USS BONHOMME RICHARD, At Sea -- With 11 brothers and sisters, he grew up with a lot of eyes following his every footstep. Impressed by his oldest brother’s decision to join the military, he enlisted in the Marine Corps from the desire to protect his family and turn his life around.
Lance Cpl. Gregg J. Schaefer, a landing support specialist with Combat Logistics Battalion 31, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, became the role model he strived to be. But before he matured enough to make a change, he was setting a poor example.
From a young age, Gregg had smaller siblings watching him. The Schaefer family lived in small home just outside St. Louis, in Barnhart, Mo. Schaefer, now 20, was born in 1993 into a family with three older brothers: Jarred, now 28; Sam, now 22; and Devin, now 21.
Starting in 1995, Schaefer’s parents added more to the family. Over time, Gregg welcomed five younger brothers (Carson, Andy, Parker, Tyson and Griffin) and three younger sisters (Ellie, Nina and Kristian).
Growing up, Gregg demonstrated problems with authority and rules while attending catholic school. Fortunately for Schaefer, until he was in high school, all of his acts of disobedience were minor. But he still felt like he was setting a bad example for his siblings.
After his troubles in catholic school, Gregg’s parents switched him to public school hoping a change would help, but he soon slipped into a group of kids who were always under the watchful eye of authorities - the trouble makers.
Throughout Gregg’s four years of high school, he spent a total of eight nights in the local jail after following the influences of his new friends. Gregg was arrested once for painting graffiti on a public building and was arrested for fighting on several occasions. It was not until an argument with his father concerning his behavior that he realized that his siblings were watching his actions.
“Growing up in a family with so many brothers and sisters, you never stop to think how many eyes are watching your every step,” said Schaefer. “Sometimes you have to set aside your personal problems and think about how it could be affecting the loved ones around you. I just wish it wouldn’t have taken me until I enlisted into the Marines to learn that.”
Gregg told himself that day he was done setting a bad example. It was time to make a change in his life, for himself and for his siblings.
“An older brother can be one of the biggest role models for younger siblings,” said Schaefer. “It wasn’t until I realized the way I look at Jarred is the way my younger brothers and sisters look at me. Seeing that, I couldn’t keep going down this same road.”
In his junior year of high school, Gregg sought a Marine recruiter, intent on following his eldest brother’s lead by joining the military. In 2005, his brother Jarred enlisted in the Army as an infantryman. Gregg recognized the character that military service built in his older sibling and thought it could change his life for the better. Then, he felt, he too could set a good example for his younger brothers and sisters.
“If it wasn’t for (my brothers and sisters), I don’t know where I would be right now,” said Schaefer. “I am not saying that I would be in jail, but they made me change my act and do something better for myself.”
Although his brother was in the Army, Schaefer decided to make his own path by becoming a Marine. While he was inspired by his brother’s decision to join the Army, Gregg needed a different challenge.
“I don’t have anything against soldiers but I wanted to become a Marine because they are rough and tough, exactly what I wanted to become,” said Schaefer. “Becoming a Marine was all I could think about my junior and senior year of high school.”
After graduating high school in 2011, Schaefer enlisted and immediately went to boot camp at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, Calif. When Gregg returned after spending 13 weeks earning the title “Marine” his family noticed a significant change in him.
“Joining the Marines was probably the best thing for Gregg,” said Sgt. Jarred K. Schaefer, an infantryman with Company A., 2nd Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, U. S. Army. “I’m proud of him for what he has done by becoming a Marine. I truly think that he is setting a good example for our little brothers and sisters.”
Following boot camp, Gregg completed one month of infantry combat training at Camp Pendleton, Calif., before attending a 2-month school for his military occupational specialty at Jacksonville, N.C. In April of 2012, Gregg received orders to his first duty station, Okinawa, Japan, as a part of CLB-31, 31st MEU.
Gregg recently participated in the bilateral exercise Talisman Saber 2013 in Shoalwater Bay Training Area, Queensland, Australia, and is currently deployed with the 31st MEU in the Asia-Pacific region on a regularly scheduled patrol. The 31st MEU is the Marine Corps’ force in readiness in the Asia-Pacific region and the only continuously forward-deployed MEU.