jesse Maneotis, future Moffat County High School graduate, about his decision to enlist in the U.S. Marine Corps.
“Every recruiter from every other branch promised us something. Sgt. (Brian) Scoggins said from the start he wasn’t going to promise us anything. He told us we would have to earn everything we get and I think that’s what set them apart for all of us.”
— Tyler Ripka, 2012 Moffat County High School graduate, about what sets the United States Marine Corps. apart from other military branches
There are certain qualities every serviceman and servicewoman shares — a sense of duty, honor and tradition.
Though they are like qualities found throughout the four branches of the military, how those characteristics are defined are as unique as each person who makes the commitment to wear the uniform.
On Sunday two 2012 Moffat County High School graduates — Zach Hansen, 18, and Pat Thompson, 18 — depart for United States Marine Corps. boot camp.
They will be followed in December by Tyler Ripka, 18, also a 2012 MCHS graduate, and in June 2013 by Jesse Maneotis upon his high school graduation.
All four men signed eight-year commitments and will be dispersed among a variety of specialties.
Ripka and Maneotis are slated to serve in motor transportation, Hansen has been assigned to aviation mechanics, and Thompson to combat support.
The four young men talked Thursday about their decisions to enlist in the armed forces, each touching on a sense of duty to honor a longstanding tradition of military service.
"I always wanted to be in the military," Ripka said. "My step dad is a big history buff, so he taught me a lot about the military.
"Then I got really close with my uncle Ross (Zappia). He was a Gunnery Sgt. in the Marines and served in Korea. When he passed away two years ago I decided I wanted to follow in his footsteps and become the best in the business."
Hansen also comes from a military family. His grandfather, father and a cousin are all Marine Corps. veterans.
Hansen always knew he was destined for military service, but, like Ripka, it took losing a family member before his path became clear.
"I always wanted to be in the military, but I didn't know what branch until my father passed away," he said. "My dad was the very best, so I want to be the very best."
Where Ripka and Hansen both have family ties to the Marines, Thompson doesn't, but his family tree is no less steeped in military tradition.
Thompson's grandmother and grandfather each served in the United States Army. One of his cousins, currently stationed in Germany, is a West Point graduate. He has uncles who graduated from the Air Force Academy and nearly everyone else he can think of is a veteran of the United States Navy.
Thompson will be the first Marine in his family.
Maneotis is the only one out of the four who does not come from a military family. He decided to enlist to break from the mold, learn professional skills not taught anywhere else on the planet and to lay the foundation for a career as a diesel mechanic.
"I don't want to be like everyone else and follow the crowd to college or the mine," Maneotis said. "I want to earn a GI Bill and go on to technical college after the Marines."
But the attraction of serving in the Marines extends beyond whether or not each man has a family history of military service, Thompson said.
The U.S. Marine Corps. is the oldest branch in the U.S. armed forces.
Founded in 1775 it's also the smallest branch, the least funded, the toughest to endure and its soldiers pride themselves on a reputation of being the first to go into battle and the last to come out, qualities that appealed to each of the young men.
"Every recruiter from every other branch promised us something," Ripka said. "Sgt. (Brian) Scoggins said from the start he wasn't going to promise us anything. He told us we would have to earn everything we get and I think that's what set them apart for all of us."
Despite being the oldest branch in the U.S. military, Thompson said he was attracted to the Marines because it is also the most unique.
"The Marine Corps. boot camp is the longest and most difficult," he said. "I don't want to dog on any branch because I think service is service and it should all be commended, but the Army will take anyone.
"There's 1.4 million soldiers in the Army and only 180,000 Marines. It's not for every body."
It doesn't hurt that the Marine Corps. "dress blues" also are the best looking uniforms in the military, Thompson added.
Though there was no wavering in their commitments to serve their country, there also was no hesitation in admitting a sense of apprehension as their respective departure dates draw near.
"I'm not going to try to sound like a badass and pretend I'm good because I'm not," Hansen said. "I'm nervous."
Hansen's trepidation doesn't stem from a fear of the unknown, he said, but on what he's been prepared to expect.
Thompson, on the other hand, admits the possibility of going into combat has weighed heavily on his mind of late.
"In the last month I've kind of been psyching myself out about that because I don't want to die in a tin can, that's not what I planned," he said. "I'm not saying I'm afraid to go, if I have to go I'm gonna go, but sitting back here thinking about combat being a real possibility, that's scary stuff."
At this point Ripka is the only one who is committed to making a career in the Marine Corps.
Yet, with more than two months left until his scheduled departure date, he said he's no less nervous than Hansen or Thompson.
"I just try to focus on what attracted all of us to the Marine Corps. in the first place — the discipline and the challenge of earning the title," Ripka said. "Not everyone can do it. Not everyone is going to make it. You have to be a true man."
Joe Moylan can be reached at 875-1794 or email@example.com.Joe Moylan can be reached at 875-1794 or firstname.lastname@example.org.Joe Moylan can be reached at 875-1794 or email@example.com.