At 12-years-old, one Company I Marine faced a tragedy that forced him to become the man of the house.
When Pfc. Daniel Lageman�s, father died from injuries sustained in a work-related accident, he overcame his broken heart and eventually discovered his inner strength within the Marine Corps.
Lageman�s father, a cement truck operator, was driving on the highway when he was blinded by the sun and jerked the steering wheel, causing his truck to flip over. He was hospitalized after suffering from a fracture in his vertebrae and was released a couple of months later.
Not long after being released, a blood clot formed in his artery which traveled to his brain, killing him instantly.
�I was very close to my father and his death came as a shock to our family,� said Lageman, a Denton, Texas native. �I was distraught after the incident because not only did I lose my role model, but I also lost my best friend.�
Because his father�s death was work-related, the government granted Lageman a monthly allowance to pay for his education through four years of college. Lageman said he felt he was not disciplined enough to dedicate himself to college in order to succeed and he did not want to waste the money.
Lageman was in his junior year of high school when he was watching television and a Marine Corps recruiting commercial came on. He said that as he watched the commercial of the Marine rock climbing he thought to himself, �I would love to do that.�
The following day Lageman went to his local recruiting station to consult a recruiter about enlisting. It did not take much to convince Lageman he wanted to become a Marine, but naturally he sought out his mother�s approval.
Connie Webb, Lageman�s mother, said she wanted him to think his decision through and make sure it is what he wanted to commit his life to.
�He has always been interested in the military and was infatuated by the programs on the Military Channel,� said Webb. �His father was in the Air Force and he comes from a long line of service members, but he wanted the pride of being a Marine.�
Lageman said that his father�s dedication to the Air Force and his stepbrother, a currently deployed Marine Corps infantryman, influenced his decision in joining the military.
Lageman realized he would be giving up a lot of money in order to join the Marine Corps, but he wanted to serve his country instead of taking the easy route by accepting the money.
�After his father passed away, his mind wandered and he lacked direction in life,� said Webb. �His decision to join the Marine Corps kept him focused and out of trouble. I think he made the right choice by enlisting.�
After being in the Delayed Entry Program for more than a year, Lageman departed for recruit training where he picked up with Platoon 3201.
�Lageman arrived to recruit training exuding confidence and was very vocal,� said Gunnery Sgt. Jose Molina, the senior drill instructor for Platoon 3201. �His brother had already given him knowledge about the Marine Corps and weapons systems, so during class he would continuously finish my sentences.�
Lageman said that he watched his senior drill instructor and tried to emulate the way he walked, talked and acted. He said his drill instructors motivated him throughout training and although they were hard, they were always fair.
Lageman said the most difficult part of training was adapting to such a stressful environment, but he earned the title of platoon guide, senior recruit within his platoon, for initial drill.
Molina said that Lageman was a good leader as well as a good follower. When he was replaced as guide, he stayed motivated throughout the duration of training. He was eventually appointed a squad leader and the company guidon bearer.
Lageman also excelled when his platoon moved north to Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., for field training, said Molina. He was fluent in the weapons systems and never fell back during the hikes.
�The most rewarding part of training was rushing to the top of the Reaper with the company guidon,� said Lageman. �I was the first recruit in my company to make it to the top and when I looked back down, I felt an extreme sense of accomplishment.�
Lageman earned a meritorious promotion to private first class during boot camp because he was an outstanding recruit and performed above average on the tasks he was given, said Molina.
�Throughout the hardships of training I felt my father�s presence,� said Lageman. �Growing up I always wanted my father to witness my achievements but I know that even though he won�t be at my graduation in body he will be there in spirit.�
After graduation, Lageman will return home for 10 days of leave. He will then report to Camp Pendleton�s School of Infantry to complete Marine Combat Training.
Lageman enlisted into the construction utilities military occupation specialty and plans to further his education and attend college while he is in the Fleet Marine Force.