My veteran-filled life: from growing up on Parris Island, to my call to serve
Petty Officer 1st Class John Haskell, USN; 1st Lt. John Kispert Sr., USMC;
Corporal Andrew Kispert, USMC ; Colonel John Kispert Jr., USMC
I come from a family steeped in military history. That makes Veteran’s Day a humbling time for us because we have a deep understanding of service and sacrifice for our great country. My father watched his father serve as a Marine, and my mother grew up hearing stories of her father’s service in the Navy during World War II. She would later follow my father throughout his career as a Marine wife. After my sister and I were born, we too became immersed in the military lifestyle, proudly calling ourselves “military brats” while growing up on Parris Island, near Beaufort, South Carolina.
The base is celebrating its 100th anniversary, and my family has been a part of it for many of those years. Parris Island serves as one of only two Marine bases in the nation where boot camp is held. My grandfather completed boot camp there in the 1940s, my father was stationed there in the 90s, and as I said, I was there as a child, and then returned for boot camp myself in the mid-2000s.
My first memories of life in the Marines date back to when I was 5 years old. My family had just moved to Parris Island. My father, Col. John Kispert, was stationed there as chief of staff—only one level below the commanding general. I was young, but I was old enough to be shaped by the world around me. Roaming Parris Island with my friends on bikes taught me a lot. My friends came from all backgrounds and I learned from an early age that none of that mattered − we were all Americans. Exploring the island, we watched young recruits transform into tough Marines. This had a lasting impression on me.
My grandfather became an officer and pilot, serving in World War II and Korea after his time at Parris Island. He passed away when my father was a young man, and while I never knew him personally, I did know that his time as a Marine greatly influenced my father to choose the same path. My grandmother eventually remarried another former Marine, who became the only grandfather I knew. He also served in World War II and went through the same recruit training battalion on Parris Island that I would be a part of years later.
When my father retired after serving 29 years, we settled in Florence, where I graduated from high school. I attended the University of South Carolina, but after a year and a half knew I needed more. I wanted to be a Marine, like the men in my family before me. I knew going straight in without a college degree meant that I wouldn’t be able to go the officer route, but I was ready and awaited my return to Parris Island.
Boot camp at Parris Island breaks you down and then builds you back up again while instilling important values. We were taught to strive to be our best in everything, learning to “adapt, improvise and overcome.” When I graduated from boot camp, my grandfather presented me with the Eagle, Globe and Anchor he had earned decades before on the same parade deck.
After five years of service, two deployments and one combat tour, my contract ended in November 2012. I knew that it was time for me to continue my education. Leaving military service can be tricky when thrust into a world of people who are in the same age group that already have their degrees. But I found the right place. I started my undergraduate education as a veteran day student at The Citadel because of the culture there. It was the perfect segue from life as a Marine, to life as a civilian. The Citadel grounds young men and women in a life that guides them to become head and shoulders above the rest, much like the Marines did for me. The college wasn’t that far removed from the military lifestyle that I knew intimately and missed greatly. A bonus was that there are many other veteran students on campus with whom I could study and interact.
I graduated from The Citadel in May 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in political science. I immediately jumped into a master’s program in international politics and military affairs. I want to take the skillset that I received as a Marine and a Citadel graduate and transfer it to a position as an intelligence analyst, or something similar that helps U.S. service people who are still out there on the ground.
My time on Parris Island as a child, and then as a young Marine, helped me become the man I am today. Now, continuing my education is giving me the tools needed to fulfill the promise I made to myself as a Marine—to be my best. While my adventurous life traveling the globe as a Marine may be over, I am far from done serving my country.
John Andrew Kispert served in the infantry under Military Occupational Specialty 0311. Kispert deployed to Guantanamo Bay and Bahrain, completed a combat tour in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, and later traveled to multiple countries performing various duties such as embassy security. Kispert currently works as a graduate assistant in The Citadel Political Science Department where he is pursuing his master’s degree.