AT SEA ABOARD USS BONHOMME RICHARD – With 11 brothers and sisters, Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Gregg J. Schaefer grew up with a lot of eyes following his every footstep. Impressed by his oldest brother’s decision to join the military, he enlisted in the Marine Corps to protect his family and turn his life around.
Schaefer, a landing support specialist with 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit’s Combat Logistics Battalion 31, became the role model he strove to be. But before he matured enough to make a change, he acknowledged, he was setting a poor example.
From a young age, Schaefer had younger siblings watching him in their family’s small home just outside St. Louis in Barnhart, Mo. Schaefer, now 20, was born in 1993 into a family with three older brothers: Jarred, now 28; Sam, now 22; and Devin, now 21.
Starting in 1995, Schaefer’s parents added more to the family. Over time, he welcomed five younger brothers -- Carson, Andy, Parker, Tyson and Griffin -- and three younger sisters -- Ellie, Nina and Kristian.
Growing up, Schaefer said, he had problems with authority and rules in school. Until high school, he added, all of his transgressions were minor, but he still realized he was setting a bad example for his siblings.
His parents switched him from a private school to a public school, he said, hoping the change would help, but he soon slipped into a group of troublemakers.
Throughout his four years of high school, Schaefer spent a total of eight nights in the local jail. He was arrested once for painting graffiti on a public building, and on several occasions for fighting. An argument with his father concerning his behavior, he said, made him realize his siblings were watching his actions.
“Growing up in a family with so many brothers and sisters, you never stop to think how many eyes are watching your every step,” Schaefer said. “Sometimes you have to set aside your personal problems and think about how it could be affecting the loved ones around you. I just wish it wouldn’t have taken me until I enlisted into the Marines to learn that.”
The day of the argument with his father, he said, he was done setting a bad example. It was time to make a change in his life, for himself and for his siblings.
“An older brother can be one of the biggest role models for younger siblings,” he said. “It wasn’t until I realized the way I look at Jarred is the way my younger brothers and sisters look at me. Seeing that, I couldn’t keep going down this same road.”
In his junior year of high school, Schaefer sought a Marine recruiter, intent on following the lead of his eldest brother, Jarred, who enlisted in the Army as an infantryman. He said he recognized the character that military service built in his older brother and thought it could change his life for the better so he could set a good example for his younger brothers and sisters.
“If it wasn’t for [my brothers and sisters], I don’t know where I would be right now,” Schaefer said. “I am not saying that I would be in jail, but they made me change my act and do something better for myself.”
After graduating high school in 2011, Schaefer enlisted and attended boot camp at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, Calif. When he returned, he said, his family noticed a significant change in him.
“Joining the Marines was probably the best thing for Gregg,” said his eldest brother, Army Sgt. Jarred K. Schaefer, an infantryman with 2nd Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment. “I’m proud of him for what he has done by becoming a Marine. I truly think that he is setting a good example for our little brothers and sisters.”
Following Marine Corps boot camp, Schaefer completed infantry combat training at Camp Pendleton, Calif., and a course for his military occupational specialty at Jacksonville, N.C. In April 2012, he received orders to 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit’s Combat Logistics Battalion 31 in Okinawa, Japan.
Schaefer recently participated in the bilateral exercise Talisman Saber 2013 in Shoalwater Bay Training Area, Queensland, Australia, and now is deployed in the Asia-Pacific region on a regularly scheduled patrol.
The 31st MEU is the Marine Corps’ force in readiness in the Asia-Pacific region and is the only continuously forward-deployed MEU.