White: ‘It’s about being proud of who you are’
Editor’s note: This is a recent article courtesy of the Marshalltown Times-Republican profiling those who have ever served in the U.S. military, be it overseas or stateside.
GLADBROOK – He was “just an Iowa kid” looking for a challenge? Well more than 20 years after he departed his beloved Marines, Pat White will tell you the challenge of serving in the military has only helped to shape him into the man he is today.
As a freshman in high school, White said military recruiters visiting his school, helped pique his curiosity about the possibility of one day serving his country.
“I think it was an Air Force recruiter I talked to first that sparked my interest,” he said. “And then there were more recruiters – the National Guard, the Marine Corps – and I started to talk to them.”
By his junior year, White was hooked, and committed himself to the Marines, signing up his junior year through an early entry program. But he didn’t go to boot camp until shortly after he graduated from high school.
White said he knew the military might be a way for him to make a difference in the world.
“I love my country and I thought it would be a great way to give back and to help defend it. The Gulf War had just happened and I wanted to be a part of that in anyway I could,” he said.
White knew the task would be difficult.
“I knew it was going to be a challenge, but I really wanted a challenge and it pushed me toward joining the Marine Corps.”
Sixteen days after graduation, 18-year-old White stepped out of his comfort zone, boarded a plane and headed west to Camp Pendleton in California.
“I was scared to death. I had never really been out of Iowa, let alone on my own. There was quite a bit of anxiety there,” he said. “There were so many unknowns.”
The challenges to the psyche during boot camp, designed to break down young recruits and then build them back up, was evident to White.
“Of course it’s a lot of mental games, but that’s the whole idea. They want you to think under pressure. There’s a reason for everything they do,” he said.
The physical demands, however, stretched White.
Toward the end of boot camp, “there are a lot of hills in California and basically, that 21-mile hike with a full pack and gear you’re thinking I’m not sure I’m going to do this,” he said.
“But you have your team pushing you and that motivates you” to complete the mission.
White graduated boot camp and stayed in California where he underwent Marine Combat training, followed by infantry training.
White became well versed in mortars, and firearms, rifles, machine guns, etc.
From there, White moved east to Camp LeJeune in North Carolina where he was stationed with the 1st Battalion, 8th Marines.
“I was stationed there for almost two years; while I was there we also deployed on a six-month tour of the Mediterranean, and got to see some of the world … ” White said, noting that his unit was even sent to Mogadishu, in Somalia, following conflicts there in 1993. His unit, there to assist and serve as backup.
“When we came back up to the Mediterranean, it just his me that ‘I’m just a kid from Iowa, what am I doing here?’
“The reality just set in that I’m on the other side of the world.”
White said the military allowed him to see Somalia, as well as Turkey, Italy, Spain and France – something he never dreamt of growing up in Iowa.
Then it was back to Camp LeJeune and then off to the Marine Corps Recruit Depot at Parris Island, S.C., for two years, where White served as a rifle instructor.
White seriously thought about continuing his career in the military – he loved the passion, the hard work and the mission in serving the country he loved.
“At that time though, I was married, we had a two-year-old daughter, and I talked to other Marines who talked about not seeing their kids grow up,” he said. “I wanted to be around to help raise her so I decided it was time to get out.”
In his four years in the Marines, White, who currently serves as the Marshall County Chief Jailer, said the most enjoyable part of serving in the military was “knowing you’re part of an elite team – those guys are the best – being part of that, getting to travel, hoping you’re making a difference … without question, I would do it again!”
White recognizes the parallels of serving in the Marines and his time now as a law enforcement professional.
“That’s something I’ve always taken with me – the discipline, the structure, being on time, making sure things are getting done. They really drill that into you, but really it’s about being proud of who you are.”