American Forces Press Service
PATROL BASE DETROIT, Afghanistan, Sept. 13, 2012 – Lance Cpl. Ethan Payne, a machine gunner here with Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 1st Marines, Regimental Combat Team 6, realized the Marine Corps offered an opportunity to build his own story.
When the Louisa, Va., native finished high school, he began to feel the urge to do something more with his life. He had recently quit sports for work and like other young adults, he wanted to make his own name.
“I felt like I hadn’t done [anything] special,” Payne said. “I just wanted to do something different than what my friends and family had done.”
The Marines meant more than a paycheck, Payne said. It meant building his own legacy apart from his family and twin brother, Elijah.
“Growing up, [my brother and I] played every sport imaginable together,” Payne said. “[Joining] was my way of doing my own thing while making my family and friends proud of me.” Payne played a variety of sports, including football and basketball, and found his brother a constant rival.
“I’d say my whole family is competitive,” he said. “My brother and I are the most competitive, though.”
Payne uses that same competitive nature while serving in the Marine Corps. “Any time we play sports or anything, Payne really wants to win,” said Marine Corps Sgt. Jason Lomeli, Payne’s squad leader. “You can tell he’s never going to give up.”
Payne said his competitiveness also drives him to be a better Marine. “There are a lot of guys that are better than me, and I want to be better than them. That’s why I push myself.”
Lomeli said he has seen the benefits of Payne pushing himself firsthand. “I never have to tell him to clean his weapon or to work out,” Lomeli said. “He’s a hard worker. He never gives up, and he’s never given me any problems. He’s just a good Marine.”
Payne got his chance to do something his friends and family had not done when his unit deployed to Afghanistan in June. His platoon is working in Trek Nawa, a known insurgent stronghold between the Nawa and Marjah districts in Helmand province.
Although his family worries about him, he said, he does what he can to alleviate their stress. “I make sure to call my family and brother every chance I get,” Payne said. “It’s for their sake, to let them know I’m good and everyone here is doing fine.”
Payne said he will return home with a new chapter in his legacy. “I’m really proud to be with the guys I work with,” he said. “What we’ve done out here has been pretty great, and I’ll never forget my time in Afghanistan.”