Success from Within
Jacob Aceret, United States Marine Corps
It is a great honor for me to speak today as it is the 242nd birthday of our beloved Marine Corps. My first Marine Corps Birthday ball was right here in Wilmington at the Convention Center. It was one of the first times I was in Wilmington since being stationed at Camp Lejeune. Little did I know then that I would fall in love with Wilmington and eventually move here.
I grew up in Aurora, Illinois with my parents Steve and Mary, and my two older brothers Josh and Jon; both of whom paved the way for my success. I was academically mediocre and had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. The only thing that I knew is that I wanted to make a name for myself. When I first told my parents that I wanted to join the Marine Corps, I’m pretty sure my mom laughed a single “HA” and walked away, not even entertaining the thought of it. However, after a couple of visits from the recruiter trying to win over my parents, they finally gave in, and at age seventeen, I was enlisted in the world’s most elite fighting force: the United States Marine Corps.
There are two distinct moments I can remember from my three months of boot camp. The first on October 9th, 2012, as I stepped on those yellow footprints at MCRD San Diego and began my journey to becoming a Marine. The second was on January 1st, 2013, standing on top of the Reaper with my Eagle Globe and Anchor in hand and finally earning the title of Marine.
After boot camp, Marine Combat Training, and my Military Occupational School, I was placed at Combat Logistics Regimen 27. During my six months there, I took over 3 billets within my platoon and was being put up for a meritorious promotion board. I won that board and, at only 19, I was an NCO and was being sent to Combat Logistics Battalion 24 where I would eventually deploy with the 24th MEU aboard the USS New York.
My job as a telecommunication chief was to employ telecommunications services to my battalion. This included cryptographic land and cellular devices. I was also in charge of maintaining and employing all satellite phones. I had five Marines under my charge who were all older than me at 20, and I was the youngest NCO in the platoon.
Being thrown to the wolves, I had to grow into a leader fast and earn the respect of my Marines. I rose to the challenge and earned my spot among the other NCO’s. This was a defining moment in my life as I realized that my hard work had paid off. My confidence was at an all-time high.
Being deployed with the 24th MEU and CLB 24 was a great honor in itself as seven tons of the bow of the ship is made from fallen remains of the World Trade Center. On top of that, I had the honor of serving with some of the finest men and women I’ve ever met. Each member of that platoon was an incredible individual who made the platoon unique.
Although I was part of this elite fighting force, for most of us, the Marine Corps taught me how to love more than to fight. I mean, of course I learned to fight. But it was the love and care that my Marines had for one another that made the comradery so strong.
We treated each other with respect no matter what. We looked out for one another. We cared for one another and we listened to each other. The group of Marines I deployed with were some of the best people I’ve ever met. It is because of them that I was so successful during my time in the service. The relationships I built with my fellow Marines will last forever.
However, those days would not last forever. After we arrived back in the United States on July 15th, 2015, our platoon slowly started to dissipate. Some Marines would go on to other opportunities inside the Marine Corps, others would test their luck in the civilian world.
I chose to test my luck despite the constant lobbying of my superiors for me to reenlist. I did so with the thought that if I was successful in the Marine Corps, I would be successful anywhere I went, even though I had no idea what I was going to do after. I was honorably discharged and felt set to start over and find myself again.
During my transition I have come across a lot of ups and downs. I tried to reinvent myself to the person I thought I wanted to be while trying to find a career that would sustain me and fulfill a moral compass like that of the Marine Corps. I had encountered a weird thing called anxiety and for the first time since I got my eagle globe and anchor. I was unsure of who I was, as well as my abilities and my future.
It wasn’t until a conversation with my father where he reminded me of the tools I already had learned. He reminded me that I was a United States Marine and that I should conduct myself as such. That just because my time in service was over did not mean I had to stop serving. This conversation was rejuvenating for me as I didn’t need to reinvent myself at all, I just needed to apply the same morals and ethics I learned in the Marine Corps to my new life.
Since I moved to Wilmington, I’ve attended both UNCW and Cape Fear Community College and have been treated with nothing but respect and open arms. The Student Veterans Organization (SVO) and office of military affairs at UNCW has a great group of people who truly care about their student veterans. It was, in fact, at UNCW that I found out about Cape Fear Community Colleges Sustainable Technologies program, and third in the nation ranked Construction Management Program that I am now a part of.
It is because of these two institutions and their continual effort to give higher education to veterans that makes veterans like me want to continue to serve in the community. While I have taken one uniform off, Cape Fear Community College is preparing me for the next uniform I put on.
With the help and guidance of the staff and faculty at CFCC, I am able to pursue a career in renewable energy, finding yet another way to give back to the world and country that I swore to defend. While I seek this degree for a brighter energy future, I carry the same morals and principles that have been instilled in me since setting foot on the yellow footprints. So although I am no longer a hard-charging Devil Dog in my day to day life, I, along with countless other veterans, am bringing these morals and principles into the civilian workforce.
As President of the SVO, I encourage all of our local veterans to get involved, be a voice within the community you swore to protect. Continue to serve and be a part of a conversation to bridge the gap for other transitioning veterans.
It took a village of people to get me where I am today. On Veterans Day, I honor those people. I honor my fellow Marines who I love and care for. I honor my parents and brothers for the stress I put them through and for being there for me whenever I needed. I honor all of you, who care for us, and I want to honor a few veterans in my life who, without their help, I would not be here today.
These Marines are in my thoughts, they are in stories I will be telling all weekend, and they will certainly be a part of me. Cheers, as I celebrate the Marine Corps Birthday tonight.
Eleanor Nesimoglu – My beautiful girlfriend from Monroe, Wisconsin.
Jose Delarosa – Roma, Texas
George Ojeda – Tampa, Florida
Donivin Malik Wilkerson – Charleston, West Virginia
Brody Schmidt – Chino, California
This speech was written for the 2017 Veterans Day speech given at Tabitha’s Courtyard, Cape Fear Community College, on November 10th, 2017.