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What I've Learned: An Educator's Journey

Clay Barber, former Marine, educator.

MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. -- Clay Barber is a retired Marine who now spends his days working as a professional development instructor at the Education Center.

I'm a retired Marine. I served more than 20 years and I last served as a communications chief. I've been on this base forever. 

I like football, Alabama football. I grew up in there and I really enjoy my state. All Alabama football, high school or college, it doesn't matter. I love it.

I like to stay active. I play a lot of sports. I feel better now that I'm retired, my body is not as broken down as it was. I'm just an average Joe.

I took this job because it's a way to still help Marines. To put it into perspective, once you retire you're constantly being fed that you're not a Marine anymore. This is still a way for me to give back. Whether it be a brotherly hug or the fatherly swift kick in the pants.

The tenants of this job are just that, helping a human being from where they are to where they want to be. It's America everyone gets the right to choose where they want to be.

I grew up in northwest and central Alabama mostly around my grand parents. I grew up in blue collar America. My family is full of veterans, that was always something to think about and be proud of. 

My dad is a truck driver. I grew up around that for the most part. My grandfather is retired from the military and then he worked in the hydroelectric business on the rivers. 

My grandparents and my grandpa spoiled us rotten. We'd go fishing and hang out on the porch being Southern.

Being Southern is being proper. Behave yourself, have manners and try to succeed but not get wrapped up around the axel of success. That's a good way to put it. 

Keep your pace slow. You tend to run into less issues because your's available to see the issue and deal with it before becomes an issue. I like to impart that to people, I think that's important. 

I started with football on day one. My grandfather was a huge Alabama football fan and I've been a fan ever since. I like all sports. There really isn't a sport that I don't like but I love foot ball. Alabama football is a way of life. 

I'm a forward liver. The lessons of yesterday are really just the building blocks for tomorrow. I try and not to relive all of the past experiences. They're in the past for a reason.

I joined the Marine Corps as a young one. It's the only thing I've done in my adult life. I wasn't even an adult when it all started, I wasn't even 18 yet. 

When I came in, I was a mainframe operator, which meant nothing. It meant you could get farmed out doing this, that or another thing for various units. The gear we were using were already becoming antiquated. When you're in an antiquated (military occupational specialty) you become whatever they need you to be.

It was fun. I enjoyed that. I started off with an open contract. I had no idea what I was going to be and I didn't rightly care. I was under the impression that everyone was a Marine and that was the important thing. 

I don't consider what we do teaching. I consider it mentoring. The class function is sometimes teaching, sometimes facilitating, guided discussion, it can be a lot of things. 

Forward thinking to me is simply not ever being bogged down by the past. Whether it is educational, professional or personal, it's important not to get bogged down by those decisions. 

It's all about the buildup for tomorrow. Whatever tomorrow brings, I'll be ready for it.

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