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Teen Travels from South Africa to Join Marines

LIVONIA, Mich. – Three countries and eight years later, 19-year-old Jesse Flanagan is back on American soil, to become one of America’s Finest, a United States Marine. 

Flanagan, whose father is from Pinckney, Mich. and mother is from the United Kingdom, was born in Johnson City, N.Y. He traveled to several different countries with his parents who served as missionaries in Mozambique, Malawi and South Africa, all the while earning an education through homeschooling. 

After making numerous long distance phone calls to Staff Sgt. Joshua Lundquist, a recruiter out of Recruiting Sub-Station Howell, Mich., Flanagan made the decision to travel more than 8,000 miles back to the U.S. to stay with his grandmother and enlist in the Marine Corps. 

“The day after I arrived here, I went into the office,” said Flanagan, who arrived on a Sunday in February 2013. “My dad keeps telling me to join the Coast Guard.” 

Once inside the office, he was excited to see Marine Corps posters on the recruiting station’s walls and finally begin his journey to do what he always wanted to do in life.

“I always wanted to be a part of the best ever since I was seven, and I decided that’s what I was going to be,” Flanagan said.

 Making contact with a Marine recruiter and stepping into the office was only the beginning. Flanagan then had to prepare mentally and physically toward becoming part of the Marine Corps Delayed Entry Program. 

He first took the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test in June, but needed to retest to improve his score.

Staff Sgt. Casey Garcia, who took over as his recruiter, recalls how hard it was to see him come so close to his goal.

 “I knew he had the dedication… but as his new recruiter I was just crushed for him,” she said. “At that point we wanted to continue at least the physical portion of processing and keep him motivated to keep studying to improve his score.”

Flanagan had doubts about achieving a high score on the next ASVAB test, but that didn’t stop him from coming into the recruiting office every day at the end of April to mid-June to raise his score. 

He finally retested and got the results he was looking.

“I remember when I saw the score in the car, I freaked out,” said Flanagan who achieved a 59 on the ASVAB.

 After months of work, he was able to swear in at the end of July. 

“When he came back from testing… he was grinning ear to ear so I knew he got his score,” said Garcia.

Flanagan gives credit to his faith, a fellow recruit in the pool and help from both Marine Staff Sgts. Lundquist and Garcia for believing in him.

“Now that he has accomplished his dream of enlisting in the Marine Corps, I hope he takes his struggles and uses them to triumph over whatever lies ahead,” said Garcia. 

Flanagan reflected on how he felt being able to complete the final step toward enlistment and what being a Marine will mean to him.

“It’s awesome. I just want to go to boot camp and to be in the Marines,” he said. “It’s America, self-discipline, protection and being able to be a part of something bigger.”

Garcia said that Flanagan has a bright future ahead of him.

“He’s going to be a great Marine and I hope he uses his story to inspire others,” Garcia added.

Flanagan shipped to Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., Oct. 29 and will go on to train as an aviation support specialist.

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