From Foster Homes to Marine Corps Family, Newark Native's Future Looks Bright

From Foster Homes to Marine Corps Family, Newark Native's Future Looks Bright

Nineteen-year-old Newark New Jersey, native, PFC Michael D. Dickens, stands in front of the Marine Corps Recruiting Substation Monmouth office, March 18, where he began his journey. Dickens graduated 12 weeks of Marine Corps Recruit Training in Parris Island, S.C., March 13, and this stands as just his latest example of overcoming obstacles. Dickens moved from foster home to foster home since he was just 5 and lived out of his car before joining the Marines. Photo by Sgt Samuel A. Nasso.

COLTS NECK, N.J. (April 13, 2015) – Whether it was moving foster home to foster home, living out of his car, leaving college after one year, or deciding to join the United States Marine Corps, one thing is for sure; PFC Michael D. Dickens has more life experience than most 19-year-olds.

"A lot of people that have been through what I have been would quit," said Dickens, a Newark, New Jersey native.

Dickens graduated from 12 weeks of recruit training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island in South Carolina on March 13. He has been on the move since he was 5, moving to new homes in different cities in New Jersey such as Piscataway, East Orange, Jackson, Burlington, and Long Branch. 

After attending Caldwell University for a year in his attempt to become a lawyer, he lost interest. 

He lived in his car for a while and stayed at different friend's houses for varying periods of time, he researched future options; Dickens was appealed by the pride Marines have and wanted to be a part of it. 

"I overcame a few mental challenges and am a very competitive person physically," said Dickens, a Burlington County Township High School graduate. "If someone is doing more pull-ups or is running faster than me, I will do whatever it takes to match them or be better."

Dickens attributes what lured him in was the "first to fight" motto and high standards the Marine Corps upholds and once he had the Corps in his sight he walked into the local recruiting office in Monmouth County and met Staff Sgt. Joseph Mendoza. 

"When he first walked in, we didn't think he would do well on the practice test, but surprisingly he did better than average," said Mendoza. "After taking the test he described how he grew up and from this point it was apparent that he was an individual who was driven to do anything he could to make something of himself, no matter the circumstance." 

Dickens joined the Delayed Entry Program only able to complete eight pull-ups, but completed 24 two months later when he shipped to boot camp. 

"Dickens challenged me every day to test how many pull-ups I could do, just to see where he was at, "said GySgt Michael A. Diaz, the staff noncommissioned officer in charge for Marine Corps Recruiting Substation Monmouth.

"I knew he is going to be a great Marine because he was a great poolee who makes everyone around him better."

Dickens has big plans for his Marine Corps career and identified, becoming the Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps as one of his lifelong goals. 

"I want to be a leader and to help people achieve their potential," stated Dickens. Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps is a position that signifies experience as the top enlisted advisor for the Commandant of the Marine Corps. In other words, there is only one and Dickens hopes to be that one later in his life.

In the 12 weeks of recruit training, Dickens held a leadership position the entire time. He was guide for a long time and finished as a squad leader for his platoon. 

"It was a great learning experience," Dickens stated. "My senior drill instructor sat down with me early on and told me that I should be like all drill instructors out there. I should be correcting the other recruits and setting the standard."

When asked if it was difficult to tell recruits that were older with more experience what to do, Dickens replied, "I didn't. A lot of them did not like to hear it at first because I am younger than they are. I do not think it is hard because if you are not doing what you are supposed to than it is easy to correct you. I just want to be the best and win." 

After completing Marine Combat Training at Camp Geiger, North Carolina, Dickens will attend Personnel Administration School at Camp Johnson, North Carolina, and upon completion will be a legal administration Marine. 

He will then continue to his first unit and at the first possible opportunity, Dickens plans to transfer into an infantry occupation.

"I want to be the first to fight. I want to embrace the (hardships). I want to be the best Marine," said Dickens.

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