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Face of Defense: Small-town America Leads Marine to Big-time Success

By Marine Corps Cpl. Casey Jones
Special to American Forces Press Service

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C., April 29, 2009 – All across the United States, from coast to coast and from border to border, you’ll find thousands of small, one-stoplight towns where livestock outnumber people.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Marine Corps Chief Warrant Office 4 Rodney Freeman, a 40-year-old Clarks Hill, S.C., native, and chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear defense officer with 2nd Assault Amphibian Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, talks to Lance Cpl. Robert Forsyth, a CBRN Marine, about the importance of having good leadership skills. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Casey Jones

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

In these tiny towns -- just like Clarks Hill, S.C., population 376 -- your neighbors either are friends, family or both, and you usually never have to think twice about leaving your door unlocked at night.

Marine Corps Chief Warrant Officer 4 Rodney Freeman, a 40-year-old Clarks Hill native and chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear defense officer with 2nd Assault Amphibian Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force, credits his great-grandmother and being raised in small-town America for his success in the Marine Corps.

“My great-grandmother embedded in me some extremely valuable core traits,” Freeman said. “She instilled in me discipline, a good work ethic, caring for others and a sense of family [and] unity.”

Freeman, who’s been in the Marine Corps for 21 years, said being a Marine has been one of his wisest decisions, and that he has enjoyed his time in service.

“Those values my grandmother instilled in me definitely made boot camp and being a Marine easier,” Freeman said. “From my perspective, I believe that the majority of good Marines are the product of a good upbringing.”

Freeman said as a teenager he was certain he wanted to become a Marine. He never second-guessed the decision.

“The Marine Corps caught my attention when I was in the 11th grade,” he said. “I was at a baseball game when I saw a reservist Marine in dress blues. He didn’t say a single word; he didn’t have to. He just stood there with a high-and-tight, looking lean and mean. He didn’t say anything. It’s just the way he carried himself.”

Courage, one of the core values he learned as a young boy, has been especially important to Freeman throughout his time in the Corps.

“One of the most challenging situations in the Marine Corps is having the courage to stand up to those who are senior to you,” Freeman said. “To address issues that you feel are unfair, and not to just give up because they don’t particularly agree with you. You just have to continue to fight for what you believe in.”

While Freeman was in Iraq preparing for a flight to another location, he sparked up a conversation with a younger Marine. He asked the Marine a common question: “What do you do?”

The Marine then gave a common response, “Nothing much, sir.”

“What do you mean by nothing much?” Freeman asked.

“Well, sir, I would rather do other things, I would rather [leave here].”

Freeman told him he was an important asset, and that’s why he was doing that particular job. Then the Marine finally told him his exact job description.

“Sir, removing and loading dead, blood-dripping bodies from aircraft and vehicles gets really tiring,” the Marine said.

At that instant, Freeman said, he realized how strong and selfless Marines are.

“It really dawned on me at that point. To be a Marine, or to be a servicemember, period, is special because we’re all willing to give the ultimate sacrifice, which takes a lot of courage,” Freeman said.

Freeman said after he serves his final two years in Indian Head, Md., working with the Chemical Biological Incident Response Force, he plans to return to some small town in the Carolinas or Georgia.

“I’m not one of those guys who chase dollars,” Freeman said. “So right now, I’m looking to do my dream job of becoming a Junior ROTC teacher, which would give me the opportunity to mentor, lead, and hopefully help out some young men and women.”

(Marine Corps Cpl. Casey Jones serves with the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force.)

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