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Face of Defense: Man Drops More Than 100 Pounds to Join Marines

By Marine Corps Sgt. M. Trent Lowry
Special to American Forces Press Service

RAWAH, Iraq, Dec. 9, 2008 – Before Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Allan Desruisseaux could become a Marine, he had to become a loser.

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Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Allan Desruisseaux, a telephone system and personal computer repair technician with Regimental Combat Team 5’s Provisional Rifle Platoon 3, patrols the streets of Rawah, Iraq, Dec. 4, 2008. Desruisseaux dropped from 326 pounds to his Marine Corps recruit training graduation weight of 189. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. M. Trent Lowry

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

Desruisseaux lost more than 100 pounds between his first visit to a Marine Corps recruiting substation and the day he graduated from Marine recruit training in April 2007, just 10 months later.

“It was one of those 180-degree turnarounds in life,” said Desruisseaux, 21, a telephone systems and personal computer repair technician with Regimental Combat Team 5’s Provisional Rifle Platoon 3, from Mesa, Ariz.

At 326 pounds, Desruisseaux decided to join the Marine Corps, but was turned down by recruiters at Recruiting Substation Chandler, Ariz.

Desruisseaux’s ex-girlfriend, who had just left him with their infant son, told him he would not be able to make it through boot camp anyway. But instead of giving up, Desruisseaux took the doubt around him and transformed it into motivation.

“I took that as a challenge, and I wanted to prove them all wrong,” Desruisseaux said. “I was told it would be impossible for me to join, so I said, ‘I’ll show you, then!’”

Desruisseaux began a steady regimen of cardiovascular exercise and healthy eating as he worked to obtain his goal of joining the Marines as quickly as possible.

His determination led him to drop 100 pounds in six months.

Desruisseaux returned to the recruiting substation five months after his first visit and watched the Marines’ jaws drop. He weighed in at 226 pounds.

“Everyone in there freaked out and couldn’t believe it was me,” Desruisseaux said. “I had to show my ID, but once I could prove who I was, they were happy to start the enlistment paperwork.”

Despite losing the weight, Desruisseaux still faced a physical-fitness challenge. When he originally tried to enlist, he could not complete one dead-hang pull up, and his time in the one-and-a-half-mile run exceeded the required 12 minutes.

Desruisseaux continued to work hard, and by the time he graduated from boot camp, he could do seven pull-ups and run three miles in about 21 and a half minutes. Standing just over 6 feet tall, he weighed in at 189 pounds, which was well under his maximum allowed weight of 208.

“He’s not the biggest guy, but he’s pretty [strong],” said Sgt. David Lara, 30, a squad leader with PRP-3. “When you used to be over 300 pounds like he was, and now you can regularly crank out 17 pull-ups, that’s strong.”

Now deployed to Iraq, Desruisseaux said he shocks his family and friends every time he goes home to visit.

“In the states, I do a lot of cardio, because it’s running and burning fat, and it’s easy to find the time and place to run,” he said. “On this deployment, though, I’m trying to gain as much muscle and get as big as possible so people will see the improvement. It’s a great feeling when people from home see me and say, ‘You look completely different.’”

In Iraq, Desruisseaux is serving as a basic rifleman with the PRP-3.

“He’s a good Marine; he does what he’s asked and he really knows his stuff,” said Cpl. Jordan Carranza, a fire team leader with PRP-3. “He quickly retains the knowledge and utilizes it.”

Desruisseaux has embraced his role in the Marine Corps and is proud of his accomplishments so far. “The Marine Corps has given me a lot of good memories and the opportunity to get my life back on track,” he said.

He plans to earn a degree in American history, and said he wants to make a better life for his son, Michael, who just turned 3.

“I love him very much,” Desruisseaux said. “It’s hard to be away from him, but it’s worth it -- the time spent away -- because by being in the Marine Corps I can help provide for him. He’s the only one on my mind right now.”

The last step in Desruisseaux’s improvement plan is to have surgery to remove excess skin from his heavier days. It is an operation his mother, Lorri, had more than five years ago after she had a similar reduction in weight.

“When I lost the weight, it made me feel good, because I knew my mom was proud,” Desruisseaux said. “I feel great. The fact I accomplished this just shows that hard work pays off.

“It’s nice to have the help of others, but just because you don’t doesn’t mean you give up,” he said. “Anybody can change their life.”

(Marine Corps Sgt. M. Trent Lowry serves in the Regimental Combat Team 5.)

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageMarine Corps Lance Cpl. Allan Desruisseaux plays with his son, Michael, before enlisting in the Marine Corps. Desruisseaux lost more than 100 pounds to enlist in the Marine Corps. Courtesy photo  
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