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This is me: The recruit
One night last June, John McCarthy couldn’t fall asleep in the twin bed he was assigned. But it wasn’t the hot Virginia heat that prevented him from dozing off, it was his anticipation of the next day – Pick-up Day.
The next morning, McCarthy and 60 other men were ordered to line up and stand at attention, wearing nothing but skivvy shorts, sneakers and a dark green platoon T-shirt. The barrack doors flew open, and four intimidating drill sergeants burst into the room, screaming and throwing around the men’s belongings.
One particular drill sergeant, Gunnery Sgt. Butler, began bleeding from the mouth. The yelling caused his braces to cut open his lip. But Butler didn’t wipe away the blood. Instead, Butler began screaming at Mark Stephens, a platoon member, spitting blood on his face.
Stephens motioned to wipe away the blood.
“Oh hell no, you ain’t wiping that away. I didn’t say you could wipe it away,” Butler responded.
Butler’s dried blood remained on Stephens’s face for the rest of the day.
“This was the first moment I said, ‘the shit has officially hit the fan,’” McCarthy said animatedly, his pale blue eyes opened wide.
The 21-year-old sits back in his chair with nearly perfect posture. It’s his posture that gives away his military training, along with his crew haircut and a black T-shirt that reads “Marines.”
Officer Candidates School’s purpose is to train and assess potential Marine candidates.
Since childhood, McCarthy always had a passion to serve his country.
“My whole life I wanted to be a Marine, I wanted to enlist right after high school,” McCarthy said.
But his father insisted that he earn a college degree before pursuing a career in the Marines.
Unbeknown to his parents, McCarthy contacted recruiters during his freshman year of college. The following year Gunnery Sgt. Gonzalez interviewed him.
“I’ll never forget it,” McCarthy said smiling. “She said I was ‘fat and out of shape and that I needed to get into shape very quickly.’”
When McCarthy first told his parents about his Marine dreams, his mother became very emotional.
“My mother said the pride overwhelms the worry at all times,” McCarthy said. “The pride is just immense.”
McCarthy completed OCS Aug. 13, when he graduated 10th out of the 50 men in his class.
“I think [my dad] may have cried just as much as my mother when I graduated. And my dad’s a big, tough guy,” McCarthy said.
Georgia native Ben Roof met McCarthy during the second week of OCS, and in a short time they developed a close friendship.
“I consider him my best friend,” Roof said. “I knew him for 11 weeks and I literally would die for the kid.”
McCarthy isn’t the only member of his family with a military background.
John Stewart, his grandfather, was an Army Air Corps member who earned the Distinguished Flying Cross and two bronze stars. His first mission was D-Day.
McCarthy’s cousin, Cpl. David Blum, is currently stationed in Japan as part of an anti-terrorism force.
McCarthy will accept his commission after graduating from Quinnipiac this May. He hopes that his cousin will return from deployment in time for his commission ceremony so he can give McCarthy his first salute as an officer. While he must first receive Quinnipiac’s permission, he would like the ceremony to coincide with his college graduation.
This summer, McCarthy will return to Virginia to attend The Basic School for six months. Upon TBS graduation, he will then be promoted based on his evaluations. McCarthy then plans to attend flight school.
In 10 years, McCarthy hopes to rank as a captain, possibly even a major.
“I want to lead Marines and do the best that I can, and get everyone home safe, but do what America expects of us,” McCarthy said.
According to Roof, he and McCarthy have future plans to work side-by-side in the same unit, either in the air or on the ground.
“You have to have that type of person by your side,” Roof said.
While McCarthy left OCS with at least one new brother figure, he was reunited with more than 60 brothers when he returned to Hamden.
McCarthy actively participates in the Quinnipiac community as Tau Kappa Epsilon’s new member educator.
“If it weren’t for TKE and my brothers in TKE, I don’t think I would have properly prepared myself for OSC,” McCarthy said.
Senior Mike Fitch is TKE’s president, and became close friends with McCarthy when they rushed together freshman year.
“[John] makes an amazing TKE. He loves TKE,” Fitch said. “He really lives by our morals and what we believe in as TKE’s. He has truly put in as much effort as anyone else possibly could into our organization.”
Since returning to Quinnipiac after graduating from OCS, McCarthy has received an overwhelming amount of appreciation and support.
“That’s the one thing I felt that was so awesome from [the Quinnipiac] community, just the amount of support and the amount of respect,” McCarthy said.
When asked to give advice to those considering a career in the Marines, McCarthy’s response was instantaneous.
“One hundred percent do it, it’s the greatest decision in the world,” McCarthy said. “To be a part of the finest fighting force in the world is the greatest feeling in the world.”