A Company D graduate turned down what some people might call an opportunity of a lifetime, to follow his heart instead of his pocketbook.
Private First Class Tyler Peckham, Platoon 1039, Co. D, was offered a full-ride scholarship to play football with the Oregon State University Beavers, but he declined it because he wanted to be part of something more.
�It takes a lot of character in a person to turn down a full ride only to join the Marine Corps,� said Sgt. Christopher Gomez, drill instructor, Platoon 1039. �He enlisted during the middle of a war. You have to respect that.�
Tyler started playing football when he was in the 7th grade. According to Tyler, his peers said he wouldn�t be successful in football because he was smaller and less intimidating than the other players, but they were wrong.
Standing at 5 feet 7 inches tall, and weighing in at 155 pounds, Tyler used his small size to his advantage during football. He said it was easier to slip through the defensive line and make the tackle.
�If anyone could get through the line and tackle the quarterback, it was Tyler,� said Jeff Peckham, Tyler�s father. �He was an excellent linebacker who always gave his all.�
Tyler played four years of varsity football as a linebacker for Burney High School, Calif., where he led his team with the most tackles for three consecutive years, and he got the second most sacks during his senior year.
He helped his small town high school football team take first place in their league two years in a row.
Tyler said he had wanted to join the military since he was young, but he didn�t know the difference between the branches. He went to the recruiters from each service, and the Marines stood out the most to him.
�The Army offered me an enlistment bonus,� said Peckham. �But money is not important to me. No amount of money is worth more than having the pride of saying that I am a Marine.�
Money couldn�t buy Tyler�s fulfillment in life. He said if he would have accepted the bonus it would have eventually run out and he would have been be stuck in something that he didn�t have the heart for.
�Every Marine is a rifleman,� said Tyler, �It�s what Marines do, and whatever I do, I�m going to go all the way.�
Jeff said his son always challenged himself. He said he never took the easy way out of things. He also said he is proud that his son made the decision to enlist.
Whether it�s a football jersey or Marine Corps woodland utilities, Jeff said if someone puts a uniform on Tyler, he will do his best.
He enlisted as an infantryman and will attend the School of Infantry at Camp Pendleton, Calif.
Soon after he enlisted, he found himself at the depot taking on the nation�s most difficult basic training, Marine Corps boot camp. He excelled throughout training, just as he did in football.
�Like all recruits, Peckham made mistakes,� said Gomez. �But what made him stand out from the other recruits was the fact that he put his heart into everything he did.�
Recruits are often hired and fired for the squad leader positions throughout training. This wasn�t the case for Peckham.
He earned the squad leader position early in training and was the only recruit in his platoon to hold on to it during all three phases of boot camp, said Gomez, who is from San Angelo, Texas.
His drill instructor said he was a natural leader who helped set the standard. During down time in the recruit squad bay, he would often take charge of other recruits to practice the practical application knowledge they later tested for.
Just as he did his part to help his team succeed in high school, and his platoon in boot camp, Tyler said he is ready to do his patriotic duty serving his country as a U.S. Marine.