MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. --
For Cpl. Justin J. Rush, serving in the military was a path he knew he’d take from an early age.
Raised by a family filled with service members and inspired by the challenge and promise of physical, mental and spiritual growth, the 20-year-old embarkation specialist with the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit decided to enlist in the Marine Corps.
Rush’s motivation and dedication to duty has lead him to continue to uphold the traditions, customs and courtesies of the Corps by participating in the MEU’s color guard. In this interview, he tells us what it means to uphold the custom built by the sacrifice of those before him.
Q: Where did your inspiration to join the Marine Corps come from?
A: My inspiration to enlist in the Marine Corps came after high school. I wanted to do something that would impact me mentally, physically and spiritually. My mom would say this is an aspiration I had since I was very little. I was raised by military members. Ever since I was five-years-old I would draw pictures of military members. My initial inspiration though came from my stepdad. He was in the Navy and he didn’t want me to [enlist]. He said I could do better things with my life. So I decided I’d go Marines.
Q: How has your experience been so far?
A: My experience has been amazing. I’ve done a lot of things that none of my friends can even imagine. I’ve gone to many countries and done many things that most grown men haven’t done, and I got to do it as an 18 year old.
Q: What do you enjoy the most about your job?
A: In most [military occupational specialties] you don’t see that instant gratification. In my MOS, I get to see that. When I load ships, at the end of the day I can see what I did with my own hands. The whole couple months of planning, everything I’ve done, all those nights sleeping at the shop; I can physically see that gratification.
Q: What’s been your most positive experience as an embarkation specialist?
A: My most positive experience has been mentoring Marines underneath me. To this day I still get emails from past [staff noncommissioned officers] and officers about how great a job my Marines are doing, thanking me for being that strong mentor, how their success is a direct result of me. They tell me that they’re even starting to talk like me when briefing their MEU [commanding officer]. Other than that, it’s having good leaders. There’s nothing more satisfying than having good leaders in the Marine Corps and how positively they can affect junior Marines.
Q: How essential is your job to the MEU’s mission?
A: My MOS, 0431, embarkation specialist, is essential, especially for a MEU, because everything revolves around [it]. The whole mission of the MEU is to provide Marine capabilities, contingency capabilities, aboard ships. Without my MOS there’d be no planning to get on that ship. It’s the logistical means, and flawless execution of those means, to get on that ship with the least amount of chaos. My MOS is the reason why MEUs [and deployments] go smoothly. We do all the planning and we make sure those plans are executed flawlessly at all times.
Q: What made you want to join the 15th MEU color guard?
A: It’s one of those things where it’s been a tradition for hundreds of years, from the battlefields of long ago, to now. It’s one of those things that the Marines who do it take pride in the colors, take pride in the organizational colors that men and women have died for. It’s the center piece of every ceremony. Everyone at that point in time has their eyes on you. The national anthem is going on, the Marines’ Hymn, everyone is looking at you. So I wanted to uphold that tradition that was bestowed a long time ago.
Q: Do you ever feel pressure with all those eyes on you?
A: When you’re out there you don’t really pay attention to the eyes because the whole time all you’re thinking about is what you’re doing. We really don’t pay attention to anything outside our sphere.
Q: What do you feel when you’re marching out there with the colors in your hands?
A: It truly is amazing. You get goose bumps, especially when the Marines’ Hymn is playing. Every time you hear the National Anthem or the Marines’ Hymn you get goose bumps, and if you don’t, then I don’t know what’s wrong with you. It truly is an inspirational thing.
Q: What’s it take to be a part of the color guard?
A: You have to be motivated and be able to work with external factors. The drill movements are easy. The external factors are what are hard, especially when that wind picks up and hits the actual colors. The rifle bearers have to do their part to help support us. Besides that, you can do it.
Q: You have a lot of passion and drive. How do you manage to keep that?
A: The passion keeps on going because I’ve seen, I’ve witnessed, Marines who truly came into the Marine Corps for the right reasons. I’ve led Marines, I’ve been underneath Marines, and I’ve led Marines that were my peers. They want to be in the Marines because they want to uphold those traditions and courtesies and they understand the uniform they’re wearing is a privilege. Marines have died for hundreds of years to just wear our cammies; that’s it. On top of that, we get paid to uphold literal blood. People have died for us and I believe that we need to, every single day, try our best for [them]. That truly does keep me going every day.
For the Warrior Wednesday video on Rush, visit our YouTube page at: http://youtu.be/ebqItHX-ilA