Thursday, April 23, 2009

Cobb County Marine serves proudly in Afghanistan

Date written: April 20, 2009
Story by Lance Cpl. Brian D. Jones

GOLESTAN, Farah Province, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan – Lance Cpl. Dustin C. Spicer wanted to call it quits while attending South Cobb High School from 2004-2007. He figured he would work for his father selling automobiles and eventually take over his father’s business. As he looks back, he’s glad to have been persuaded to do otherwise.

“When I started high school, I really didn’t have any goals at all,” said Spicer. “I hated school and wanted to get out. I really didn’t care. I thought I was going to end up working with my dad and take over the family business anyway. Then I met a few teachers who turned my whole perspective around.”

During his first combat tour, he’s found himself in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, surrounded by barren, mountainous terrain. Far from home, he thinks about the people who have influenced him most, leading him to where he is today.

Now the 21-year-old Cobb County, Ga., native is a Marine Corps infantryman with second platoon, Company K, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment (Reinforced), the ground combat element of Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force – Afghanistan. He’s focused and ready for the mission.

SPMAGTF-A’s mission is to conduct counterinsurgency operations in support of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, and train and mentor the Afghan National Police.

Henley Sawicki, his biology teacher; Andrew Cole, his U.S. history teacher; Helen Lane, his math teacher; and Jamison Warner, a science department teacher; all of South Cobb High School, took a part in shaping his future, he said.

“They taught me a lot about life, just by taking the time to sit down and talk to me,” said Spicer.

The lessons his teachers taught him have left a lasting impression on him, and he’s carried what he learned from them over to the Marine Corps.

“My teachers showed me I could do better,” said Spicer. “They proved to me that if I actually tried, I could do not only what I needed to pass but actually do better than just pass and that I have great potential.”

Spicer believes the best advice his teachers ever gave him was to set goals and not give into failure or laziness until he achieved them. And once he had accomplished those goals, he should set even higher ones and keep the stride going.

His teachers also taught their hot-tempered student how to re-channel his aggression when he got easily upset, Spicer said.

They taught him to stop and calmly think things through, while setting his feelings aside, a skill all Marines must develop.

Learning to set his differences with others aside and remaining professional are important when it comes to completing the mission, he said.

“There are some people that will (make you mad), but out here they’re your family and you still have their backs,” said Spicer. “You may not like someone, but something might happen to them and you have to be there for them no matter what.”

As a kid, Spicer remembers his mother taking him to bingo nights at a local Veterans of Foreign Wars post where he met veterans and heard their stories, which led him to thinking of joining the military when he was old enough.

“I never thought that I would actually do it though,” said Spicer.

Later on in life, one of Spicer’s best friends, Cody Evans, who also attended South Cobb High School a grade ahead of Spicer, joined the Marine Corps.

“We were just alike in high school,” said Spicer. “We didn’t care about anything. We just wanted to get by.”

After returning home from recruit training, Evens told Spicer what the Marine Corps had done for him. Intrigued by what Evans told him, Spicer contemplated the idea of enlisting once again.

Thanks to the teachers’ confidence in Spicer, he stuck it out and graduated in May 2007.

Though he has a lot of special memories from high school, it was when he walked across the stage and received his diploma that he reserves as his proudest moment.

“That was the first time my dad ever said he was proud of me,” said Spicer. “It kind of made it a big deal.”

Shortly after graduating, Spicer enlisted into the Marine Corps.

“My family is very proud of me,” Spicer said. “My mom doesn’t like that I’m over here right now, but she couldn’t be more proud of me.”

Spicer is unsure whether he will make a career of the Marine Corps, but he says he would like to use the Montgomery G.I. Bill to attend the University of Georgia, where he would earn a degree in business management.

Spicer still hopes to own and run a business back home. He is just taking a bit of different route to get there than he had originally planned.
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