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Meeks enlists in Marines at early age

For many veterans, the decision to enlist is one that takes much time and deliberation, and cannot be made until they are more mature.

For Wesley Meeks, however, the decision was one he made at a young age.

“I enlisted in 1988, and there were several of us that enlisted during my junior year of high school,” Meeks said. “We wound up departing for boot camp about a week after our high school graduation.”

Meeks enlisted in the Marine Corps, something he said he knew from the start would help to provide him with direction, as well as financial relief.

“It was just a great way to serve the country and to get some discipline,” Meeks said. “Also, it was a way to pay for college and make money.”

Meeks served in the First Gulf War, an ordeal that was especially tough due to his young age.

“It was pretty shocking, to tell the truth,” Meeks said. “I was 19 years old at the time, and when we all enlisted, it was a relatively peaceful time. There were really no expectations of war, so it was quite a shock to be activated and be sitting in a war zone at age 19.”

However, Meeks said the experience of war helped him to mature more rapidly.

“One thing it does is it pushes you into adulthood pretty quickly,” Meeks said.

During that period of maturation, Meeks also formed bonds with his fellow soldiers, bonds that live on to this day,

‘I’m still extremely close to the guys I went to boot camp with and the guys I served in the First Gulf war with,” Meeks said. “Me and the guys from the First Gulf War always try to get together every year somewhere around November 10th, which is the Marine Corps birthday. You really do form lifelong friendships.”

While Meeks’ time as an active Marine has come and gone, he said there are things he still misses about being part of the Corps.

“I still miss the camaraderie,” Meeks said. “Whenever there’s an activation, the same guys wind up spending pretty much every waking hour together. Then, when you’re not with those guys anymore, you can just tell there’s something missing. You really do build up a mutual level of trust with the people you serve with.”

Despite missing the Corps, Meeks said it is obvious things have changed since he first enlisted back in 1988.

“Things were a little bit different back then, I don’t want to say there was a lot more patriotism, but it certainly seems like there was a little more patriotism back then than there is today,” Meeks said.