When Marine Pfc. Nathaniel Laprade went through boot camp, he showed that he could conquer obstacles that towered above him.
Even though he is 4 feet, 7 inches tall, Laprade said that obstacle courses were not a major challenge for him, according to a Marine Corps news story.
“It just meant I needed to push myself to jump a little higher,” said Laprade, who graduated from Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina on Sept. 1.
Laprade’s ability to scale obstacles taller than him so impressed his drill instructors that they used him as an example to motivate his fellow recruits, the Marine Corps news story says.
The toughest part of recruit training for Laprade was the long hikes, especially because he was selected to be the Lead Series guide, who is at the front of formations for hikes and runs.
Making matters even more difficult, Laprade had to stay apace with his platoon’s guide, who is tall and has a long stride.
“Little legs with a little body weight, a lot of weight in the pack, and a lot of miles in the hikes,” Laprade said.
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Now that he’s earned his Eagle, Globe, and Anchor, Laprade is awaiting the start of the next phase of his training at Camp Geiger, North Carolina, as a logistics Marine.
“I was always afraid of failing but I got through it,” said Laprade of his experience at Parris Island. “You are only afraid until it happens, when it starts you just have to focus on getting through it, and losing the fear and when you finish you’ll look back and know you got through it.”
While he was growing up, Laprade wanted to join the Air Force, but over time he gravitated towards the Marine Corps, which had a focus on precision that he felt the other military branches lacked. He joined his high school’s Army Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program, or JROTC, and he was eventually promoted to battalion executive officer for his school.
The discipline, drill, uniforms, and other aspects of military life appealed to Laprade, who found a mentor in retired Army 1st Sgt. Thomas Gent, his high school’s JROTC program instructor.
Laprade was particularly impressed when a Marine recruiter visited his high school.
“One day in the cafeteria there was a Marine recruiter standing there and his uniform was perfect, no flaws no nothing,” Laprade said. “You just felt something, stood there, strong and disciplined, a solid statue of determination of honor, courage, and commitment.”
The two had a long discussion, and Laprade found out he was too young to enlist in the Marines at the time. But when Laprade neared graduating high school the following year, he was one of the first students whom the recruiter contacted.
From that point on, Laprade was “solidly devoted to the Marine Corps.”
While he was going through the enlistment process, Laprade was inspired by stories about famed Green Beret Capt. Richard Flaherty, known as the “Giant Killer,” who was awarded the Silver Star, two Bronze Stars, and two Purple Hearts for his heroism during the Vietnam War.
Laprade said he was determined to top Flaherty.
“The main part that inspired me was that he was Army and 4 foot 9 inches,” Laprade said. “If I go Marines when I’m 4 foot 7 inches, I will beat him in two ways.”
UPDATE: 09/07/2023; this story was updated to include that Pfc. Nathaniel Laprade will train to become a logistics Marine.
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