OWATONNA — Korey Dominguez won’t have much time to enjoy his summer vacation, if you want to call it that.
After the 18-year-old Owatonna High School senior walks across the stage of the Four Seasons Centre on Sunday afternoon to receive his high school diploma, he’ll have just a week of time off before the next chapter of his life begins. And part of that week — at least the weekend — will be spent packing his belongings, his final acts before leaving on Monday, June 17, for San Diego and for boot camp as a United States Marine.
Dominguez admits to being a bit nervous. It’s not that he’s concerned about the rigors of boot camp — and make no mistake about it, Marine boot camp is rigorous. But Dominguez has spent the last two years getting ready for it.
“The first few weeks are hard,” he said about boot camp. “Once you get past that, it’s more mental than physical.”
And, he says, he’s not worried about quitting.
“My main concern is about getting an injury,” he said.
Dominguez isn’t the only member of the Owatonna High School class of 2019 who will be joining the Marines, though his classmate, Cameron Stiles, 17, will have a bit more time before he ships out to San Diego. Stiles will arrive at boot camp on Sept. 9, about the same time that Stiles will be finishing the 13-week program.
“The only thing I’m nervous about is the peanut butter shot,” said Stiles.
The well-known and so-called “peanut butter shot” is something that every recruit in boot camp will undergo unless they have an allergy and can prove it. The bicillin vaccination, injected into one butt cheek, has been nicknamed the peanut butter shot because it is said that the vaccine feels as thick as peanut butter going in and feels like a giant scoop of peanut butter once it is in. Afterward, it’s difficult to sit, or so say the Marines who have had it and remember it years later.
“I’m not fond of shots,” Stiles said.
Still, both Dominguez and Stiles are proud of their decisions to join the Marines.
“It’s doing something not many people will do,” said Dominguez. “It’s doing something that makes your family proud.”
“It’s doing something bigger than yourself,” Stiles adds.
The dream of being a Marine was something that both young men have thought about for some time now, years, really, though both of them had some detours along the way.
“I always thought about the military,” Dominguez said, though it wasn’t until his freshman year in high school that he began to focus on the Marines.
His focus was derailed a bit two years ago, at the end of his sophomore year, when his mother was stabbed eight times by her former boyfriend.
By the end of his junior year, however — after he had been involved in the Corps’ physical training program, known as PT, for recruits or potential recruits — Dominguez was ready to sign up. There was only one problem. Because he was just 17 at the time, he needed his mother to give her permission and sign her name — something that at first she was hesitant to do.
“Originally, my mom hated it,” Dominguez said. “She didn’t want me to go at all. As time progress, she became a lot more supportive.”
Finally, with his mother’s signature in hand, on May 16, 2018 — he still remembers the date — he enlisted in the delay entry program.
As for Stiles, his entry into the program was delayed by something else — health issues.
“I thought about the military,” Stiles said, and sometime during his freshman or sophomore year he felt himself being pulled toward it.
The problem, however, was that he had developed streptococcal glomerulonephritis, a rare kidney disease that he developed after a strep infection. He has overcome since then, but still wasn’t accepted into the Marines until they knew that his kidneys — and his general health, for that matter — were OK.
That didn’t stop him. He still joined Dominguez and other recruits for PT on Thursday evenings at the recruitment center on the corner of Bridge Street and Oak Avenue in Owatonna, though Stiles came not as a recruit — at least not yet — but as a guest, something which the Marines allow and even encourage.
The physical training isn’t easy, but it’s meant to get the recruits ready for the challenges of boot camp. Echoing Dominguez — or more likely, he echoing her — Gunnery Sgt. Emily Levy said this past Thursday evening that as far as boot camp goes, “the hardest part of boot camp is not physical. It’s mental.”
Still, the physical is tough. Some nights they do long runs. Other evenings its cardio-based exercises or perhaps weightlifting. On this past Thursday evening, 24 recruits and one guest showed up, drawing people from Faribault and Northfield, among other places, and the PT consisted of moving from station to station doing various exercises that many, if not most, civilians would find difficult.
“They get out of it what they put into it,” said Gunny Levy.
And to prove that point, she asked Dominguez how many pull-ups he was able to do the first night he came to PTs.
“Zero, ma’am,” he answered, his voice strong and loud.
And how many was he able to do Thursday night?
“Sixteen, ma’am,” he answered.
But it’s not just their personal accomplishments that both Dominguez and Stiles are concerned about.
“It’s joining something bigger than myself,” Dominguez said. “It’s doing something challenging, and developing a strong bond between all my brothers and sisters. It’s becoming a part of something.”