Wednesday, November 02, 2005

A Fighting Postal Clerk

When you think of a Marine who isn’t an infantryman being deployed to a combat zone, your first thought would be they’ll only be there for about six to eight months and then they’ll never have to go again.
Marine Postal Clerk, Sgt. Phillip H. Cuppernell
For Sgt. Phillip H. Cuppernell, Postal Clerk, Headquarters Battalion, Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Kaneohe Bay, six to eight months is a small portion of the time he’s spent in combat situations. “To be honest, the best part about my Marine Corps experience, so far, has been being deployed,” said Cuppernell. “It may seem like a cliché, but I originally joined the Marine Corps, because I wanted to do something that I could be proud of and show thanks to my country.” Cuppernell has spent 22 months in Iraq since he left Cobleskill College, where he studied computer programming and began his transformation from an everyday college student to one of the “few and proud.” “I was in Iraq from February 2003 until September 2003,” said 24-year-old Marine. “Then I received orders to go back in January 2004, and didn’t return this time until March of 2005. It was a crazy long time.” Cuppernell described his life while deployed as a lot simpler than life back in garrison. “The uncertainty of not knowing what’s going to happen to you the next day -- much less the next five minutes -- is a pretty scary feeling when deployed,” admitted Cuppernell, a Williamson High School graduate. “I missed my family a lot, but the hardest part of my deployments, for me, was losing friends and seeing good people get hurt. That’s a rough situation.” Cuppernell said that being in a combat zone is a “big wake-up call” and is quite different from when you’re laid back on the couch, safe at home. “I’m actually trying to get deployed again as soon as possible,” said the self-proclaimed motivated mailman. “I’d rather be in Iraq then in my office. I didn’t join the Marines to sit behind a desk.” According to the Williamson, N.Y. native, when a Marine is deployed, it makes him or her feel like they’re actually doing something worth doing. “It’s the real Marine Corps, when you’re deployed,” Cuppernell said. “Marines in the infantry get to experience the real Marine Corps with their training, but POGs (people other than grunts) don’t get all those experiences.” Cuppernell, a Marine Corps Martial Arts Program brown-belt instructor, said his parents supported him throughout his Marine Corps career. “My parents were all for me joining,” said Cuppernell. “My mom didn’t understand why I kept volunteering to go to Iraq. She wasn’t a big fan of having guns pointed at me and having bullets being shot over my head. I guess, all in all, she just didn’t want her little boy in harm’s way. She didn’t understand that this was the happiest I’ve been since I joined the Marine Corps -- especially when I got promoted while I was over there.” Cuppernell said his worst experience, thus far, in the Corps has been to witness the change in the younger Marines. “The Marine Corps has changed a lot, even in the short amount of time I’ve been in -- I’ve seen it,” said Cuppernell. “The younger Marines need to take things more seriously. They don’t understand that everything can always be better. A Marine can always improve himself and help Marines assigned under them.” Uncertain about what he wants to do in the future, Cuppernell said he would like to go into the drill field and to someday be a warrant officer and get his degree. “I love being a Marine,” said Cuppernell. “I’m unsure, as of now, whether or not I’m going to reenlist.

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