CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq -- Jeff Stockton, a former Anaheim Angel, recently traded in his mitt and baseball cap for an M16A4 service rifle and Marine Corps digital utilities.
After returning from an injury two years into his Major League Career, Cpl. Stockton didn’t see things going as well as when he began so he decided to follow another childhood dream; he joined the Marines.
The St. Petersburg, Fla., native grew up on the baseball diamond and playing war with his friends.
“If I wasn’t out playing baseball with my friends we were out playing war,” explained the 1996 Northeast High School graduate.
As he entered high school, Stockton’s love for the game drove him to excel, playing for the school varsity baseball team and earning himself a scholarship to the University of North Florida.
During his final year, the Anaheim Angels drafted Stockton.
“I was only a few classes away from finishing school when I was drafted,” he explained. “I left school and played for a while until I was injured about two years into my career.”
Stockton looked at his situation as a perfect opportunity to pursue his other childhood dream.
Stockton put studies in criminal law aside for a while and signed his release from Major League Baseball. He then proceeded to the Marine Corps recruiting office.
“Things weren’t going the way I wanted them to, and I decided it was time to go into the military,” he said.
His immediate family was concerned at first by his decision since he is the first to join the service.
“We have always supported Jeff,” said his mother Donna Stull. “He has always made good decisions. It was just at the time we knew he would be sent to Iraq.”
But soon they were in complete support of his current career as he continued to be a role model for his younger brother who has followed in his footsteps in sports and school.
“We are completely confident in Jeff and the Marines. And his brother Matt really looks up to him,” Stull said. “Matt is a junior in high school and plays baseball and is a great student just like his older brother.
“They have always been close even though they are ten years apart.”
Soon after completing recruiting training and the school of infantry, Stockton found himself deployed to Haiti as a machinegunner with 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment from Feb. 28 to June 30, 2004.
“We were policing the area while we were there and keeping order,” explained Stockton. “It was great preparation for the bigger picture in Iraq.”
Approximately six months after returning from Haiti, the new machinegun squad leader found himself in the sandy deserts of Iraq fighting in the Global War on Terrorism.
“I think it is a good thing we turned around and deployed shortly after returning to the U.S.,” Stockton said. “I wouldn’t mind being deployed for most of my enlistment; it’s our job to be out here fighting wars, not sitting at home.”
When he arrived in Iraq he found himself, a lance corporal, serving as a machinegun squad leader, a sergeant’s billet. Then in his first few weeks here, he took over a rifle fire team in addition to his machinegun squad.
Stockton received a meritorious promotion to corporal for his initiative, dedication and service.
“With the way sports are going in the world today, it is an admirable and honorable thing he did becoming a Marine,” explained SSgt. Thomas Hill, the platoon sergeant for 2nd Platoon and a Chincoteague Island, Va., native. “He went from being a professional baseball player to being a professional Marine who does his job humbly and with competence far beyond most Marines of his rank.”