MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. (Feb. 10) --
Every parent expects their children to grow up and leave the nest to conquer life’s problems as an adult. Those that leave the nest on good terms will sometimes follow in the footsteps of their parents, hoping to succeed in life.
Cpl. Jeffrey A. Lawrence found himself doing just that. He enlisted in the Marine Corps around 25 years after his father, Lt. Col. Roy E. Lawrence. As Marines, life handed them the pleasant surprise of landing them in the same place. Jeffrey was stationed aboard Cherry Point as an avionics electrician for Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 14; while Roy was also stationed here as the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing aircraft maintenance officer.
As a high school student, Roy had above average grades with honor student status. When it was time for Roy to decide whether or not to attend college, he felt it wasn’t his time to do so. The economy made it rough for Roy to find alternative options, so he felt the Marine Corps was his optimum choice.
“I just wanted something different, I was looking for some challenges,” said Roy. “I joined the Marine Corps in 1979. Life out there was kind of rough at that time. The economy wasn’t good and my mom and dad had five boys to take care of … so joining the Marine Corps was a new challenge I could take on.”
Many years later, Jeffrey found himself in the same situation as his father’s due to the economy. He excelled in high school and received a full scholarship to the University of Arizona, but the academic life just wasn’t for him.
“College was a little different,” Jeffrey remembered. “It was an environment with different social pressures. I got away from the academic role of college and did more socializing. I left college during my second semester and found a job in a pharmacy. I wasn’t going anywhere at all, then Dad brought it up to me that the Marine Corps could straighten me out, get me on a good path and lead me somewhere. So I joined.”
Three months later, Jeffrey graduated from Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C. As with many other families, the graduation was a bonding experience, though for the Lawrences it was for different reasons.
Roy and his wife, former Gunnery Sgt. Sandy L. Lawrence, went to the graduation as proud parents to congratulate the accomplishments of their son.
“When I went to boot camp, I had no clue that was what they went through,” said Jeffrey of his father and mother. “I gained a lot more respect for them at that point. It enlightened me to know a little more of what my father and mother did. Seeing him there on graduation day, I felt a little more pride than others who didn’t have someone in the Marine Corps sitting there for them. It was touching. It meant more to me to salute my Dad right after graduation than it meant to actually receive my Eagle Globe and Anchor.”
Jeffrey’s parents were equally touched by the experience.
“I was extremely proud going back to Parris Island for the first time since I graduated in 1980 to watch his graduation,” Roy remembered. “We were both extremely proud of his step into the Marine Corps. He’s done very well in his military schools, always being in the top 10 percent of his class. He was meritoriously promoted out of boot camp. It was a great experience going back.”
Marines share a special esprit de corps that only Marines will be able to understand. Fathers and sons as well share a special bond that ties them together for life. The Lawrences have the pleasure of sharing both in their relationship. It’s like the saying goes, ‘Like father, like son.’ In the Lawrences’ relationship, this is more than true.
“We’ve always had a great relationship,” Roy said. “He’s always been a great son and never gave us any problems growing up. The Marine Corps also builds camaraderie, so just being Marines together makes us stronger.”
Jeffrey’s relationship with his father isn’t just one of love and appreciation, but one of learning as well. Roy has already been through most of the challenges Jeffrey faces, and that gives Jeffrey a new resource when handling what life throws at him.
“He has accomplished many things. That is one way I build my confidence,” said Jeffrey. “When people are feeling down at work because they have to do this and that, I know that my dad already went through it, so why not me? I have the same hardships but I know I can come out a winner.”
Adding to the family’s bond is Jeffrey’s mother and Roy’s wife, Sandy. As a Marine, Roy had to sacrifice a lot of time with his family for his job. Roy left on multiple deployments and was stationed in California while his family lived in Arizona, leaving Sandy to tend to the family’s needs.
“His mom, being a former Marine, has taught him just as much about life’s challenges as I have,” Roy said. “She decided to step aside and let me continue with my career and she made sure the kids made it through high school. I was gone a lot on two or three deployments. On two occasions I was a geo-bachelor so they could be steady through school. She held down the home front. Just like any military spouse, she took on that role and taught them just as much as I have.”
Like the song Cats in the Cradle, time has brought the Lawrence family full circle from what it used to be. Jeffrey married his wife Bethany D. Lawrence and has two children. Roy said he enjoys the opportunity to visit with his grandchildren before he retires.
“We kicked all the kids out and joined the Marine Corps, so they wouldn’t come back home, but having those babies close is great,” Roy joked. “It’s been a blast. I know that won’t always be the case. When I retire and he moves on, we won’t always have that luxury.”
Roy is scheduled to retire in September 2011. Roy will return to his home town of Bowling Green, Ky., leaving for Jeffrey this bit of advice:
“You have to be consistent in your career and what you want,” Roy told his son. “You have to set those goals. This is the biggest piece of advice I’ve given him since he came in. You need to keep striving to make those goals because the Marine Corps isn’t going to hand you anything on a silver platter. There are a lot of opportunities in the Marine Corps, you just have to reach out there and grab them.”
Jeffrey will continue with the Marine Corps as a career and is currently applying to become an officer.