The Encyclopedia Led Me to the Marines

Posted February 5, 2016 by Maurice Decaul

Throughout the month of February, Got Your 6 will be celebrating veterans to commemorate Black History Month. We will share stories of what led them to serve in the military and how they’re still serving here at home.

I am a writer, so I must maintain a certain amount of discipline to the field each day but I am not always able to write since I find myself in transit quite often, so I read every day. This is part of my practice and I’ve had this practice since childhood. I’ve often said about growing up: that I am grateful to my parents for buying an encyclopedia.

I grew up in a pre-internet world so the encyclopedia was possessed of a wealth of knowledge and I greedily consumed it. What does this have to do with why I joined the military? Well as a child I had an uncanny interest in technology especially aircraft. I would read the encyclopedia for information about airplanes. Military aircraft were the hottest things in the air. F-14s and F-15s were still newish then. I grew up wanting to fly, but I didn’t become a pilot instead I enlisted and became an artilleryman and then an infantryman.

Part of the reason for enlisting had to do with citizenship. I was not yet an American citizen when I joined the Marines and didn’t become a citizen until after my active service was ended. The other reason was although I was and I still am an aerospace geek, the mythos of the infantry took hold of me from a young age. I suppose I was interested in the struggle of ground combat, the individual combat couched within larger collective action. I think this is a fascination of many children. In Brian Turner’s memoir, My Life as a Foreign Country, he dedicates several pages to exploring his juvenile war gaming and I’ve noted similarities in the ways we played.

One important take away from my military service was maintaining self-discipline. With my current work, self-discipline requires working within the field each day. So that might be working on a scene for a play, reading a poetry book, preparing to teach a class or writing a piece like this. Even though I travel frequently I maintain enough self-discipline to carve out time to work in the field. I gained the ethic in the Marines as a youngster and it hasn’t been lost to me.

Hear more about Maurice’s time in Marines and one of his poems here

After serving in the U.S. Marine Corps, Maurice Decaul turned to poetry to ease his transition back to civilian life. Maurice soon realized that his new passion was in writing–he is a poet, essayist, and playwright. His work has been featured in The New York Times and The Daily Beast.