Veteran of the United States Marine Corps
Unlike those who have a lot of talk and no walk, veterans seem to be the opposite. They've seen and done incredible things, but somehow aren't looking for the nearest megaphone to advertise it. Rico is no exception to this rule. Rico has a calm energy and he looks you in the eyes when he talks to you. Within the first five minutes of meeting him however, I get to hear his laugh, and it's awesome. Every time he laughs, it's explosive and infectious, and I can't help but laugh too.
As far as the interview goes, I have no idea what to expect. Unlike other interviews I've done, I have no idea about what Rico's background is, what kind of questions to ask, or the level of sensitivity I need to employ when I'm asking them.
When Rico starts retelling his experiences to me, I'm struck by how well-spoken he is. He has a way of storytelling, of engaging, and of deliberately thinking about the questions I ask before he responds. I realize how smart he is, and talking to him is easy because he has honed the skill of story-telling. This is something I really admire in another person, because I'm a horrible storyteller. I'm always going off on tangents and stating irrelevant fact (case in point). But the thing I like the most about Enrico is that he is candid. He tells me about what life is like in the military and with openness and honesty that is refreshing. I can tell from the way that he responds to most of my questions that he has already spent a lot of time thinking about most of the issues and concerns that I bring up.
Rico was not born into a household that was well-off. He describes living in a trailer park and being homeless during his childhood. Unlike a lot of guys that join the military right out of high school or in their early twenties, Enrico enlisted with the Marine Corps when he was twenty-eight. Like almost every other veteran I've spoken to, he decided to join the military because he wanted to make a difference, and because he wanted to help people.
It's interesting to get his perspective as someone who joined later in life, because unlike most, he had a lot of time to pursue a career, go to school, and become an adult. When I ask him if felt any sense of separation between him and his peers during basic training because of his age, he recalls that he did, but it was something that completely disappeared within the first couple of weeks. "Once you all realize that you are in it together, differences like where you are from and age all kind of go out the window...you realize that you will be relying on each other day in and day out."
Rico gives me a new perspective on what it is like to be a soldier. He tells me about the enormous responsibility he had to take on as a part of his job. He stresses that when you are at war, you can't make mistakes. Sometimes a mistake as simple as failing to fix a broken radio can result in someone's death. Enrico's first job in the Marine Corps was as an NCO in charge of the manifest section, which included putting people on proper flights, and deciding who got priority on each flight. He recalls one time when he had to take responsibility for putting several surgeons on the wrong helicopter. They were supposed to be going to hospital where they were urgently needed, and ended up in entirely the wrong place. Luckily, there were no casualties, but with a different outcome, mistakes like that are traumatizing enough that they could very well stay with you for the rest of your life. He's been on the other end of a careless mistake too too. Once, when he was working at a checkpoint, his guardian angel (the person who was supposed to be watching for the enemy) fell asleep on the job, and as a result Rico came very close to losing his life. Amazingly, Enrico is extremely forgiving and understanding about the entire situation, and recognizes that we're all just human.
Still, that kind of responsibility seems small when you compare it to the kind of moral and emotional responsibility you take on when you join the military. You become responsible for the people who you work with, especially if you are in a position of leadership. Also, choosing to defend and protect your country at the cost of your own stability is a huge sacrifice. It's not easy to be in situations where it is your job to fight in a war, to be destructive, or to cause another human being pain, and I don't think you really know how you will react to those experiences until they happen.
I'm glad for the guys who are so much stronger than me, who go to foreign places and risk their lives so I can live in relative safety. I've heard the cliches, "Soldiers pay the ultimate cost..." or "soldiers make the ultimate sacrifice," so many times that I realize I haven't allowed it to really sink in. I guess I took my well-being and safety for granted, and I didn't really think to much about how much it costs others. Every day I am more and more grateful for people like Rico, who make that ultimate sacrifice. And when I talk about the "ultimate sacrifice", I'm not just talking about losing your life. I'm talking about the responsibility of protecting your country and the lives of your best friends who are fighting next to you every day. Soldiers are willing to be removed from everything they know to go and do extremely difficult and dangerous things for years on end, all while risking their own lives. I don't have the constitution or the bravery to do that, and so I have deep admiration and respect for those that do.
When I talk to Rico about the sacrifices he made, the people that he lost, and the trials that he faced, I feel grateful (and maybe a little guilty for not really getting how lucky I am) to have him, and the 23 million other veterans and military members that are living in the United States.
Did Roman legion heirs get PTSD?
Enrico answers the question,"Are you glad for the lessons that you learned?"
Once a marine, always a marine.
Well, kind of.
Enrico answers the question, "What do you plan to do now that you are out?"