8 Years Earning the Title of US Marine
Above: After being medically discharged from recruit training for asthma in 2013, Pfc. Austin Hershberger showed remarkable resilience and grit in achieving his dream of becoming a United States Marine. Eight years later, Hershberger graduated with Golf Company, 2nd Recruit Training Battalion, on Aug. 13, 2021. Photo by Lance Cpl. Godfrey Ampong, USMC.
By Lance Cpl. Ryan Hageali, USMC
Austin Hershberger arrived at Parris Island in 2013, as he steadily progressed in training, he could hear the Eagle, Globe and Anchor calling his name. However, he could not anticipate the time, perseverance, and dedication it would take to earn the title of United States Marine.
“During grass week, we were marching to the chow hall, and I just collapsed in the middle of the road,” said Hershberger. “I don’t remember the ambulance ride or really getting in it; I woke up in the hospital.”
Hershberger was diagnosed with pneumonia and placed in a holding platoon. He continued to be evaluated over the next week until he was cleared. To continue training he had to complete a physical fitness test. Unable to finish, he was sent back to medical and was eventually diagnosed with asthma which led to his discharge from Recruit Training.
“I remember speaking to my drill instructor before I left and I told him I’ll be back,” Hershberger said.
After returning home, Hershberger immediately wanted to return to Parris Island but had to wait six months before his chance to return to recruit training. Although he desired to become a Marine, Hershberger had other responsibilities he had to consider.
“I had a daughter, and I wasn’t necessarily focused on the Marine Corps at that time, but I was still working on it,” said Hershberger. “I would stay in touch with recruiters to see if there were any updates, but I wasn’t actively pursuing it as hard as I had in the past.”
After six long years, Hershberger was able to begin the process of earning his Eagle, Globe, and Anchor once again. After getting in touch with a recruiter who began working with him, Hershberger took numerous medical tests to prove he didn’t have asthma.
“It was a long process and, honestly, I would not be here without the recruiter I have now,” said Hershberger. “The recruiter pushed all the paperwork to MEPS (Military Entrance Processing Station) and stayed on top of it.”
After eight years, on May 3, 2021, Hershberger was given a chance to return to Parris Island and once again attempt to earn the title Marine.
“I felt good,” said Hershberger. “I knew when I stepped on the yellow footprints, all that was going on in my head was ‘let’s get this done.’”
After a long and stressful path, Hershberger was finally back in training. He said this time he was determined, and nothing would stop him from obtaining his goal.
In addition to overcoming adversity throughout recruit training, Hershberger also stepped up and was placed in the leadership position of platoon guide.
“A lot of recruits here ask me why I came back. My answer was always ‘I think I am meant to be here,’” Hershberger said. “The discipline and high standards the Marine Corps has, that’s something I wanted to strive to have.”
After facing the trials and tribulations eight years earlier, Hershberger finally claimed the title of U.S. Marine and received his Eagle, Globe, and Anchor on July 31, 2021, and graduated from recruit training two weeks later.