FALLUJAH, Iraq -- “You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, 'I have lived through this horror; I can take the next thing that comes along.' You must do the thing you think you cannot do,” Eleanor Roosevelt once wrote.
For one Marine, past experiences have developed him into a capable team leader. Drawing on what Marines he served under taught him, Lance Cpl. Jeffrey M. Roberts, a 21-year-old Destin, Fla., native, has become a team leader for 3rd Squad, 4th Platoon, Company E, 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment.
Since being assigned to the battalion in February 2003, Roberts has deployed four times. He went straight to Iraq as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom and stayed in Iraq for three months as security in Baghdad. After Baghdad, he went back to Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., for four months and then went to Okinawa for seven months as part of the Unit Deployment Program. Upon rotating back to Lejeune, he deployed to Afghanistan for three months.
“This deployment is better than previous ones,” said Roberts. “The living areas are better, we get hot chow every day, plus we finally get to do what we have been training to do. It’s like we have been studying for three years to take a test and now we finally see what it’s all about. We did all that training in Lejeune to come here and now here we are.”
The deployments have forced him to grow up fast, to be mature beyond his years.
“I couldn’t buy a beer less than a year ago,” Roberts said intensely. “But I come over here and hold the lives of two Marines in my hands and we could all possibly die. You just never know. So you have to think about that all the time, worry about snipers, grenades, your Marines, all that. You can’t let it overwhelm you. It’s crazy.”
Roberts says the constant stress of daily patrolling and looking for random attacks can be a heavy burden after time. To relieve some of the burden, he relaxes by hitting the gym and keeping some music blaring.
“Music can bring you back home; it can help you unwind after a long day,” he added. “You got to have a good sense of humor and stay loose.”
Joining the Marine Corps hasn’t left an unsavory impression on him. Even though he plans to get out after his enlistment, he still stands by his decision to join.
“The Marine Corps was the best option. I knew back in ninth grade that I was going to enlist,” he said. “I would do it all over again if I knew that I was going to deploy so much. It makes the time fly by. No matter how much I complain, it was worth it. I’m just now starting to realize that.”
To any Marine who is on his first deployment, or is scheduled to deploy, Roberts offers some advice.
“Pay attention,” said Roberts. “Soak up as much knowledge as you can. Try to get that childlike mentality out of you before you come out here.”