Marine Loses 105 Pounds to Become Future of Corps
DVIDS | Nov 04 2015
SAN DIEGO (October 14, 2015) – One of the greatest challenges people may face in his or her lifetime that gets in the way of a goal is themselves. One new Marine fought hard to overcome himself and change his life, and unknowingly, those around him.
Private First Class Hunter L. Blackston, Lima Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, set his life on a new path by losing 105 pounds to attend Marine Corps recruit training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego.
Blackston was born in Columbus, Mississippi, but when he was four years old, his parents divorced and moved to different locations. Blackston and his older brother moved with his mother to live with their grandmother in Jackson, Mississippi, while his father stayed in Columbus, Mississippi, with Blackston's younger sister. While the divorce was a big change for him, he continued to do what he liked best, which was enjoying an active lifestyle outdoors.
"When I was little, I loved to go outside and play in the woods with my brother," said 19-year-old Blackston. "When I would visit my dad, we would always go out hunting and fishing."
Although Blackston had an active lifestyle, he recalled being overweight since he was a child.
"When I moved with my mom to my grandmother's house, that's when I started putting on a lot of weight," said Blackston. "My dad is really overweight as well, so when I would go visit him, we would eat a lot."
After spending a couple of years in Jackson, Blackston's mom remarried, which took them down to Pflugerville, Texas. During his teenage years, Blackston continued to gain weight. He used it to his advantage playing football in middle school and during his freshman year of high school. However, soon another school program drew his interest.
"In my freshman year (of high school) I joined the Marine Corps Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps program," said Blackston. "Both of my grandparents were in the military, one in the Air Force and the other in the Navy, so I thought I would try it and see how I liked it."
Blackston explained that at the time he knew very little about the Marine Corps, but since it was the only program available at his school, he would see what it was all about. It became something he enjoyed very much.
"I really loved it," said Blackston, who became the battalion executive officer during his time in the JROTC. "That's what started to make me really think about wanting to join the Marine Corps. I saw their discipline and how they carried themselves and really liked it. It made me feel better as a person."
Blackston, who at the time weighed almost 300 pounds, took action on his interest about the Marine Corps and went to his local recruiter's office.
"My senior year of high school I started talking to my Marine recruiter," said Blackston, who was recruited out of Recruiting Station Austin North, Texas. "He told me I was about 105 pounds overweight and that I had to lose that much before I could go down to the Military Entrance Processing Command to enlist. I went home that day and made the decision that I wanted to be a Marine, and I would do whatever it took to make that happen."
With his new found motivation, Blackston reached out to his JROTC instructor to help him on his journey to lose the weight.
"I talked to my Marine instructor in JROTC, and he helped me with a nutrition plan and workout plan," said Blackston. "He became my biggest support and inspiration, encouraging me every step along the way."
With a new game plan, Blackston set out to take on the biggest challenge of his life ... overcoming himself.
"I would go to the gym every day for at least two to three hours, running or lifting weights," said Blackston. "I ate healthy and stopped eating at fast food restaurants and drinking soda. I put everything into it."
The five-foot-nine Blackston realized early on that his journey was not going to be easy.
"The first week was the hardest for me," said Blackston. "I would go into the gas station or drive by a restaurant and think how something would taste so good right now, but I kept thinking to myself that this was not only about joining the Marine Corps, but also about benefiting myself and not always being overweight."
Three months later, a new and improved Blackston walked back into his Marine Corps recruiter's office.
"I walked back through those doors and was 195 pounds, losing the 105 pounds I needed to lose in just three months," said Blackston with a smile. "My recruiter was pretty surprised and said he thought he would never see me again, especially within three months."
Now, ready to ship to Marine Corps recruit training, Blackston had a new outlook on his life and the future that lay ahead of him.
"I felt so proud of myself," said Blackston. "I felt like I could do anything in the world. I now know that if I put my mind to it, I can go do anything. I felt confident that I could make it through Marine Corps recruit training."
Others noticed the progress Blackston was making, including his mom, who was also a big influence and support for him while trying to lose the weight.
"My mom helped me out a lot and was very supportive of me and my decision to join the Marine Corps," said Blackston. "I could tell she wasn't that comfortable with it, but she wanted to support me in any way that she could. The rest of my family was still eating a lot of unhealthy food, but she made sure that I didn't eat any of it and stayed on my plan. If it was raining outside, she would help drive me out to the gym so I could get my workout in."
After conquering his mental and physical health, Blackston began the journey to conquer the challenge of earning the title United States Marine. It was a task that once again required him to put forth all of his efforts.
"My first thought when I landed at the airport, and the drill instructors were waiting outside by the bus, I was like ‘wow I did it, I actually made, I can't believe I've made it this far,'" said Blackston. "Then when the bus arrived (at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego) and the drill instructors started yelling at us to get off and I thought ‘oh crap, what did I get myself into.' After a while I thought to myself, ‘you did all that work to get here, don't throw it all away now.' It helped me a lot to get through training. It's amazing to know I've done so much to get to this point and join the Marine Corps."
One night during mail call, Blackston received a letter that made him reflect on what he had accomplished, but also how it had affected others around him.
"While in recruit training, my mom wrote me a letter saying that she's been going to the gym every morning before work, saying that since you're going through this hard time I should do something to change my life as well," said Blackston. "It made me feel proud that I actually did something so early in my life that changed somebody else's life."
Blackston's senior drill instructor, SSgt Matthew J. Rhoads, explained that he thought Blackston was a very motivated and goal-oriented person. Rhoads stated that Blackston pushed himself so much that he lost another 15 pounds during recruit training.
Having earned the title Marine, Blackston continues his journey to Marine Combat Training at the School of Infantry at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, and then to his military occupational specialty school where he will train to become a towed artillery systems technician. Along the way, he will continue to inspire and motivate those around him as his instructors did for him.
"Never quit," said the 180-pound Blackston. "If you want to do something, don't listen to the people that say that you can't. They are the ones that don't want you to succeed because they can't do it themselves. If you put your mind to it, you can do anything, no matter what the challenge or hardship is. If you want it bad enough you can do it."
The Defense Video & Imagery Distribution System (DVIDS) is provided as a public service operated by Third Army/U.S. Army Central (ARCENT) on behalf of the Department of the Army in support of all branches of the U.S. military (Navy, Air Force, Marines) and its Coalition partners serving in the U.S. Forces Central Command (CENTCOM) area of responsibility.