MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT PARRIS ISLAND, S.C. -- The Marine Corps prides itself on its "Band of Brothers" philosophy, believing no matter the circumstances, each and every Marine should be willing to put forth the ultimate sacrifice for a fellow Marine. Recruits get their first taste of this mentality within moments of arriving aboard the Depot as they realize the only way to make it through Recruit Training is by utilizing teamwork.
For Pvt. Jeff D. Noel Jr., a Marine graduating today with Platoon 1037, Alpha Co., 1st Recruit Training Bn., the willingness to lay down his life for a brother is nothing new.
Noel grew up one of four children living alone with their mother, Sandra Brooks of Hampton, Va. While young, Noel remembers getting into a lot trouble as his unwillingness to listen to authoritative figures was evident in and out of school.
"My mother seemed to be the only person I wanted to listen to," recalls Noel. "Even then, I still managed to get myself into trouble."
When Noel turned 13, a turn of events occurred that started to change his life. It was then his mother met GySgt. James E. Brooks, company gunnery sergeant for 2nd Fleet Anti-Terrorism Security Teams Co. out of Yorktown, Va. Shortly after their meeting, his mother married Brooks and Noel and his siblings were thrust
into Marine life. Foremost, they were introduced to the life of discipline his new father brought with him from his experience on the drill field at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, Calif., and at Officer Candidate School at Marine Corps Base, Quantico, Va.
Part of that lifestyle included moving around often, and Noel found himself looking for new friends and more
importantly, new ways to fit in.
While in Hampton, Noel recalls a day that changed his life completely, a day he tries not to talk about often.
His sister was hospitalized for a surgery in Dumfries, Va., and Noel and his younger brother, Jyree, went to visit old friends there. As they caught up on old times, a vehicle carrying four males pulled up, and an argument ensued. One of the males recognized Noel and argued with him. After only minutes of arguing, the four males got into their vehicle and started to drive off.
Noel could not have foreseen what happened next. With the car pulling away, one of the males thrust himself halfway out the window and pointed a gun at them.
"I didn't think about it," said Noel softly. "I moved in front of my little brother and took a .40 caliber round in the neck."
Noel's friend rushed him to a hospital where he stayed for the next three days.
He explains surgery to remove the round left Noel with three scars and a horrific memory of the event as he points to the various scars left around his neck.
Although out of the hospital in three days, Noel wasn't fully operational until nearly a month later.
With a new lease on life, Noel decided to make a change for the better and make something of his life. He spoke with his parents and made the decision to join the Marine Corps.
Although his step-father encouraged him to weigh all of his options, Noel's mother believes the Marine
Corps' influence managed to rub off.
"He has always looked up to his step-father," said Noel's mother. "I do believe the way my husband has
conducted himself had something to do with him joining the Marines."
With the shooting incident behind him, Noel now looks to the Corps for more than a career. He looks for
guidance and discipline as he makes his way across the parade deck in front of his proud parents.
Although Noel and his brother do not talk about the incident, he admits he thinks about the day often and
wonders what would have happened had he lost his life.
When asked about the decision to take a round for his brother, Noel replied instantly, "It's not a choice you make. He's my family."
Now that he has been given a second chance at life, Noel has used it to join a much larger family in the Marine Corps.