Veteran’s Day was Saturday, November 11, and, as I’m sure many of you know, Thursday is Thanksgiving. So, in lieu of a Friday’s Favorite Five post and in honor of Veteran’s Day, I decided to do a post about some people for whom I am extremely grateful. I am grateful for the individuals who originally made us free and who continue to protect us and serve our country so bravely, faithfully, and selflessly. I am grateful for our brave veterans and current servants in the armed forces.
Monday, I had the great privilege and honor of interviewing Marine veteran William Fritz Jr., known in the Marine Corps as Staff Sergeant Fritz. Serving as a Marine for 8.5 years, Mr. Fritz originally worked on a NATO med float, doing joint arms exercises with NATO forces. He visited Scotland during that tour for a few days before going to Naples and Rome in Italy and later Beirut, Lebanon. In this post, I would like to share some of my questions and his answers in order to encourage all of us to keep our protectors in our prayers, always remembering their sacrifice on our behalf and realizing that America would not be as strong, safe, and steadfast as she is now without their service.
How/In What way would you say being a Marine shaped your outlook on life?
“Well, the Marine Corps had a profound impact on me for a number of reasons. One, whenever I joined, I was 26, which is older than most people are. One of the reasons I joined when I did was in 1981 the economy was probably the worst it has ever been, short of the Great Depression. Jobs were very hard to find. I had a Marine Corps recruiter that was really good at selling the Marine Corps. The other thing was that I was really concerned because from my late high school days, and shortly after high school, I got involved with drugs because a lot of the friends I had in school and friends I had after school did drugs at one time or another. I was looking towards the future and decided if I didn’t do something drastic, I didn’t think I was going to make it to thirty. Anybody that’s ever gone to boot camp, the one thing that we all share is the very first day that you arrive at Paris Island or San Diego California, which are the two boot camps. They make you get out of the bus and stand on the yellow footprints. You have all these drill instructors screaming and hollering at you, and you’re just thinking to yourself, ‘Oh my goodness, what did I just get myself into.’ Now you’re thinking you’ve got twelve weeks of this kind of behavior and treatment to look forward to. But things get better as time goes on. One of the most important things from this experience is that the Marine Corps is probably the first place that I’ve worked that I got recognition for doing a good job. I got the training that I needed, and if I didn’t understand something I could say, ‘Well, I have a problem with this.’ And they would take the time and give me any additional training I needed, so that I was confident in my ability to do something. I would always joke that, before Marine Corps boot camp, someone would say, ‘Move that mountain.’ And you’d say, ‘That can’t be done. That’s impossible. You’re crazy.’ And after you go through Marine Corps boot camp, if somebody says, ‘Move that mountain.’ You just say, ‘Where do you want it?’ That’s sort of the difference in your attitude that they give you.”
What character qualities would you credit to your time as a Marine?
“The one thing the Marine Corps has is what they call the ‘Esprit de Corps’, which is you take great pride in being a Marine and because of that you don’t want to let down your fellow Marines, you don’t want to make them look bad, you don’t want them to be somebody that they can’t count on because you’re counting on them and you want to make sure that they can count on you. It’s a sense of pride and camaraderie in a very cohesive unit. There’s a respect for the rank. You don’t question orders. You don’t question what you’re told to do. Any order you’re given, you complete it. And once that order is completed, you can say, ‘Okay, this order has been completed.’ Or if you can’t, then you have to explain why, or what’s keeping you from completing it. One thing that was interesting to me, and I really learned that from all the Marine Corps officers that I worked with, cuz I worked with a lot of them, is I noticed they never gave orders. They always said, ‘Okay, this is what we need to accomplish. What’s your idea?’ They would just ask everybody, ‘How would you go about this?’ And then we would make suggestions. And that was their attitude. They didn’t act like they had all the answers. But they were smart because what they always were looking for was to have everybody that was going to be involved with whatever we were going to try to accomplish. They wanted them to have what we refer to as ‘buy-in’. The fact that they wanna do the job because they’re not just being told to do it, but they’re actually having input on how it’s gonna get done. And that’s a management technique which I’ve carried through with the management that I do now. There is still a hierarchy. In cases in the military, it’s an absolute necessity to say, ‘Okay, this is what we’re doing and it’s not a matter of discussion. This is what we have to do.”
