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Face of Defense: High Achiever Finds New Challenges in Marine Corps

By Marine Corps Cpl. Angelica Annastas Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego

SAN DIEGO, Sept. 28, 2016 — Stephen J. Bayer said he joined the Marine Corps to change his life.

“I wanted something that was high-speed, low-drag,” said Bayer, who’s now a lance corporal undergoing training at the recruit depot here with Charlie Company, 1st Recruit Training Battalion.

“I always had an itch to join the military, or at least something like it. I always had that drive in me,” he said.

Hometown Life

Bayer, who hails from Smithville, Mississippi, said he had a busy life growing up.

“I was always busy, because I had a lot of close friends who I hung out with,” he said. “The thing we did most was drive trucks. We loved driving, so it took up a lot of our time. I remember we would play pool and have bonfires, too. We’d just hang out and have a good time.”

Bayer said it wasn’t much different when it came to spending time with his family.

“I’ve always been close to my family,” he said. “I remember Sundays being an all-day event, and we’d play board games or something.”

At high school, Bayer said he met the love of his life, and got married shortly after graduation. After high school, he said, he began working as a mechanical engineer. He was a welder for eight years, and was making a solid paycheck to support his family. But Bayer said that wasn’t really what he wanted to do.

Seeking Something Different

“I wanted to expand my horizons, in a sense,” he said. “I wanted to earn my spot in America, and not just be a part of it, because I was born here. I figured it was time to step up and try for something different. That was when the Marine Corps came into my mind.”

Bayer sat down with his wife and talked about his decision and how it would change their lives.

“We’d come to the question of, ‘Can we do this?’” Bayer said. “We spent almost a year talking about it, off and on, and then we finally came to the decision to try.”

Bayer visited a recruiter and told him what he was looking for from the Marine Corps. “He asked me what I wanted to do, and I told him I wanted to be a military policeman, and nothing else,” Bayer said.

Joining the Marine Corps

The recruiter was able to fulfill Bayer’s request, but he had to spend five months in the Delayed Entry Program before attending recruit training. When he finally left for training, he picked up with Charlie Company, but his experience took an unexpected turn.

“We were doing one of the physical training events, and I felt pain in my shin and hip,” Bayer said. “When I was sent to medical, they diagnosed me with a hip fracture in the right femoral neck and head, and I also suffered from a left bilateral tibia stress fracture.”

Bayer was taken out of training and assigned to a medical rehabilitation platoon, where he was put on crutches for 17 weeks. During that time, he went to physical therapy and waited for his injuries to heal before returning to training. He spent two weeks in a physical conditioning platoon, and transitioned back into the training cycle.

“It was all emotionally draining, and extremely stressful, having to wait. But I couldn’t quit,” Bayer said. “I had to finish what I started, and I had to do it right.”

Overcoming Challenges

Bayer re-entered training July 22 and ended up with Charlie Company being led by the same senior drill instructor.

Recruit training proved to be physically demanding, Bayer said.

“I’m about to turn 28, and I didn’t have that young energy like the rest of the platoon had,” he said. “We were a family, and the other recruits kept me motivated. We pushed each other through it all.”

Earning his Eagle, Globe and Anchor, he said, was a moving moment.

“Being on top of the hill, and looking out at the ocean was such an out-of-body experience,” Bayer said. “The handshake and eye-to-eye contact was what did it for me. I was welcomed into the brotherhood, and it made it all worth it. Knowing that the protection of our own is so important, made me feel like part of the family.”

Following recruit training, Bayer will report to infantry school at Camp Pendleton, California, and then on to school to become a military policeman.

“One quote that stuck to me throughout training was, ‘What we do in life echoes in eternity,’” Bayer said. “I wanted to set the bar high for whoever comes after me.”
Distribution channels: Military