MARIANNA, Fla.— Ask any marine, and chances are, they can tell you what “Semper Fidelis” means.
Translated from Latin, the phrase means “always faithful.” This is the motto of the U.S. Marines, a branch of the military that Danny LeBlanc had the honor of serving with for two years.
LeBlanc, 48, truly grasps this concept of faithfulness to his military branch. As he speaks about his time with the marines, the pride he has for his branch shines through.
“It is a true honor to earn that eagle, globe, and anchor,” he said. “It’s not given to you. You have to earn it.”
In high school, LeBlanc went into the Delayed Entry Program. After high school, he attended boot camp at Parris Island, North Carolina.
“Got off the bus about 1 o’clock in the morning and on those famous yellow footprints,” he said. “And the drill instructor is getting on the bus, yelling at you, screaming at you. And getting off the bus, it was just very, very overwhelming.”
Although LeBlanc was overwhelmed in the moment, he does not regret his experience.
“Looking back, I’m proud that I did it,” he said. “At the time, I thought, ‘What have I stepped into?’ But looking back at it, I’m proud to serve our country and I’m very thankful for our freedoms, fellow veterans, and current military members that protect our nation.”
LeBlanc says that it was during his time at boot camp that the Gulf War began.
“I remember our Commanding Officer coming into our squad bay and informing us that we were at war and there was a good possibility that we might graduate early and be shipped out to war,” he said. “But that didn’t happen.”
Once he finished his training at boot camp, LeBlanc was granted a ten-day leave. Because he was serving as a recruiter’s assistant, he also received an additional 14 days to visit high schools.
“You go around to the high schools and talk to students to give them some ideas of what the Marine Corps is about,” he said. “See if they’re interested, give them the history of it, what comes with serving the country.”
After serving in that aspect, LeBlanc went to Camp Geiger in North Carolina for infantry training.
Once he finished his training, he was given his MOS code, or Military Occupational Specialty code.
“My MOS was an administrative clerk, which is 0151,” he said. “So, I got to stay on the east side of the United States and I served my term at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.”
LeBlanc says he enjoyed the work there.
“That was wonderful,” he said. “It was more relaxed, but we still worked very hard. We did a lot of activities, training activities. Trained every day for different things like combat. And so, we were prepared at any time that they needed us and we were able to serve.”
LeBlanc says that at Camp Lejeune, contact with home became a bit easier as well.
“In boot camp, it was just through mail,” he said. “And then once I got stationed, you have more freedom, where you have your own vehicle. And if you took leave or vacation, you could go back home. I grew up in central Florida, so I would go home periodically. And used the phone at will.”
LeBlanc says that when it was time to go home, he had mixed emotions.
“It was emotional in both ways,” he said. “I was excited to come home, but I missed it. And looking back, I still miss it.”
LeBlanc says that among the things he misses most is the comradery.
“The brotherhood,” he said. “As most people will tell you, the Marine Corps is second-to-none and some of the fines fighting forces, besides the Navy SEALS.”
Given the chance, LeBlanc said he would do the whole thing over again.
“I would do it again in a heartbeat,” he said.
LeBlanc says his experience in the military contributed to the person he is today.
“It instilled discipline in me and respect and honor,” he said. “I feel like it’s made me a better person as a whole.”
Among the experiences that have helped shaped LeBlanc is the ability to work as team.
“Helping fellow recruits, we were always one,” he said. “And everyone had to go through the same training. And we helped each other through different obstacles, through the different obstacle courses, and through firing ranges and shooting the different weapons, through swimming training.”
LeBlanc says that to anyone who is interested in joining the military, he has two words of advice: “Be prepared.”
“It’s not for everybody,” he said. “Be prepared for discipline. Be prepared to accept change. Be prepared to hurry up and wait. And just be prepared for anything that comes, that you’re ready to do. And be prepared to serve your country. It’s not a job, it’s a career. And it’s a privilege to serve the country. It’s not a given, you have to earn it.”
One thing is certain: LeBlanc has the Marines to thank for the man he is today.
“When you enter Parris Island, there is a banner hanging over the boulevard on the island that says, ‘We Make Marines,’” he said. “And that is a true statement.”