CAMP RIPPER, Iraq -- Many Marines come from small-town America, leaving the neighborhoods where they once played Wiffle Ball in the street to join the fight in Iraq. One Marine with the 2nd Marine Division reminisces about his small town, but with a nostalgia most American fighting men can’t relate with – he grew up both on an Indian reservation and a rural town called Keystone Heights in Florida.
Lance Cpl. Rodney Eric Brin, a 20-year-old and 2002 graduate of Keystone Heights High School is the 2nd team leader for 3rd Squad, Regimental Combat Team 2’s security detachment. His three years plus in the infantry has been a life changing experience. It’s both made him miss his hometown and long for more adventure.
His upbringing in the sunshine state and on the Seminole reservation taught him the kind of life lessons he needed to survive in a world where age-old traditions converge with the ever changing face of modern times. The Marine Corps isn’t dissimilar in that respect. And the customs of the Native Americans who reared him may have prepared him for the job of being a Marine rifleman and warrior more than they may have realized.
“Growing up, my father, Singing Hurricane, and the others in the tribe took part in pow-wows,” said Brin. “They weren’t the kind of warrior dances that tourists see, though; all for show. These were very true spiritual dances. They were in reverence to the great spirit for the Seminoles – Wonka Tonka.”
Brin grew up breaking wild horses on the reservation. It was one of the things he loved most about living on the reservation.
In sixth grade, Brin moved to Keystone Heights to live with his mother on a farm. They still broke horses, but for the first time, Brin indulged in things he had never been able to try -- like skateboarding.
“I never left the reservation when I was young,” said Brin. “We didn’t have computers and life was pretty simple.”
Although his new town was quaint, with one stop-light and a small school, that was a modern advancement for him. When he decided to join the Corps, he found it to be a perfect fit because it was just like a small town.
Back at Camp Lejeune, N.C., where Brin’s regiment originates from, he likes to fish for bass and get back to the simple life. He reminisces about his time in Afghanistan and how he helped do his part to turn that country around for the better.
“Afghanistan turned out well and Iraq will eventually with time,” said Brin. “The Corps has taught me many life lessons that I’ll bring back to Florida where I hope to become a game warden,” said Brin. “I’ve done a lot of exploring, but I’m done leaving home. It’s time to get back to my small town.”