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Why I Serve: Chaplain's Assistant Finds New Life in Navy

By Lance Cpl. Lucian Friel, USMC
Special to American Forces Press Service

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C., Dec. 27, 2004 – "Whoever saves one life saves the world entire," said Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Geoffrey E. Jackson, reciting a Jewish proverb he said he lives by every day.

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Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Geoffrey E. Jackson, a religious program specialist with 6th Marine Regiment, looks at pictures of the friends he's made during his enlistment. The Bay Minette, Ala., native decided to join the Navy when he was 21 years old to start a new path in his life. UPhoto by Lance Cpl. Lucian Friel, USMC

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

"I love helping people out of bad situations and seeing them turn themselves around," explained the religious program specialist.

The Bay Minette, Ala., native planned to go to the seminary after he graduated from Columbus High School in Columbus, Miss., but decided it wasn't right for him. "I decided not to go. Over prayer one night it hit me that I wanted to do something else," the 25-year-old said.

While figuring out what he wanted to do with his life, Jackson stayed with his grandparents, Donald and Doris Evers, for two years. "I was working at a department store as a overnight stocker. I realized at that point you could sell your soul for a company and they won't appreciate it, but I could do something good in the military and receive instant recognition," explained the chaplain's assistant assigned to the 6th Marine Regiment.

Jackson said he wasn't advancing in his job, he felt he wasn't going anywhere, and he didn't have a purpose in life. "I was like a ship without a rudder. I was at the mercy of the sea," explained the boat-lover. "That's the main reason why I joined the Navy; I love ships, and it was a great opportunity for me to do something with my life."

Still wanting to be involved with the church, Jackson decided to become a chaplain's assistant in the Navy.

"I have a strong desire to serve people, and what better way than to be that connection for the chaplain to the Marines?" he asked.

Jackson sets up appointments for Marines to speak with the chaplain. Also, to be effective at his job, he said, he must know how every Marine's morale is in the unit. "I make an attempt to know my Marines," he said. "You have to look out for other people and have concern for their morale, because it's so important -- especially in the military, because if a person isn't feeling right in combat, they could get someone killed if it's not treated. So I have to think outside the box and know every Marine regardless of rank. I have learned to be more friendly to people."

Jackson gained other qualities besides friendliness. "Not just the Navy, but being around the Marine Corps has given me confidence in myself and my abilities, responsibility, integrity and overall maturity I thought I would never have," he explained with a southern drawl.

According to Jackson, his family and friends are prouder of him since he made the decision that turned his life around. With everything he's gained, he said, he still wants to give back to the organizations that gave him so much.

"I owe my life to the Marine Corps and the Navy. I never regret the decision I made to enlist. I would do it all over again if I could," he explained. "I've met awesome people and my outlook of other people is forever changed."

(Marine Lance Cpl. Lucian Friel is a 2nd Marine Division combat correspondent.)

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