“My friends asked, ‘Why the Marines?'” O’Neal said. “Why not something easier like the Air Force?”
O’Neal said anyone can go the easy route.
Determined to be the best, O’Neal proved his tenacity to himself and others at an early age. Since he was in fourth grade, coaches and friends said O’Neal was too small for football.
“I was always told I was to small,” said the Atascadero, Calif., native. His goal was to prove everyone wrong.
Continuing to show he was capable of anything, the 5-foot-10-inch slender O’Neal decided to test himself by joining the Marine Corps.
“The Marines looked the hardest and I wanted a challenge,” O’Neal said.
Determined and focused on his decision to join the Marine Corps, O’Neal prepared himself physically.
“I ran to school in the mornings, worked out after school and ran back home every day,” said O’Neal.
O’Neal established himself early in recruit training by showing he was capable of taking charge and was chosen as the guide
“He knew what he wanted, he proved himself and he’s been a strong leader,” said squad leader Pfc. Joseph C. Clemmons, Platoon 3019. “He’s showed me to focus on self discipline.”
O’Neal kept his position through the first phase of training until his competitive spirit got in the way of his drill instructors guidance on the obstacle course.
The setback that resulted in a demotion to squad leader didn’t drag O’Neal down, according to drill instructor Sgt. Hector M. Flores, Platoon 3019.
“From that point on he strived and kept pushing to regain his position as guide,” said Flores.
O’Neal admits he’s had a bit of a problem with authority, and said that was one of the reasons for joining.
Living in a dreary town pushing carts for a grocery store triggered feelings of going nowhere, according to O’Neal.
“If it weren’t for the Marine Corps, I would have ended up in jail,” said O’Neal. “I was disrespectful to authority figures. I didn’t see it that way then, but now I do.”
“He’s come a long way,” said senior drill instructor Staff Sgt. Maxwell J. Williams, Platoon 3019. “He’s locked on with a lot of discipline and bearing.”
Gaining the platoon’s respect was evident after the drill instructors decided to have the platoon help choose a guide.
“The majority of the recruits voted for O’Neal to stay as guide,” said Williams.
“I saw a kid that I felt had a similar background to myself. He came here to make a difference,” said Flores.
“I set the example for the rest,” said O’Neal. “I always wanted to prove everyone wrong. I can do anything.”