ST. LOUIS --
For many Marine Week St. Louis personnel the week of events is a homecoming of sorts. The majority of Marines participating are with 3rd Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment, the local reserve unit.
Lance Cpl. Christopher M. Williams, a radio operator with 3/24, Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force Marine Week, is from Beaufort, Mo., a town only 60 miles from St. Louis.
Williams first became interested in the Marine Corps during his junior year of high school after a friend earned the title. When Williams’ friend told him that the Corps was “the best”, Williams knew being a Marine was the perfect fit for him.
“I decided that’s what I wanted to do,” Williams said “I wanted to prove that I was better.”
Williams initially planned to join the Corps as an active duty member just after high school graduation in 2007. Fate, however, had different plans for him. Williams’ departure for recruit training was canceled last minute when he was forced to undergo surgery to remove a hernia.
The surgery recovery time wasn’t the only setback Williams endured while pursuing his dream of becoming a Marine. In September of that year, Williams crushed his hand in a work-related construction accident. The injury required extensive surgery to repair arteries and nerves. Williams recovered in a month, but even his friends and family thought becoming a Marine was out of reach for him. Williams admits he doubted as well, but deep down his resolve stayed firm.
“I was working a dead-end factory job and I just knew being a Marine was always for me,” Williams said.
Finally, in July 2008, Williams shipped to boot camp under a reserve option.
“I decided to go reserves because I was getting close to my 21st birthday, which is the age you can be a cop,” Williams said. “That was my whole end goal- first goal to be a Marine, second goal to be a cop.”
Williams made it through boot camp, Marine Combat Training school and then went on to Marine Occupation School in Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Marine Corps Base Twentynine Palms, Calif. As a reservist, Williams returned home following MOS school graduation. He didn’t get to spend much time in the Gateway City, however, he deployed to Iraq a month later in September of 2009.
Williams’ unit was the last Marine Corps unit participating in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Williams served as a radio operator throughout the deployment.
“The best memory I had from Iraq was the helicopter ride,” Williams said. “I’d never been in a helicopter before so that was one of the coolest thing I’ve ever done.”
Williams' hopes to share experiences like these with the people of St. Louis during Marine Week. Williams displayed his fighting spirit during the First to Fight boxing tournament June 20 against the St. Louis police and fire departments and will be a radio operator later in the week during the aircraft demonstrations.
“Not a lot of people in the Midwest know a lot about the Marine Corps,” Williams said. “I think it’s a great opportunity for small-town people to come out and see what the Marine Corps is all about.”
Williams hopes to continue to serve as a reservist with the same unit another 3 years, while at the same time becoming a sheriff’s deputy in St. Louis County. He said that the same thing that drove him to join the Marine Corps, motivated him to want to become a police officer.
“I’ve always enjoyed helping people,” Williams said. “I want to protect and serve, whether it be my country, or back at home."