As a teenager, problems often occur that must be overcome ? some more than others. Some problems are life altering and can affect the psyche as well as help mold a person?s future.
For Sgt. Russell L. Bridges, noncommissioned officer-in-charge, Base Operations, Headquarters Battalion, Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Kaneohe Bay, the events of his past have made him push to be a better person.
?I?ve been on my own since I was 14, because I was emancipated from my parents,? said Bridges. ?They had their problems and it wasn?t a good environment for me, so my grandmother was given guardianship of me. My sister, Misty, went to live with our stepfather.?
Bridges said that the lifestyle he lived at his grandmother?s had its ups and downs.
?Growing up with my grandma, I was really allowed to do pretty much whatever I wanted, as long as I stayed out of trouble,? said 26-year-old Bridges. ?She worked full-time in order to make ends meat, but did a good job raising me.?
As a junior in high school Bridges decided he wanted to enlist into the military with his friends.
?I originally was going to join the Army because all of my friends were doing it. We were going to do the whole buddy system thing,? said the East Alton Wood River High School graduate. ?One of my friends actually took me to the Marine recruiter, and when I was talking to him, he asked what I was doing next summer. I told him I was going to Army boot camp, and he said, ?No you?re not, you?re going to Marine Corps boot camp,? and that?s how I got to be where I am today.?
Bridges enlisted in the Marine Corps as an engineer, going through boot camp at Marine Corps Recruiting Depot, Parris Island, S.C.
?My family was very supportive of my decision to join the military,? said the Alton, Ill. native. ?My grandma just wasn?t thrilled that I chose the Marine Corps over the others, but still backed me. My grandfather served as a military police officer in the Air Force during Vietnam and retired as a senior enlisted, so he was really the only person who pushed me to join.?
Bridges explained that a lot of his friends ended up being ?grunts,? but he was interested in demolition, which is why he joined as an engineer.
?I didn?t like doing humps; but I loved demolition, so I knew it was for me,? said Bridges. ?I?m glad I chose it because I really like it, and it turned out to be really cool.?
Bridges has been in the Marines for more than seven years and has been to many different places.
?Before I was in the military, the only place I had ever been to was Mexico ? on a church trip,? admitted the self-proclaimed old-fashioned kind of guy. ?Since I?ve been in, I?ve been to Iraq, all over Europe, Spain, Italy, Jordan, Egypt, and a lot of other interesting places.?
Bridges was in Operation Iraqi Freedom and returned to Hawaii in March. While deployed, his job billet was staff noncommissioned officer-in-charge for information operations.
?I volunteered to go to Iraq, so it was awkward. I was scared from time to time, but was never in an actual fire fight,? Bridges said. ?Our biggest threat was indirect fire. You would hear bombs going off in the distance and then they would stop, so you would have no clue where the next one is going to go off.?
He said that if it were up to him, he would not like to be deployed again, but wouldn?t mind if he had to go, said Bridges.
?Everybody asks if it?s a different lifestyle in Iraq,? said Bridges. ?They have their good and bad people there.?
Bridges said that he is unsure as to what the future holds for him, but believes he will want to retire from the Marine Corps.
?As it looks, now I?m going to do my 20 years and retire,? said the self-proclaimed easy-going guy. ?But it?s hard to say what?s going to happen in the future. If I do decide to get out, I?d be interested in being on a special weapons and tactics team somewhere.?