Life changing or life directing

What was the one experience that completely changed your life? What happened? How did it change your life?

When I think back, it’s like I told my beer buddy, “watch my beer, I’m going to join the Marine Corps for a bit, I’ll be back.”

I left for a few months, which turned into a year, then I was stationed about three to four hours away for the remaining three years of my enlistment. Indeed I returned. I routinely visited and imbibed with him as well as other buddies.

When I enlisted, everyone discouraged it and I think some people were hurt because I had not consulted with them. It might have been random to some, but at the same time my decision to do so sort of dawned on me. I was aimlessly going about life. I had dropped out of multiple colleges and would work a real estate deal here and there to survive. That’s exactly what I was doing, surviving. I wasn’t living. It was happy hour, sleep, happy hour, sleep routine. 

So, when it came to me that I could still enlist in the Marine Corps – like I would have liked to out of high school – I felt like I imagine the prodigal son felt when he came up with the idea of returning to his father as a servant. He was in desolation and thought he had come across a solution. I really felt and thought to myself, “why didn’t I think of this sooner?!” 

It’s funny how everyone thought that something would happen to me. I really never believed anything was going to happen. In my eyes, I thought I had gotten myself something to keep me occupied for another four years, maybe even a career. Furthermore, I wanted to stay as far away from routine as I could when it came to choosing a job in the military.

At 24 years old, I believed I was enlisting for work, not necessarily looking to go to war. By the time I had graduated boot camp, I wanted to go to war. It’s funny, I guess that’s all the “brainwashing” people always talk about. They do a really good job of pumping you up and amping up destruction. Anyway, I was a point or two shy of a perfect score on the ASVAB test. I don’t think I ever met anyone else in the military with higher scores than mine. I was free to pick any job.

I remember the recruiter trying to sell me on aviation mechanics because supposedly they make six figures in the civilian sector. When I asked the recruiter about public affairs, he said you go with different units and write about what they do and stuff. That sounded like a winner to me because I figured that was the least routine and I’d get to explore. Little did I know it would be my future.

I wanted travel. I wanted adventure. I didn’t care much about the patriotism, honor and other stuff shoved into my head while enlisted. I learned about patriotism on a trip to Canada, but I’ll save that short story for another date.

I didn’t get travel. I didn’t get adventure. Instead, I received experience in public relations, journalism and design. I also learned to fire some weapons, flew in helicopters and blew some stuff up with EOD Marines. I guess there was some adventure. Anyway, I never took the whole thing seriously. Looking back, I could have done much more. 

That being said, now I always think to myself, “I can do so much more.”

Oh and I realized everyone didn’t know what they were talking about. I wasn’t shipped off to war like everyone thought. Upon honorable discharge, I emerged with so much more knowledge and skills, I returned to college with a fervor for more knowledge and I had a free ride that should take me into my master’s.

Furthermore, I was also assisted in getting into school by a USMC Leadership Scholastic Program offered to those Marines who achieve a high score on their ASVAB. (My transcripts weren’t exactly the greatest at the other schools I attended albeit I was an A student in high school.) The experience gave me a completely new outlook on life and school continues to give me all the puzzle pieces I need to complete the bigger picture.


Josue Aguirre

Here’s some of my work as an enlisted photojournalist or you can Google “Cpl. Josue Aguirre”:


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