Pine Belt natives making way through Marine recruit training

Pine Belt natives making way through Marine recruit training

PARRIS ISLAND, S.C. (WDAM) - Devon Lester is a Hattiesburg native who is in week 10 of 13 of Marine recruit training at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island.

He enlisted after he graduated from the Camp Shelby Challenge Academy.

“I worked at Subway at the time, just not really doing anything special,” Lester said. “I figured I’d try to make something of myself, and I ended up stopping in a recruiters office.”

Lester said the past nine weeks have been tough, but the endgame is what is helping him push through.

“Waking up so fast, just lights, lights, lights, lights, everyone runs online screaming and yelling, it’s really fast paced,” Lester said. “It’s changed me as a person, a lot. It’s less about you and more about everybody next to you and you feel like you’ve developed more as a person”

Richton native and Marine recruit Dantral Gandy also in his 10th week of Marine recruit training. He enlisted right after he graduated from Richton High School.

“When I first came out of high school, I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I knew I would do something good because I had potential,” Gandy said. “One day a recruiter came in and reached out to me and asked if I would be interested in the Marine Corps. I wanted the challenge. I didn’t want to take the easy way out.”

Gandy said it’s been a learning experience.

“It’s been humbling,” Gandy said. “Hard work and dedication and learning a lot of new things.”

Teachers from Forrest County Agricultural High School got a taste of what Lester and Gandy have been experiencing last week. Denver Taylor and Stephen Miller traveled to Parris Island for the Marine Educators Workshop.

Both recruits said it’s encouraging seeing so many schoolteachers and administrators come to Parris Island and take what they are learning back to their students.

“It feels good to know they are going back to teach their kids and other kids and let them know, it feels good,” Gandy said.

“It can be helpful for kids to know what it’s like going through it and the benefits of it,” Lester said. ”There are a lot of benefits when it comes to if you’re not sure if you want to go to college or want to go another route. They can help you out with the systems on how you can pay for that and stuff. It’s just a really good decision in my opinion, or at least a startup if that, just to get your life on the right track.”

Once they graduate from boot camp, both Gandy and Lester will have open contract jobs, meaning they will be placed in a job that is in high demand for the Marines.

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