When Paul Hasenfus first stepped onto the yellow footprints at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, he had already prepared his body and mind to weather the challenges of Recruit Training. What he wasn’t ready for was an obstacle that he never saw coming; one that would change his life forever.
Hasenfus grew up in Plymouth, Mass. and attended Plymouth South High School. He played multiple sports including football, wrestling and lacrosse. His mother Patricia was always there to support him, Hasenfus said.
“She would always be there to pump everyone up; if we were down by 15 she would still yell at the other team,” said Hasenfus. “My mom would come to all the games or matches she could, and just scream her head off.”
Hasenfus said his mother raised all her kids to be strong and to never give up. She didn’t let them make excuses; if they wanted to do something she would make sure they did.
“I wanted to stop playing lacrosse and my mother wouldn’t let me,” said Hasenfus. “She knew I put so much time into it and all that time would mean nothing if I quit.”
During his senior year he made a decision to enlist in the U.S. Marine Corps. Hasenfus said it was no surprise, it’s what he has always wanted to do.
RSS Plymouth Staff Non-Commissioned Officer-in-Charge, Staff Sgt. Justin Rheaume said Hasenfus was meant to become a Marine.
“Hasenfus played sports year-round,” said Rheaume. “When he came to our workouts, he was always lifting people up and motivating them.”
When Hasenfus was preparing to leave for Parris Island, he was already dreaming about earning the title.
“I would always imagine me coming home and surprising everyone,” said Hasenfus. “I just imagined doing my dream job and being able to make my family proud.”
When he got to recruit training he picked up with Alpha Company, 1st Recruit Training Battalion. Six days later, he was told that his mother had passed away on July 28.
“I was pulled aside by my drill instructors and they told me what happened,” said Hasenfus. “It was just shock, I couldn’t move. I never thought that would happen to me, never thought it would happen to my mother.”
Hasenfus returned home to spend time with his family and come to grips with losing his mother. He had to decide if he was going to return to Parris Island to achieve his dream of becoming a Marine.
“All the other recruits were saying ‘It’s okay if you don’t come back, it’s a hard thing to go through,’” Hasenfus said. “But I knew I could do it because that’s how she raised me, and I wanted to make it for her.”
When Hasenfus returned to Parris Island he was sent back to training with India Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion. His senior drill instructor was Staff Sgt. John Loving.
“When we picked him up he was definitely down about what happened to him,” Said Loving. “But he kept pushing and became a squad leader and just tried every day to better himself.”
Hasenfus graduated Nov. 1, 2019. 18 of his family and friends came to his graduation.
“The last thing my mom knew was that I’m going to be a Marine,” said Hasenfus. “When I got my [Eagle, Globe and Anchor], I just looked up at the sky and said, ‘Mama, I did it.’”
Story by Lance Cpl. Ryan Hageali Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island