By Selina MacLaren, Senior writer, 17, West Valley Christian Jr./Sr. HS (West Hills)
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Tim Taylor, 19, (left) joined the Marines like his brother, Cpl. Christopher Radoumis.
Photo by Nicole Radoumis (Tim Taylor's mom)

I work at a gym, and one day I spoke to a Marine, 19-year-old Tim Taylor, who graduated from El Camino Real High School in Woodland Hills. We chatted about the Marine Corps and the Iraq war. I called him later for an interview while he was stationed at Camp Pendleton, a Marine Corps base in San Diego where he was waiting to be deployed to Iraq. As someone who doesn’t support the way the government has handled the Iraq war, it was interesting to hear the opinion of someone willing to fight. Even though we had different opinions, I respected his devotion to the Marine Corps and learned a lot about the motivations of soldiers. 

Why and when did you choose to join the Marine Corps? What challenges did you face in making the decision?
I wanted to join the Marine Corps when I was about 14 years old. I wanted to join the Marine Corps specifically because of the opportunities it offered you, the band of brotherhood. Opportunities to travel all over the world, to experience new countries, to take in all kinds of challenging moments, and to have a sense of pride toward yourself and a sense of commitment toward oneself and his brothers and sisters.

There were so many challenges. My first challenge was to bring my body to the best physical shape it could be in, to bring my mind to the most mentally stable state, to overcome emotional situations, and to be able to drop everything I was doing to answer the call.

[When I was 16] I got sent to a lockdown place for kids that did stupid stuff when they were younger. I wasn’t very respectful when I was younger, got in a lot of fights, very disrespectful toward women, and I learned a lot of values toward women in the Marine Corps. It taught me a lot. Not just values toward women but values toward life. It boosted my confidence and my self-esteem, and in the one year that I’ve been in the Marine Corps, I’ve learned that there is nothing that I can’t do. The Marine Corps sets you up to face anything: financial, physical, anything. Discipline is the main thing.

Tell me more about the lockdown. What did you do to get sent there?
I got expelled from a junior high school. I got in trouble because I hurt the kid when I got in a fight with him. I drank in high school and I was disrespectful, belligerent. I got sent there when I was 16, left when I was 18.

What did you have to do to join the Marines? Who helped you?
To be a Marine, first off, you have to have a good record legal-wise, and if you don’t, you have to have a waiver, which they look at to see if you even are legally allowed. If you committed murder or rape for example, you aren’t allowed. You have to meet physical requirements. Just to get into boot camp, you have to run a mile and a half in 13 minutes, do 54 crunches in two minutes and do two pull-ups. That’s just to get in, but once you’re actually a Marine, it’s a lot different. Your average Marine runs three miles in 19-20 minutes, does about 125-150 crunches in under two minutes, and averages about 17-20 pull-ups. My brother, who is a Marine, helped me. And my father. My whole family and all my friends supported me.

How did you feel when you first heard about the war?
I felt that it was a very just cause. I feel that the way the media represents the war is that they basically post a lot of the bad stuff, and they don’t post the things that represent why we’re actually there. I think that the terrorists’ goal was to take Americans and bring their will down and make Americans fight against each other. When they crashed the plane into the building, it did the exact opposite. It brought Americans together and showed us that we have to stick together. We need to support our troops because it’s not easy being in a foreign country, being away from family for 10 months, being away from wives and girlfriends. Support is very important, support is what drives us in what we do. I feel that a lot of Americans don’t support the troops enough. I don’t think they really understand the process of what we’re doing. I do what I do so you and your friends can do what they do. A war on terrorism is not a simple war where we can just kill a couple bad guys and say the war is done.

Why did you join in a time of war?
I felt that there was a calling. A lot of people say I’m crazy because number one, I joined the Marine Corps, and number two, I joined the hardest MOS (job), which is infantry. I felt that all I had to do was build up courage to join and have no fear in what I’m doing. I want to have kids one day, and I want to deal with the problem [terrorism] now before it gets worse.

When did you find out that you had to go to Iraq?
I found out that I’m going to Iraq a couple days ago [February]. I’m going this year. The unit I’m going to is called the 1-9. They call them the Walking Dead because this is the unit that has been wiped out in every war.

Are you afraid of being sent to Iraq in the Walking Dead unit?
No, I look at it more as an honor to be in it. It’s my goal to make a new history [for] it. I could die just like anyone else. It’s not my goal to keep myself alive, but it’s my goal to keep my brothers alive.

Do you agree with President Bush increasing troop levels?
I agree with it because the more troops we have over there, the more support we’ll have, and the faster we’ll get the job done. If we leave now, it [terrorism] will build back up and come out again in another 10 years. I don’t want it to be there when my kids are alive.

What have your Marine friends said about Iraq?
Watch out for improvised explosive devices (IEDs). The terrorists or insurgents will make a bomb out of 155mm artillery shell—which is like an artillery round—wire it with a cell phone or some hand-held device, and it’ll blow up a car or someone. A lot of snipers also, even from other countries.

It’s hot. But in general, a lot of my friends never really complain about it. They’re Marines, they do what they’re trained to do.

Any last words to students?
I think a lot more people should start supporting the Marine Corps. I think a lot more people should try to join the service if they think they got what it takes.

Other stories by this writer:

A day in court. After spending a day observing cases in a juvenile courtroom, Selina felt the court offers willing teens a second chance. (Nov. – Dec. 2006)

Nursing offers plenty of jobs and a chance for helping others. (Oct. 2006)

Flying through the air. Selina reviews Tatsu, the newest roller coaster at Six Flags Magic Mountain. (Summer 2006)

The Danish newspaper had a right to publish those cartoons. Selina says that the editorial cartoons may have been offensive to Muslims, but free speech is important. (March – April 2006)

The un-sweet life: a year without candy. (Jan. – Feb. 2006)

Who’s reading your MySpace? When a teacher read her classmate’s MySpace pages, it made Selina wonder: should schools be telling them what to do when they’re online? (Jan. – Feb. 2006)

Beach cleanup crew. Selina enjoyed doing her part to pick up trash off the coast. (Oct. 2005)