If given the chance, would you go back and do it again?
“Yeah, I have no regret from having served. I think I greatly benefited from the experience. And I could always say, ‘Before the Marine Corps, I was a high school dropout. After the Marine Corps, I got a masters degree in Library science.’ And I could really give the majority of the credit to the discipline and the thinking ‘I can do whatever I want to’ that the Marine Corps gave me.”
What are some practical benefits of being a Marine?
“Oh, there are a lot of benefits. The pay scale now is so much better than when I was in. It’s surprising what they make now. They pay very well now, in my opinion. You’re guaranteed some paid vacation. The Marine Corps is notorious for making it difficult to get that time because you’re always deployed, and it seems like we’re always short-handed. You do get a chance to get paid vacation, paid leave. You have your medical (VA). It’s changed a lot since I was in. Now, most people that go in can go in for like three or four years and they can have all their college paid for, which is a big plus.”
Some would argue that America and her government aren’t worth fighting for. How would you address this misconception?
“Well, before I went in, when I was in high school, I had hair down over my shoulders. I was what they would refer to as a ‘hippy’. And I shared that very same view. I said I would never go into the military. I had the worst opinion of the military. I would have been another person that would have been just like that, I would have said, ‘No, that is the last thing you wanna do.’ But, whenever I did join, it was peacetime. And I figured, ‘Well, I’m not going to be in a position where I’m going to be in combat.’ Of course, I’m gambling since you never know when something’s going to come up, like Beirut did. But I figured, ‘Well, I’ll do my fours years, and I’ll get some discipline. At least it’s a job. At least I’ll be making some money. And I’ll see what happens after that.’ The thing that surprised me so much was that, after going through boot camp and after being in the military, you change your whole view because nobody really wants to go to war. Everybody knows that that should be a last resort. And nobody knows that better than the people that are in the military. But, in a sense of responsibility, I look at it that somebody needs to be there. Somebody needs to be on the front line, as they say, to defend this country and to defend a way of life that we all have come to take for granted. Because the only reason we have it is because there are people that say, ‘Okay, I will be the one that’ll carry that weapon. And I will stand and I will fight, if necessary, to protect American citizens and to ensure that my family has a lifestyle that I want them to have.”
What was the hardest thing for you to get used to while being a Marine?
“Since I was older, it was difficult for me to take orders from people that were a lot younger than me, that outranked me. So, I had to bite my tongue a lot. But my solution to that was to pick up rank as quickly as I could. So I made Sergeant in 2.5 years. Then I had to wait 5 years before I was allowed to become a Staff Sergeant. And then, as soon as I was eligible, I came a Staff Sergeant.”
What is one of your fondest memories?
“One of them, which is probably the strangest to anybody, was when I was in Beirut, Lebanon, and I remember eating an orange. And I just remember it because it was the best tasting orange that I had ever tasted. And it’s stuck in my mind, and I don’t know why. But of all things, that thought won’t go away. It was just an absolutely amazing tasting orange. I loved the travel. The travel was just great. I’ve been to so many different places that I would never have gone to otherwise.”
When you were a Marine, were there any specific prayer requests you hoped folks back home would pray for you? If so, what were they?
BONUS: What would be a piece of advice you would give someone?
“Well, the biggest advice I give to anybody that’s gonna go into the military, I always tell them to get it in writing because recruiters, many times, will tell you anything you wanna hear.”
“One thing marines always do is train. There’s no such thing as just sitting back and waiting for something to happen. We’re always training, always learning to do our job better and find better ways to coordinate.”
Thank you, Mr. Fritz, for the wonderful opportunity you gave me. Thank you for your service and your awesome insight. It was an outstanding privilege to talk to you.
If you are a veteran,
thank you for serving our nation and keeping us safe.
If you are currently in the Armed Forces,
thank you for your continued service and protection.
Please comment below if you are, were, or have family or friends
in the Armed Forces.