HADITHA, Iraq --
With the dream of someday teaching U.S. History, one reserve Marine from Monroe, La., has taken a different approach to gaining credibility; becoming part of it.
Cpl. Erik Jones, a field wireman with 3rd Battalion, 23rd Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 2, headquartered out of New Orleans, is currently serving in Haditha, Iraq.
The 2002 graduate of Neville High School has proclaimed himself a professional student and earned his bachelor’s degree in U.S. history from the University of Louisiana- Monroe. He is now working on his masters in preparation for his final goal, his doctorate.
“I want to be a college professor,” said the five and a half year Marine with Headquarters and Support Company who deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. “People who have motivated me the most have been my professors and one in particular, Doctor Jones. He could tell stories about history that would put you in a trance. Now, with my experience in a combat zone, I can talk about history from the perspective of a Marine, which are some of the most important players in U.S. History.”
In an effort to reach his goal, Jones said he needed to come out of his shell. The once shy teenager said the Marine Corps has helped him open up and learn how to communicate with people. He said the Corps not only helped him accomplish that goal, but has taught him traits useful in his life when he is not on active duty.
“I wanted to get the experience, this real world experience,” said the youth baseball coach. “You get to interact with intelligence and all the other shops and get to work the coordination piece, which is all experience you can carry back into the civilian world.”
His desire to seek a higher education has sparked an interest within his family. Because of his dedication at school, his mother, Erica Jones, has recently returned to college after a 20-year break to finish her education.
“My mom is an angel. She was a single mother who worked and took care of me and my sister Sasha,” said Jones. “She did what she had to in order to take care of us, so it is good that she is now getting to finish what she started so long ago.”
Although she shares his desire for education, Erica was not keen on the idea of her son initially joining the Marine Corps.
“It definitely was not on the top of her list of what she wanted her son to do,” said Jones. “But, she supports me and sees how it is helping me out and making me a responsible citizen, so she is extremely proud of me.”
He said that his sister also supports him in his goals. Before his deployment, Sasha, who works at a casino in Las Vegas, treated him to an all expense paid vacation.
“Everywhere we went she would tell people, ‘This is my little brother. He is a Marine. He is going to Iraq,’” said Jones. “I probably had 10 times more fun because people were so happy to meet a Marine.”
Jones said becoming a Marine has been the best thing in preparing him for his future goals. He said that working with the reserve Marines from all over the South has taught him different personality types, and how to communicate with them.
“We make up such an eclectic group,” he said. “We come from all walks of life, with all different types of jobs in the real world. Because of that, I think we are a little more independent thinking than active Marines, so communicating is more important in order to get things accomplished.”
The thought of deploying to Iraq originally inspired nervousness, said Jones. But since his arrival, he has been pleasantly surprised at what he has found.
“(Improvised explosive devices) are all you heard about,” said Jones. “But, we have only had a couple of IED finds since we have been here, none that have been anything significant. And then you hear about everything that has happened in Haditha and think it must not be that great of an area, but you are wrong there, too. The people are nice here and they want us here. So, my biggest problem hasn’t been IEDs, but not knowing enough Arabic to have full conversations to get to really know the locals.”
After his seven-month deployment is completed, Jones plans on finishing his masters and applying to Louisiana State University. He then hopes to become a college professor at a Southern university.
“United States history is difficult because some histories are harder to do because of the programs available,” said Jones. “But, LSU has a good program for my doctorate, one that teaches our nation’s history in a way I would be proud to pass on to my future students. Being a Marine, I have learned how important it is to tell the true history and pass on that legacy.”