“I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic…”
On December 9th, 2018, 18-year-old Senior Matthew Chester swore an oath vowing to serve in the United States Marine Corps in front of the whole school.
This was the second time Matt swore in.
The first time was over the summer of 2018 with the other Marine recruits.
Watching seniors sign to play college sports here is pretty common. The school will host senior signings several times throughout the year and invite students to come and witness it.
This was different; His ship-out date is June 1, 2019. This is just the beginning of his journey as what he hopes is his career as a Navy Seal team member.
Matt was a bit nervous swearing in before the student body with Staff Sergeant Gary Elmore, considering Grace Prep is a college-prep school and he was choosing a different path; he was afraid others might judge him.
“To see the crowd roar like they did… I was wrong,” Matt said, “they really supported me. “It’s one of those moments in life where something really big happens, and you can’t explain it… it’s that good.”
Students and Faculty alike watched as Matt promised to serve our country. Students seemed to be in awe, all swelling with pride. Matt’s parents and younger brother witnessed the ceremony as well.
“When I saw him go up there with the other officer and say those words… it was powerful,” said Sophomore Sam Chester, Matt’s brother. “I feel really proud of him.”
Family support is important to Matt.
“I am proud of him, and I know he’ll do well,” said Tina Chester, Matt’s mom.
For the past few years, Matt has wanted to join the Marines, and now, his time has come. Over the summer, he had to take and pass multiple physical and written exams to swear into the training program. In June of 2018, he completed the initial phase and had the privilege of taking this oath alongside 50 other young recruits in his department.
Now, why the Marines? Well, Matt has always been one to accept a challenge and face it head-on through to completion.
Sam described Matt as the “type of person to run up a hill with a machine gun yelling.”
Matt is clearly the type of person who is willing to take action as he sees fit.
“People may call me headstrong, or a little bit stubborn, but you need a little bit of that to get where you want to go.”
Although Matt was born in Russia, and was adopted by the Chesters when he was 5-years-old, he is very patriotic and has a heart for the American troops. He firmly believes in their importance and wants to be part of the cause.
“Being born in Russia presented a lot of challenges,” Matt opens up. “When I was growing up I got bullied because I was Russian. I see the Marines as a way to owe it to myself and prove those kids wrong.”
Matt is ready to fight for the place he calls home.
“He was made to be in the Military,” Mrs. Chester said. “Even as a little kid, playing with the little army men, and I can see how God was preparing him for this.”
Matt wants to contribute to the cause for freedom. He is ready to take on the fight.
“I’m passionate for it, without them [military] we wouldn’t be able to talk about the Bible out in the streets [in some countries]. I want to be one of the people that provide that for others,” he said.
Matt has already begun to face some challenges in training. Of the 50 young adults whom he swore in with, only about 30 remain. Training is tough, but Matt is determined to push through.
“There is this mental struggle, but I can’t stop,” said Matt, determined look in his eye. “You get tired, and you want to stop, but as a Marine, you can’t stop.”
Matt knows how bad he wants to be a Marine, and that helps him to get through the tough parts.
Every month, the recruits have a test called an IST (Initial Strength Test). To prepare, he works out a lot. Matt says that he does push-ups first thing in the morning, and right before he goes to bed. He recently got a pull-up bar in his room and now tries to do pull-ups whenever he can.
“The sports here at Grace provide a lot of conditioning, so that definitely feeds into my training.”
Football and Track Coach Chad Pegues has been a part of Matt’s training the last two years.
“He is an extremely talented athlete,” said Coach Pegues. “I’ve been here 11 years, and he’s one of a kind. He has been really determined to do whatever it takes to go into the Marines.”
He stays late at practice a few times a week to get even more done, and it shows in his IST performance. His recruitment officer explains that Matt is on schedule in his IST’s.
“Athletically he is doing really great, he is actually ahead of a lot of his peers down at the station,” said Gunnery Sergeant Donald Douglas. “He is one of the fastest runners and he is doing more pull ups than 90% of the kids down there.” In addition to workouts, Matt has to watch what he eats.
“The Marines, they’ve got a weight limit. If you’re above it, you can’t join,” Matt explains.
Now, the difficulties in training are no match for the obvious concerns that come with going into the military in general.
“It’s hard for a Momma’s heart, to realize that your son is going to be in harm’s way,” said Mrs. Chester. “But over time, I’ve realized that it’s not my will, but God’s will. And if that [the military] is God’s will for his life, then I support him. All I want for my kids is for them to do God’s will.”
Of course, everyone has their worries about this experience, but for Matt, it’s the uncertainty that is most unsettling.
“Once I get out of training, who knows, we may go to war; we may not. That in of itself can be a little nerve-racking. I might go to Iraq, or Japan, I could go anywhere,” he admits.
As for Sam, he is pretty confident in his brother and has faith that it’ll all be okay.
“There will be obstacles, but I trust him, I believe in him. I believe that with the right training, he is going to get through it.”
Sam said that if he were to ever go into the military, he would go into the Air Force.
“I do want to poke him a little bit and go into the Air Force,” Sam says laughing.
It is well known that the different branches of the military have friendly rivalries between them, but Matt tells us that the most prominent is the Marines and Air Force.
Not willing to let his brother get off easy with that jab, Matt explains, “The Marines are first in/first out. The Air Force come in and clean up. From the Marine Corps point of view, they are behind the chair. They’re the ‘Chair Force’.”
Of course, all five branches have tons of respect for one another; it takes each one to protect the United States. The military is not a one-man, nor one-branch, job.
“We all have a lot of respect for each other. It’s like a clock if your missing one gear, it doesn’t work, you need every piece for the clock to work.”
Matthew’s ship-out date is June 1, 2019. He will be in San Diego for Basic Training for 13 weeks. He then gets to come back home for ten short days before heading back for another month for Marine Combat Training. After he graduates from Marine Combat Training, he will be taken immediately to Biloxi, Mississippi where he will learn how to be a Combat Engineer.
“After that, I come back to Fort Worth, and I am given my assignments.”
In Fort Worth, he will find out what base he will be at and when he has to be there, and who his commanding officer is. Matt plans to make the military his career and has big plans for the future.
“I would like to transfer over to Infantry and become a Scout Sniper. Follow the steps of Chris Kyle. I always thought American Sniper was a great movie,” Matt explains.
Matt would like to rise in the ranks and become a Tier One Operator and be part of the Raider team, a special ops in the Marine Corps. Then, he would like to transfer to the Navy Seal units and go through BUD/S.
Transferring between branches is called an “Inter-Service Transfer” and is difficult. To transfer, one must complete their enlistment contract, then fill out the Request for Conditional Release form. If the request is approved, then they would have to go to a recruiter and join the new branch. At that point, since they have already served, they would be considered a “prior-service recruit.”
“If I make it through that, I will become a Seal and hopefully become Seal Team Six Scout Sniper,” he says with a gleam of pride.
Matthew’s advice for anyone else joining the Military, “Keep your head strong. Keep persevering. You’ll be stronger at the end of the tunnel.”
“…that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.”