|MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT SAN DIEGO, Nov. 6, 2006 — More than five years after tragedy struck American soil, two cousins graduated high school and joined the Marine Corps to defend the Constitution of the United States.
Pfc. Nicholas B. Von Koenig and Pvt. Benjamin E. Von Koenig, platoon 3034, Company I, were assembled in their eighth grade classes in Saint Joseph, Mich., Sept. 11, 2001, when the principal of the school announced the tragic events that had taken place and told all the teachers to turn on their classroom televisions.
Ever since they were children, the Von Koenig cousins knew they wanted to be in the military. With two uncles in the Army and a grandfather in the Marine Corps, they felt it was their destiny to serve their country, too.
They had spent a lot of time with their grandfather, and they admired how he carried himself. The stories he told of his time in the Corps influenced them and sparked their mutual interest to enlist. Before their grandfather passed away, they promised him they would follow in his footsteps and make him proud.
As they grew up, they watched friends join the armed forces and noticed the positive changes in them. Their friends had a higher level of confidence because the military made them more mature and positive about themselves and their abilities, said Nicholas.
They wanted the same qualities and characteristics their family and friends had, and believed the only way they could achieve this was to enlist, said Benjamin.
When they made the decision to sign their enlistment papers, the cousins remembered how sounds of shock and disbelief had filled their school and the feeling of anger that raged through them as they watched and listened to the horrific events of 9/11, said Nicholas.
After researching the different branches of service, they came to the conclusion that they wanted to join the Marine Corps. They said their military occupational specialty of choice was infantry. However, there weren’t enough spots available, and Benjamin decided to go with security forces instead.
“The Von Koenigs participated in Delayed Entry Program functions for two years before being able to leave for training,” said Sgt. Peter J. Hansen, recruiter Recruiting Substation St. Joseph, Recruiting Station Lansing, Mich. “They gave 110 percent of themselves to do what it took to get ready for boot camp.”
They were used as positive examples during the DEP functions. Everyone looked up to them because they always went above and beyond expectations, said Hansen, who is originally from Chaska, Minn.
“I believe the Marine Corps teaches the discipline to start something and finish it,” said Benjamin. “It teaches you to take the initiative to do the right thing when no one is looking. The Marine Corps challenges you to make something of yourself.”