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Urgency grasps Marine recruit

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Aaron Myers, 23, was already on the job at a Salt Lake area asphalt plant the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, when he heard the news that America had been attacked. He spent the rest of his shift paying less attention to the asphalt than to the radio as it became more and more obvious that a new war was beginning, however unconventional.

In the early afternoon, Aaron hurried home and picked up the telephone. He dialed the number of the Salt Lake recruiting station for the U.S. Marines.

"How's my application coming?" he asked impatiently when Sgt. J.J. Gabrielson picked up the phone. Weeks earlier, Aaron had inquired about becoming a Marine and the process was dragging along. But not now.

Now Gabrielson snapped to attention. "Come on down," he told him, "and hurry."

Aaron is not ready to be a Marine yet. For one thing, his hair is too long. For another, he's a pound or two too heavy. For another, he hasn't filled out all the paperwork.

As we talk, he sits filling out forms at the desk of Gabrielson, a lean and mean walking, talking Marine poster. On the wall behind them is another poster that says:

"We Promise You Sleep Deprivation,

Mental Torment,

And Muscles So Sore You'll Puke"

On the door, there are more recruiting pitches.

"America's 911"

"Dying a Natural Death is for Wimps "

The Marines. Those sweet-talkers.

Aaron's wife, Lori, and their young son, Evan, 16 months, are alongside him, as they should be. Because they're signing up, too. The three of them will be off to see the world just as soon as Daddy survives Boot Camp.

"It will be the worst experience of your life, I can promise you that," Gabrielson says, positively beaming.

"It's been a madhouse around here the last couple of weeks," the sergeant said. Come Monday, as many as 10 young men will be sworn in as U.S. Marines and shipped off to Camp Pendleton in California where they will be sworn at.

After that, who knows? One of them could find himself face to face with Osama bin Laden.

It could be Aaron Myers, because he plans to apply for the infantry.

"I don't have a suicide wish," he says, glancing over at Lori, "but I want to fight for my country. I think America is full of people willing to fight to keep what we have. I saw what happened. I saw all those people killed who were just going to work, or just flying. I don't want justice, I want revenge."

Then Lori, who is barely 20, adds her thoughts. "At first I really didn't want him to go in," she says. "But then we talked about it and I changed. Our grandfathers did it."

Both Lori's and Aaron's grandfathers were in World War II and Aaron's father was in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War.

Gabrielson clearly likes what he's hearing. You can't be a fighting man if you're not a fighting man.

"We hadn't talked for a while," he says, referring to the rather slow application process of Aaron Myers. "Then there was the attack and his attitude definitely changed and my urgency about getting him in definitely changed."

At Camp Pendleton, they'll test him to see if he can survive. And if he can?

"We kill people in the Marine Corps," Gabrielson says. "That's the service we provide."

Lee Benson's column runs Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Please send e-mail to benson@desnews.com and faxes to 801-237-2527.