When Chris Hamilton carries fallen American soldiers back onto U.S. soil, he doesn't let it get to him.
Boot camp prepares you for such duties, said the 19-year-old Lance Cpl., a 2006 Edison graduate.
The casket-carrying ceremony, called Dover Duty, involves lifting the casket of a fallen soldier off the airplane from Iraq or Afghanistan, back onto American soil.
"It's very humbling, it's a powerful experience," Hamilton said. "It's incredibly unique. You almost feel insignificant. Little things you take for granted you appreciate."
Hamilton said Dover Duty is performed in a rotating schedule between platoons. He first performed the solemn ceremony in June, and has done it twice since then.
Hamilton said he does not experience eerie feelings before, during or after performing the job.
"They train us not to think about that," he said. "They really toughen you up mentally."
Hamilton displayed mental toughness well before entering boot camp. When Hamilton, at 13, saw on live television the twin towers crumple, he decided he would defend his country.
Beginning with his freshman year in high school, he expressed to recruiters his desire to join the military.
They dismissed his desire he said they told him he'd be running away from them by his senior year.
Hamilton told them he'd be back. And he was, each time the recruiters came to his school. The response was the same, until they apparently thought he was old enough to be taken seriously.
That moment came In June 2005 when, at age 17, Hamilton joined the Marine Corps.
He tried out for reconnaissance work, and said he scored well on the physical fitness test, but was not a good enough swimmer. Hamilton was, however, strong enough to perform Dover Duty, one of the responsibilities of the Marine Barracks 8th & I, named for its location in Washington, D.C.
In addition to Dover Duty, Hamilton's unit marches in parades and conducts ceremonies during burials at Arlington National Cemetery.
Hamilton will be based in Washington with the 8th & I until next fall, when he might possibly be deployed to Iraq. He said he recently volunteered for deployment, but others were chosen. But, he is not giving up.
Hamilton's mother, Ann, of Milan, said she supports her son in everything he does even if he goes overseas.
"I'm very proud of him, I couldn't be any prouder," she said. "I'm proud of all our young men and women over there, but at the same time it's frightening."
Chris Hamilton said he almost feels guilty knowing that a majority of people who attended infantry school with him are in Iraq.
"I want do my time," he said.