An inside look at the life of US Marine recruits from Northeast Wisconsin

Posted at 10:43 PM, Apr 26, 2017
and last updated 2017-04-26 23:43:55-04

Order, structure, and uniformity: on the surface, this is the life of a US Marine recruit. 

"I sort of just wanted to try something new and better myself, and I knew that the Marines would really just help me out doing that and make me the best man that I could be," Paxton Pelegrin, a Marine recruit from Green Bay.

At the end of March, Paxton is nearing the end of his 13 weeks of training.

"I want to become a Marine and I'm going to do whatever it takes," he said.

It's a feeling shared by other recruits from Northeast Wisconsin.

"In the beginning it was a tough change from civilian life to recruit life, it was a big change," said Waitasa Grignon, a Marine recruit from Shawano. "Throughout boot camp, you find your inner strength."

The biggest test of inner strength comes during The Crucible, testing recruits' mental and physical limits.

They hike for more than 50 hours, running on just three meals and minimal sleep. Carrying nearly 50 pounds, they also must conquer a hill known as "the reaper."

"I saw the final push and I knew it was going to be hard," said Dakota Austinson, a Marine recruit from Appleton. "But then my drill instructor told me that hill is the difference between a recruit and a Marine, and I did it."

As these recruits receive their Eagle, Globe and Anchor emblem, emotion overcomes these young men as they officially become Marines.

"Earning the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor means a lot, and that's something that we get to carry with us for the rest of our life," said Gunnery Sgt. Derek Kramer, a Marine career recruiter from Green Bay.

"That's just humbling, knowing so many people before me have stood where I'm standing and are not here to tell the story," said Dakota Austinson.

The Crucible is just one of many tests these young recruits face.

"I came here just telling myself, just to never quit on myself," said Lucas Miller, a Marine recruit from Milwaukee. "I knew it wasn't going to be easy, I knew there were going to be things that I've never done before that I might not be good at, but as long as I gave it 100%, at the end of the day, I could hold my head up high."

After three long months of training, families are finally able to see the transformation from man to Marine at the recruit training graduation ceremony.

It's a time of celebration for new Marines, like Paxton Pelegrin, and their families.

"Although it's a high anxiety time ...If they feel like it's something they really want to do you just really need to support them and be proud of them," said Joda Pelegrin, Paxton's mother.

Because as these Marines move forward after graduation day, the Marine values of Honor, Courage, and Commitment shine through.