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West African Immigrant Heeds Father's Words, Joins U.S. Marines

By Lance Cpl. Dorian Gardner, USMC
Special to American Forces Press Service

MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT SAN DIEGO, Calif., Aug. 18, 2005 – "After all the things he has been through, I'm sure he isn't worried about me screaming in his ear," Marine Staff Sgt. Nathan Nofziger, a drill instructor here, said about his West African recruit.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Marine Pfc. Nimley Tabue moved to Chicago from war-torn Liberia as a youth. Tabue's father told him joining the U.S. Marine Corps would change his life for the better. Photo by Lance Cpl. Dorian Gardner, USMC

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Pfc. Nimley Tabue is one of the 271 recruits in Company B, but few could say they've been in his shoes. The soft-spoken Liberia native recalls visions of war and the struggles he and his family went through to survive when thinking back to his native country.

Tabue's parents came from different tribes. He said his parents' tribal differences did not affect his family until a war between the tribes erupted in 1989.

"My father refused to kill, so (rebels) tried to kill him," Tabue said.

Tabue remembers fleeing through the country for three days as a child. "We stopped by a river once to get some water," said Tabue, who was with his mother and siblings at the time. "I held my 4-month-old brother in my arms as he died."

According to Tabue, his father, Aloysuis Tabue, traveled to America searching for ways to improve his family's life, and he called home often. "I learned about the Marines from my father," Tabue said. "He would say, 'If you guys come over here, make sure you do something with your life. The Marines will give you something no other service can.'"

Because of the ongoing war around him, school became less of a priority, and Tabue was taken out of school following the second grade. He, along with his mother and sister, came to Chicago to live with his father.

At 12 years old, Tabue jumped back into the school swing. But after four years without touching a book, school presented a new challenge. "I forgot how to do math, and my English was bad," Tabue said. "I had to go to school over the summer and take extra classes."

After years of extra classes, Tabue's name was added to the high school honor roll.

Tabue had not planned on leaving Chicago, but he remembered what his father had always told him about the Corps. "He told me, 'This is where they separate the men from the boys,'" Tabue said.

Adjusting to boot camp was harder than any English class.

"When he showed up, he was lost," Nofziger said. "He couldn't accomplish any of the simplest tasks. His (bunk) mate helped him with everything."

Tabue agreed. "The first day was horrible. I almost lost my temper when the drill instructor got in my face. ... But I told myself it was just a mind game.

"I had trouble speaking in third person (as required in boot camp). Instead of saying 'This recruit requests permission to use the head,' I would say, 'I would like to use the head.' Drill instructors didn't really like that."

He didn't do it purposely, but "incentive training" always followed and he learned, Tabue said.

When the Crucible -- the grueling 54-hour field exercise that is the culmination of boot camp -- came, Tabue found his role in the platoon. "He stepped up," Nofziger said. "He wasn't a squad leader, but he acted as one."

The only element of training that gave Tabue more trouble than third-person speech was the Crucible. Tabue said the physical aspects of the Crucible were not as challenging for him as the mental parts were.

"We had people arguing among themselves for nothing," he said. "Everybody was giving orders, but nobody wanted to lead. Some people don't want to do it. But you got to step up and tell them, 'Hey, we got to get this done.' I am not usually the person to do that."

When recruits wanted to bicker about challenges, Tabue stepped up and led, Nofziger said.

After Marine Corps recruit training, Tabue will become a mortarman in the Marine Corps Reserve. He said he'll be ready to fight.

(Marine Lance Cpl. Dorian Gardner is assigned to Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego.)

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