To become a United States Marine, you must abide by the core values of honor, courage, and commitment. And for some Marines, faith in God underlies those values, propelling them to accomplish their mission. CBN News traveled to South Carolina to learn about the role of faith in this elite fighting force.
"It just feels super honorable to have that title, 'United States Marine'," Jacob Watson told us a couple of days before graduating from U.S. Marine Corps boot camp.
He's following in the footsteps of both his parents.
"It's like something I will never forget or take for granted," Watson shared. "Plus, some of the stuff that I've learned was like stuff I never thought I could do."
"So, it was really a blessing to be able to conquer most of these things that I was afraid about at first, but thanks to the Marine Corps, I was able to do," he continued.
Faith for the Fight
Watson points to his Christian faith for helping him stay the course.
"Without a doubt, the only, the only way I believe at least I got through this was faith in Christ 'cause a bunch of the stuff, like I said, mentally, was kind of scary and intimidating, but faith, I'll tell you what, it gets you a long ways," he emphasized.
It's the same story for others at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in Parris Island, South Carolina.
"Throughout boot camp, I read my Bible; and praying, that seemed to help me a lot," said Taylor Warden, a new U.S. Marine.
"I remember thinking, 'Maybe I can't go through this?' But I remember just thinking, 'Well, if I have come this far, then God can definitely get me through the rest of it,'" LCPL Bernadette Pacheco shared.
"Through forming week, I was really just in my head really, and I needed some help," explained Tyler Crawford, another new U.S. Marine. "We went to church, and I was praying to the Lord at night, and I was asking for some words of encouragement, and that next day, three songs back to back just, 'You're an overcomer; you're in the fight 'til the final round'."
"So I fought all the way throughout boot camp," he added.
Chaplains Help in the Journey
There are nine chaplains on duty at Marine Corps Recruit Depot in Parris Island, and one of their roles is to make sure that every person has the right to practice his or her faith and is free of discrimination.
"I'm insuring that their First Amendment right, Constitutional right, is being protected to exercise their religion," LT Dawn Ashley, a U.S. Navy chaplain serving the Marine Corps, told CBN News.
"I care for them, and that sometimes is through counseling, a lot of times through counseling here at Parris Island 'cause it's boot camp, and they're stressed a lot – a lot of depression, a lot of anxiety, so we care for them pastorally also," she continued.
LTJG Ian Clark, another U.S. Navy chaplain serving the Marine Corps, shared a hope-filled response from a recruit.
"And she said, 'I wrote this down when you said it, and I meditate on it; I pull it out when I'm having a hard time. I pull it out when things feel like they're really closing on me, and it gives me a sense of hope,'" he said.
"And so as a chaplain, that was one of those moments where I realized that the work that we do really does impact people," Clark continued. "It really does kind of buoy their spirit and help them grow in their walk of faith."
"Those who we get the honor of serving here, regardless of their faith, we have found that spirituality plays an important part," explained LT Camea Baksh, a U.S. Navy chaplain serving the Marine Corps.
"And for those that are Christians, we've really seen how they have received breakthrough from all of their past challenges, breakthrough while they're here, and we see them really evolve to their higher level of self through Christ Jesus," she continued.
"And we're so honored that we get to love on them, to support them and look to walk alongside with them in this journey," Baksh added.
"A lot of times they run away from their faith; they get here, and they think they can do it on their own," commented LT Byron Johnson, another Navy chaplain serving the Marine Corps. "And they quickly understand that they can't do it on their own."
"They need God; they need that connection with God, and so a lot of them come back to their faith while they're here," he continued.
God's Strength to Get Through
"Jesus means everything to me," shared SSGT Evelyn Espinal.
As a drill instructor, Espinal must be tough as nails to train recruits. Still, she faces difficult times and shared how the love and strength of God gets her through.
"It was a very, very, very emotional time for me. I don't cry often, but when it comes to God and Jesus, I bawl my eyes out, and I needed that," she said. "I really needed that; I needed that strength to push through 'cause I was struggling."
"It was my first year as a drill instructor; those are the hardest years," she added.
'Making an Impact'
CAPT Stephen Sigmon hopes how he lives his Christian faith will be seen and possibly inspire fellow Marines.
"Definitely not perfect by any means; no one really is, and Christ did not expect that out of folks either, but to be able to, maybe one person at a time, have someone look at you and say, 'They are different; there's something that's maybe different about them,'" he said.
"And hopefully, letting some form of Christ in me manifest itself to be able to have an example that maybe I'm making an impact on one person in each unit that I go to," Sigmon continued.
Allowing his faith to make an impact is an action Sigmon describes as fulfilling God's calling to be the change or light in the world.