By Sgt. Amaia Unanue, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit
CAMP HANSEN, OKINAWA, JAPAN --
Every morning for a week, at the break of dawn, a 19-year-old would start his 10-mile journey through memories of a past life and toward a new future. He walked past his previous home in Warner Robins, Georgia, remembering the flood that stole it all away leaving him and his mom homeless and forcing them to sell their possessions to afford a new apartment.
After about three hours he’d arrive at a mall set on joining the U.S. military to financially support his mother, Connie Norrington. After considering the Air Force, Navy and Army, a Marine Corps recruiter introduced him to a brotherhood which he would later devote his life to.
His devotion to supporting his mother, losing everything he owned to a flood and realizing there is nowhere to go but up, is what molded Sgt. Garnet N. West into the compassionate and optimistic Marine he is today, said West.
“At that point, I realized I could do two things— let it affect me for the rest of my life and accept pity from everyone or use it as motivation and never forget that feeling of ultimate adversity,” said West. “[Before the flood] I never saw my little, country-self leaving Georgia. I thought I was going to stay working at Best Buy my whole life.”
Now a platoon sergeant with maintenance platoon, Combat Logistics Battalion 31, West deploys semi-annually with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit for routine patrols of the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.
As a platoon sergeant, West is responsible for managing the Marines’ training on a daily basis and caring for them. A Marine Corps’ sergeant’s job requires them to implement their leader’s orders and policies and to look out for each Marine’s welfare so everyone can successfully do their part in a mission.
West believes all Marines fight their own inner battles but they don’t always talk about it. All it takes is for someone to show they care to possibly save a life, said West.
“[A Marine] was going through some rough times in the field, and I decided to talk to him,” said West. “When I talked to him, we’d both be smiling and I felt like I was keeping him lively. One day we had a conversation where I told him, ‘If you ever need to talk again I’m here for you, man.’”
When the Marine was about to get promoted to the rank of lance corporal, he contacted West and asked him to be a part of the ceremony by pinning the rank onto his collar. He told West the talks they had in the field changed his life.
“I knew right then and there that’s why I wanted to stay in,” said West. “It was the best feeling I’ve ever had while serving. I wanted to help as many people as I could before I got out as a sergeant major.”
A previous first sergeant of West, now Sgt. Maj. Joshua J. Smith, said he believes West has a long and prosperous career ahead of him.
“He will undoubtedly be successful wherever he lands,” said Smith. “Sgt. West is, hands down, one of the best and brightest Marines in our ranks today. He is a skilled professional, proven combat leader and he genuinely cares for his brother and sister Marines.”
West said wanting to join the Marine Corps to help his mom carried over to wanting to help his fellow Marines. Though his mom died in the early months of 2017, West never let it show. Instead, he carried on smiling, thinking only about the wellbeing of the Marines around him. He said he never forgot why he joined and that has driven him, and will continue to drive him, throughout his career.