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U.S. Marine Corps Pfc. Nicholas Von Koenig and Pvt. Benjamin Von Koenig
Memories of 9/11 Spur Cousins to Join Corps

By Lance Cpl. Alicia Small
Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego

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.”
U.S. Marine Corps Pfc. Nicholas B. Von Koenig (left) and his cousin Pvt. Benjamin E. Von Koenig, Platoon 3034, Company I, said after graduation from boot camp, they will stand tall and proud like New York’s Twin Towers once did. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Alicia Small

The Von Koenigs took the Marine Corps challenge and pushed themselves to their fullest potential.

According to Staff Sgt. Dustin L. Peterson, drill instructor, platoon 3034, Nicholas was a squad leader throughout training, and Benjamin was the guide until training day 20 when he was substituted to allow others the opportunity to lead from a top position. Despite the substitution, Peterson said Benjamin continued to perform as an above-average recruit and became a squad leader during second phase.

Although their leadership styles differed from the more authoritative style used in training, they still had great leadership skills and always did just as they were instructed, said Peterson, native of West Union, Iowa.

Marine Corps values of honor, courage and commitment were also demonstrated by the Von Koenigs.

“Their commitment to the goal of becoming a Marine and their work ethic were their strongest values when they first arrived at the depot,” said Peterson. “They had shown a good work ethic since the beginning of the training cycle and were chosen more than the other recruits to perform tasks because the drill instructors knew they would be accomplished with minimal supervision required.”

“Their drive and desire to be the best was unmatched by anyone I’ve recruited,” said Hansen. “I’m confident they will do great things for themselves and the Marine Corps.”

Last Updated:
11/06/2006, Eastern Daylight Time
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