AR RAMADI, Iraq -- Watching the towers fall from his campus at Florida State University; Howard H. Aycock began to see the world a little differently.
The events of September Eleventh, one of the country’s greatest tragedies, became the catalyst of Aycock’s inevitable journey to military service as a United States Marine.
“Everything that was happening opened my eyes to what was going on globally,” said Cpl. Aycock, who now serves as a team leader for Company A, 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, in Ar Ramadi, Iraq. “I felt it was my duty to join and help out.”
With only a year left in his courses at the major university, Aycock stuck to his classes, graduating in May of 2002.
The result of his studies was a bachelor’s degree in international affairs and a minor degree in economics.
Aycock’s studies apply to service in most government agencies, law enforcement and the military.
Before graduation however, Aycock was unsure which route he would take.
“I planned on using my degree to serve the United States in some way, but the decision to join the Marine Corps came after graduation,” said Aycock, a 27-year-old native of Sarasota, Fla.
Aycock worked in sales for nearly a year following his graduation, trying to decide the direction of his future.
Dissatisfaction for the work further confirmed Aycock’s desire for service, leading him to begin his meetings with military recruiters from the various branches.
Coming from a military background, with his uncle serving in Vietnam and Grandfather serving in World War II, Aycock’s call to duty pushed him to the most challenging choice.
“I decided the Marine Corps was the best,” said Aycock. “I wanted the challenge.”
After spending some time in the Delayed Entry Program, Aycock rose to the challenge during boot camp at Parris Island, N.C., where he became the platoon honor graduate in April of 2004.
Aycock received a meritorious promotion to Lance Corporal before beginning his fleet service with his battalion.
Since then, Aycock has conducted two combat deployments in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Aycock spent the first deployment in the city of Al Fallujah, Iraq, and currently conducts security and stability operations in the city of Ar Ramadi.
Although his college didn’t offer courses helpful in combat operations, Aycock’s education in international affairs has helped in his understanding of the cultural difficulties in the conflict.
“My studies have helped me understand how (Iraqi) history and culture directly ties to their views of (the United States) and their difficulties in adapting to a new way of life,” said Aycock.
With only months remaining on his deployment to Ramadi and just a few years left on his contract with the Marine Corps, Aycock has begun looking towards his future.
Aycock plans to leave the Corps following his first enlistment, but continue his service to the country through a federal agency such as the U.S. Marshals or Federal Bureau of Investigation.
“I’m going to use what the Corps has taught me and hopefully continue to do some good for the United States,” said Aycock.