TOPSHAM — Six days before his fellow Mt. Ararat High School seniors don graduation gowns and turn tassels, Aaron Carrigan left home and embarked on a career with the U.S. Marine Corps.
The 18-year-old lifelong Topsham resident is stationed at Parris Island, S.C.. Last week he said he was feeling “pretty excited.”
Carrigan will graduate from boot camp on Sept. 4, after which he will undergo Marine Combat Training for enlisted flight crew work.
With the flight crew, he said there are three tasks he could undertake. He could be an aerial observer, flying around and seeing what’s going on below, or an aerial gunner, manning a machine gun from a helicopter. He could also be a crew chief.
Carrigan’s original ship date was June 22, which would have occurred eight days after graduation. “I got offered to go early, and I figured I’d take it,” he said.
It pays to be early. After accepting the earlier ship date Carrigan learned he would receive a $5,000 bonus and have $50,000 added to his $80,000 G.I. Bill fund for college.
The toughest part of missing graduation will be not walking with his friends, Carrigan said.
His interest in the military goes way back. “I always knew I wanted to go into the military,” Carrigan recalled. “And as I got older and I started to look into it more, I looked at all the different branches and I just saw the Marines and I knew that was something I wanted to be.”
Explaining his choice of the Marines over the other military branches, Carrigan said, “if you see a Marine there’s just something about them, almost like an aura or something like that. And it’s the hardest branch of the military, the toughest. It’s a big accomplishment.”
“One thing about the Marines, too, is that you have to earn everything,” Carrigan continued. “Nothing’s given to you.”
Going through the rigorous regimen of boot camp and the Marines, he said he will learn discipline, as well as the Corps’ core values of honor, courage and commitment. Plus he’ll have a lot of stories to tell others.
Once a week Carrigan and other “poolies” – delayed-entry recruits who aren’t yet Marines – got together with their recruiter for activities like working out. He got a glimpse of boot camp at a recent poolie function from a Parris Island drill instructor.
“At the time it doesn’t quite hit you because it’s just a scenario,” Carrigan said. “… But at boot camp, there’s no escaping it.”
Carrigan, who joined the Marines a year ago, has been keeping himself in shape in order to make boot camp go a bit easier.
While the minimum stay in the Marines is four years, Carrigan said, his minimum is five since his schooling takes so long – close to a year. If he choses to remain in the Marines after five years, Carrigan said he could retire at 38.
“Retiring at 38, you could get another job,” he said. “That would be pretty good. I’ll just see where it takes me.”
Carrigan realizes he could be deployed to the Middle East. He said his parents are understandably concerned, but they proudly support his decision.
Carrigan said he has several friends who have gone into the Corps, helping to inspire his desire to enter that branch of the military. They’ve told him stories, as has his recruiter.
“There are good things and bad things, just like everything,” he said. “The bad, probably just being separated from your family … (that’s) the toughest part.”
He will be leaving the house in which he has spent his whole life, as well as Maine, which Carrigan said he probably would not leave if not for the military.
But then there’s the good.
“The good thing is you have a guaranteed job, good pay,” Carrigan added. “You get to be a Marine.”
Alex Lear can be reached at 373-9060 ext. 113 or firstname.lastname@example.org.