AR RAMADI, Iraq -- From college student to wandering musician to United States Marine, Lance Cpl. Jeff S. Bailey walked a long, twisting road into military service.
Now a high mobility, multi-purpose wheeled vehicle driver for Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment in Ar Ramadi, Iraq, Bailey spent seven years working odd jobs and traveling the country before enlisting at the age of 25.
Directly after high school, Bailey began classes at Roane State Community College to become a mass communications major.
With the ability to play several instruments including the guitar, bass guitar, violin, piano and cello, Bailey hoped to find a career in music.
“You can do a lot with a mass communications degree,” said Bailey, a 27-year-old native of Nashville, Tenn. “I wanted to weasel my way into the music business.”
Bailey never achieved the degree however, leaving college after two years and a few transfers between schools.
“I didn’t really have much direction in my life at the time,” said Bailey.
After leaving school, Bailey picked up his belongings and began a road trip that would carry him through much of the Southwest and some northern states.
Moving through Texas, New Mexico, Nevada, and every state after, Bailey performed as a solo musical act on the streets or anywhere he could find to play.
Staying where he could and sometimes living out of his car, Bailey made his living through his performances and intermittent employment at restaurants or stores.
“Some nights were good and some nights weren’t, but I got to see a lot of the country” said Bailey.
Bailey carried on this lifestyle for more than four years while searching for something he couldn’t find.
Looking back on the experience, Bailey sees the time as one of personal reflection.
“I was trying to use my music and the travel to fix my spiritual and cultural confusion,” said Bailey. “I was trying to find myself.”
It was during this long endeavor that Bailey’s eye was turned to military service.
Socializing with other musicians and artists as he traveled, Bailey was subject to a variety of strong opinions on the war.
Through his own interest and an aversion to the extreme stances on the conflict he witnessed in the music community, Bailey felt drawn towards the military.
“Like everyone else, I was looking at why we were over (in Iraq), and I got tired of people saying it couldn’t be fixed,” said Bailey. “I figured, I’m 25, and not doing anything.”
Bailey became the first United States Marine in his family by attending Marine Corps boot camp on April 18, 2005.
With a strong interest in the happenings around the world, Bailey saw his service as a chance to make a difference.
“I knew about a lot of things wrong with the world, and I figured, as a Marine, I could take part in stopping some of the atrocities,” said Bailey.
Bailey is now on his first deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, helping to provide security and stability to a vital area in the country.
Operating with an infantry battalion that aims to bring peace to a previously embattled area has given Bailey a sense of accomplishment he sought by entering the Corps.
“I feel like I’ve done my part now,” said Bailey.
Bailey’s experiences and training as a Marine have also helped him in his personal journey of self reflection.
Life in the Marine Corps has strengthened Bailey, not only physically, but mentally and morally.
“My values have become more solid and, direction-wise, I’m more confident in what I want,” said Bailey.
Bailey intends to pursue a career in teaching after his term with the Marine Corps ends, hoping to become a college professor.