Face of Defense: Marine Answers Corps’ Call Twice

WASHINGTON — On Dec. 7, 1987, Der­rick But­ler raised his right hand and swore to sup­port and defend the Con­sti­tu­tion of the Unit­ed States against all ene­mies, for­eign and domes­tic, as a Unit­ed States Marine.
More than a decade lat­er, on July 6, 1999, he swore the oath a sec­ond time.

Marine Corps Base Camp Smedley
Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Der­rick But­ler, who had a gap of almost 12 years between his first and sec­ond enlist­ments in the Corps, is a con­struc­tion wire­man sta­tioned at Marine Corps Base Camp Smed­ley D. But­ler, based on Oki­nawa, a pre­fec­ture of Japan.
U.S. Marine Corps pho­to by Lance Cpl. Jovane M. Hol­land
Click to enlarge

Although the cir­cum­stances behind each oath were rad­i­cal­ly dif­fer­ent, both car­ried great pride and a sense of achieve­ment, said But­ler, a St. Louis native. “My first enlist­ment was the result of a Marine Corps recruiter call­ing for my friend, and me pick­ing up the phone. It was com­plete­ly by chance,” But­ler said. “The sec­ond time I enlist­ed, it was because the com­pa­ny I was work­ing for shut down, and I missed the mil­i­tary way of life.” 

Work­ing as a cook through­out his first enlist­ment, But­ler was unable to re-enlist at the end of his con­tract and left the Corps as a cor­po­ral. He moved to Mis­souri, where he worked at a man­u­fac­tur­ing and export­ing fac­to­ry. When the fac­to­ry closed its doors in 1999, he re-enlist­ed in the Corps. 

The Marine Corps he returned to had under­gone major changes since the late 1980s, but But­ler, now a staff sergeant, said his love of cama­raderie in the mil­i­tary has not changed. “The Corps is still near and dear to my heart, no mat­ter how much it has changed,” said But­ler, who now serves as a con­struc­tion wire­man at Marine Corps Base Camp Smed­ley D. But­ler on Oki­nawa, a pre­fec­ture of Japan. 

“No chal­lenge I have faced since my return has been too over­whelm­ing to face. I just adapt and over­come,” But­ler said. Butler’s com­rades are glad he’s back. 

“Staff Sergeant But­ler is a main­stay in his junior Marines’ lives, because he has the ‘Marines are fam­i­ly’ mind set every­one needs when things get rough,” said Marine Corps Sgt. Ben­jamin Mar­tin, a tele­phone sur­vey­or who has known But­ler since 2002. “He’s the Marine that gives you the safe­ty brief and instills in you the pride in watch­ing out for the Marine to the left and right of you. I could­n’t ask for a bet­ter staff non­com­mis­sioned officer.” 

But­ler said things have changed since his ini­tial enlist­ment. “We fought hard and played hard back in the day, but the day-to-day bat­tle is much hard­er now than it was back then,” he explained. “I’m so glad the tools I acquired in the past help me to relate to and teach the new gen­er­a­tion of Marines today.” 

But­ler plans to retire in five years and said he hopes to pick up pro­mo­tion to gun­nery sergeant before that time comes. For young Marines who strug­gle with or expe­ri­ence regret over their deci­sion to join, But­ler shared some words of advice. 

“Boot camp may not be a dream­boat, but to trav­el, see the world and embrace so many dif­fer­ent cul­tures can be inspir­ing,” But­ler said. “Peo­ple look up to who we are and what we do for the world. Many of them only dream of liv­ing the life we live. We live it every day.” 

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs) 

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