Richmond, VA -- In a time where less than one percent of Americans serve in the military, and the Department of Defense is reducing its total force numbers, becoming a full-fledged member of the Marine Corps can be challenging.
For 19-year-old Lynchburg, Va. native Aaron Hunter, earning the title of Marine has been a dream since he was 10. There was only one thing holding him back, his weight, until he lost 84 pounds in order to meet the standards set for enlisting in the Marine Corps.
It took Hunter almost two years, but he did it. He met the Marine Corps’ stringent standards, and swore in to the Delayed Entry Program on August 8.
“He is an all-around good kid,” said Sgt. Michael Coles, the staff noncommissioned officer in charge of Recruiting Sub-Station Lynchburg. “He has a strong military background; his uncle was in the Corps and it is something he has wanted to do all his life. He got frustrated that he could not enlist, so he worked hard to get here. “
Losing weight was not going to be easy for the 290 pound Amherst County High School graduate, but Hunter was not willing to give up on his dream.
“I wanted to be a part of something bigger than myself,” said Hunter. “I want to be a part of the greater good and make a difference in the world. Civilian jobs just never really caught my attention the way the Marine Corps has.”
To drop the 84 pounds he needed to loose, Hunter started off slow, spending a month going for long walks on a treadmill. Not satisfied with the results, Hunter bought high intensity workout videos and stuck to the program, shedding almost 60 pounds in a matter of only a few months.
Hunter was not happy to just lose weight, he needed to build up his strength as well, so he joined a local gym and started pumping iron in order to increase the amount of pull ups he could complete to meet enlistment criteria.
Working out on his own was helping, but what Hunter really needed was some extra motivation, something he found in spades when he contacted Sgt. Michael Coles and Sgt. Christopher Bangert, two Lynchburg area Marine recruiters known for their physical fitness and the amount of time they each spend in the gym.
“Sgt. Coles and the recruiters really helped me out a lot,” said Hunter. “I needed the motivation and support they gave me to succeed. I would like to thank Sgt. Coles, Sgt. Bangert and everyone at the recruiting station for helping me. If it was not for them, I might not have made it.”
Hunter might not realize it himself, but the dedication he showed, in turn, motivated the recruiters he was working with.
“I am definitely proud of him,” said Coles. “Kids like him are the reason why I enjoy the recruiting life. Seeing the outcome and how much effort he has put into enlisting definitely motivates me.”
After Hunter completes recruit training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., he will continue on to Marine Combat Training, where he will learn to be a rifleman before continuing on to his Military Occupational Specialty school.