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CENTER LINE - A two-for-one deal? Not with Uncle Sam

Norwalk Reflector Staff • Oct 29, 2015 at 12:46 PM

Semper Fi, times two.

Jean Vanderpool and her husband, Bob, have had quite a spring. Jean's 21-year-old son, Steven, graduated May 18 from Parris Island, S.C., and the new Marine is now at Camp Lejeune, N.C.

Steven's 20-year-old sister, Courtney, will graduate Friday from Parris Island. She is headed for Twentynine Palms, Calif., a Marine air ground task force training command.

Both are 2005 graduates of St. Paul High School.

Did they give Jean a two-for-one deal on her children?

"No," she said with a laugh.

This is Steven's second go-around with the Marines. He enlisted after high school and made it through seven weeks at Parris Island before getting sick and being sent home.

There is a Web site for parents to keep track of what is going on at Parris Island, but Vanderpool didn't get on it this time around.

"I did that the first time Steven was there ... I've been through it before so I really didn't need it," she said. "I got their mail. I got a lot up until the final few weeks when they were too busy. No phone calls."

The Vanderpools were able to visit with Courtney for four minutes when Steven graduated. And they were lucky to see her that long.

"That's not standard by any stretch," Vanderpool said.

Vanderpool, the mother of five children (license plate "5 fab kidz"), said it's tough to sleep with two Marines in the family.

"These are kind of scary times, but on the other hand I am pretty much in awe of what they did," she said. "They left their home and their comfort zone for this. At least for 3 1/2 months I knew where they were and what they were doing."

Does she think of Iraq?

"All of the time," she said. "It worries me, not just for my kids, but everybody involved. I guess I don't want to get too excited about it now. They are not there yet, but it's a situation where they can be.

"On the other hand, they are learning great life skills and the opportunities that will be presented to them in the service will be enormous. They will get to travel and do a lot of things they normally wouldn't otherwise be able to do."

Jean's father, Tom Mockler, was in the Marine Corps.

"Once a Marine, always a Marine," said Vanderpool, who has six sisters and one brother. "I know that from my dad, who is a member of the Marine Corps League. It's something you have forever.

"No other choice," she said about her children choosing the Marines. "They never felt pressure by my dad to do it, but he certainly was their influence."

Vanderpool's nephew, Rance Smith, of Willard, left the day after graduation from Willard High School for Parris Island. He is the son of Bill and Liz Smith.

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