HOMER CITY--Channing Mack, a senior at Homer-Center High School, is ready to become on of "the few" and "the proud."
Mack, who turned 18 this month, will start 13 weeks of Marine boot camp at Parris Island, S.C., on June 9, just seven days after his high school graduation.
"What made me enlist was my cousin, because he talked about it," Mack explained. "He went to Iraq, into Fallujah, at the start of the war. I wanted the chance to serve our country in one of the toughest services, the Marines. It seems more challenging."
Mack is planning on a career in the Marines and on earning his education through military service.
"I hope to get a better life, careerwise, and, if I have a family, I'll be a better provider" said Mack, who has enrolled at Indiana University of Pennsylvania for the fall semester and will major in criminology. After boot camp, Mack will enjoy a 10-day leave before another six weeks of advanced training to be an aviation mechanic. He will be stationed out of the Marine Reserve base in Johnstown.
"It will keep me in the Johnstown base, but I can be sent anywhere," he said. "If they need me, they'll take me. I'd like to volunteer to go overseas."
Mack, with the consent of his parents, signed up last year, at age 17, through the Marines' delayed enlistment program. Also taking part in the program are classmate Dennis Shaulis and Saltsburg senior Justin McGee. The three enlisted with Sgt. Irvin Krueger, who actively recruits in Indiana County.
The three recruits sport the Marines' signature high and tight haircut and have been working toward physical fitness goals individually and together when they meet weekly with Krueger.
"In the last year, I've been working on my body," Mack said. "I had to maintain my weight.
I'm up to the IST (Initial Strength Test). We run around the IUP campus, and every two weeks we do the IST. Mostly it's running, push ups and situps and training for the PFT (Perfect Fitness Test). I think I'm ready for boot camp. The only concern is breaking something in boot camp because that will delay graduation from there."
Brenda Mack said she expected the eldest of her five children to enlist in the Marines but still has concerns about the danger he may encounter.
"He's wanted to do this since grade school," she said. "It's his decision. He has this plan set. Our whole family is proud he'll be a Marine. He has a level head. He knows what is expected of him.
But, she added, "There are concerns about war. We're hoping he doesn't get called up. We'll take it one day at a time."
Shaulis, 18, will report to boot camp in August. He said he was drawn to the Marines because his father served there and an uncle is a career Marine and has served five six-month tours in Iraq.
He said he hopes to earn respect as a Marine and has started to put in the needed work toward that goal: "I run three to five miles a day now. I do curls, 200 situps and 100 pushups.
"I want to make a difference in other people's lives," said Shaulis, who is considering a career as a helicopter mechanic in the Marines. "I always wanted to be a Marine. They are people to look up to. I can't wait to get out there and meet new people.
"If I have to go to Iraq, I'm not worried about that," he added. "Friends ask me what I'm going to do if I get shot at. I'm going to shoot back at them."
McGee is the third of three brothers to enlist in the Marines. His brothers, James, 23, and Josh, 20, are still serving. He will go to boot camp in September and is still getting physically fit.
"Ever since I was a little kid, I wanted to be a Marine," Justin McGee said. "The main thing that drove we was I admire them. I want to prove myself. They are the toughest. They're elite. If I'm called, it's in God's hands."
McGee would like to serve in reconnaissance because "the attributes fit my personality," he said. …