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.
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)