Two years ago, Daniel Carpenter tried something he and his family had never imagined a member of their family doing: He enlisted in the Marine Corps.
"In West Bloomfield, the idea of the military is so rare — our kids go to college or work," said his mother, Kay Carpenter, a teacher of the Project SEARCH program in the West Bloomfield School District. "For him to go into service, it’s different from the typical path. We expected our boys to take the college path."
Daniel, 21, returned to the United States at Camp Lejeune, NC on Jan. 13 after serving in Afghanistan since last June and came home with a sense of pride and peace.
"It's definitely a feeling of pride, being back," Daniel said. "Everyone in my church community has been extremely open, and being among them has made everything feel wonderful.
"As far as culture shock is concerned, it's kind of funny to think that I used to be around Marines all the time and here, I'm the only Marine around for miles," he said. "It's nice to not have to feel totally alert all the time."
Kay said that she and her husband, Mark Carpenter, Daniel's father, echoed Daniel's feeling of pride. "More than anything, we realize he can make some good decisions, and we trust it, more so than if he hadn’t," she said. "It’s definitely a relief that he’s home and he’s in one piece."
West Bloomfield High School Laker turned Marine
Most don't leave Musa Qala in central western Afghanistan at night without fear of being kidnapped or killed by the Taliban. The desolate, lawless town in the valley of the Musa Qala River was where Daniel worked as a ground sensor operator with three other men in his battalion to provide remote sensor surveillance.
"With what we were doing, we were able to keep a few Marines in a very large, rural space," Daniel said. "We monitor space that we can’t put physical eyes on within our battle space to keep an idea of who’s moving around and when they were doing it."
Daniel joined boot camp after three semesters at Oakland Community College; he decided to enlist after he met a recruiter on campus. It was quite a change from what he's used to, but he was thrilled to do it.
"You're confined to everything Marine Corps. You don't really have a sense of culture or current events or the world around you, so it was quite a culture shock, but you settle in quickly," Daniel said. "I'm really proud of the work we did out there.
"You grow up real fast, and you learn to work together as well as live by yourself. You have to learn to take care of yourself and handle your own business."
Since returning home Jan. 30, Daniel has become reacquainted, amid much fanfare, with his church, , which he's attended since he moved to West Bloomfield at age 4. He watched the Super Bowl at church in the company of veterans and grew to appreciate their stories.
"The pastor there asked to stand up and he did, to applause. Later, we had a reception there, and the veterans all exchanged stories. It's an instant bond between military men and women," Kay said.
The 2008 graduate returns to base Monday, where he will learn his future. That may include another deployment to Afghanistan, but Daniel said he may volunteer for that anyway. In the meantime, he is visiting his grandmother in Ohio and will visit friends in Maryland over the weekend.
"The pleasure of being back with friends and family, it outweighs the stretch of the readjustment. We all love what we do (in the Marines). I got real close with some great Marines, but it’s been great to be back," Daniel said.