Marine Seeks Next Generation Marines In Hometown
by U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Tojyea G. Matally
October 11, 2022
In a profession where one is required to answer the call to any mission, withstanding climate and location, one would expect to undertake such a demand in the far-reaches of the Earth. Such tends to be the case for most United States Marines.
However, U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Brandon Ashby's current call to action ... leaves little to be said for the physical ... but more for the persuasive.
U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Brandon Ashby, a recruiter with Marine Recruiting Sub-Station Syracuse, in front of his recruiting tent at the annual New York State Fair in Syracuse, New York on Aug. 29, 2022. The yearly festival welcomes people from all over the state to experience the numerous animal exhibits, commercial attractions, festival rides, food and entertainment. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Image created by USA Patriotism! from Sgt. Tojyea G. Matally.)
Ashby, a staff non-commissioned officer with Recruiting Sub-Station Syracuse associated with Recruiting Station Albany, New York, is currently assigned as a recruiter in his blue collar hometown of Syracuse, New York.
While assisting with the annual New York State Fair, the burly, brown-haired, Oswego-born family man, reminisced on what it was like growing up there.
“It’s kind of a beast of itself because it’s almost a melting pot [Northern, Western, Southern, New York City],” said Ashby. “I think it takes the best out of all those areas and because of how harsh the winter is and how drastically summer turns to fall—you definitely have to be hard. You’re definitely not looking down upon anybody in any service industry. Whether it’s your nurse, police officer—whether it’s the guy bussing your table—you know they’re busting their hump just as much as anyone working in a factory.”
After coming this far in his military career, one would be hard-pressed to find such a fitting role for Ashby through anything but chance. In his younger years, he would walk past the bright, glowing, neon “Marines” sign placed in front of his local military recruiting office hundreds of times. Seeing proud figures in dress blues was a familiar sight in his hometown.
Once he finally decided to take the initial step and enlist, at that point in his life he was already a third-year student at Oswego State University majoring in biology, playing collegiate rugby for the school and undertaking a mixed martial arts career. The potential benefits of the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill to help boost his secondary education, the opportunity to utilize his martial arts background as a Marine Corps Martial Arts Program Instructor and the rare opportunity to play professional rugby for the Marine Corps were enough to depart from the stomping grounds he knew so well.
After traveling the globe for a decade witnessing different units, cultures, countries, and people, the opportunity to bring all that experience back to Central New York is something not taken lightly by the staff sergeant.
“One word: humbled," Ashby said. "The humbling knowledge that I don’t think anybody in Central New York who doesn’t take that leap of faith and join the military will ever get to experience. I’m just humbled to be back here and my real thought process behind all of it—no matter how late the hours, I’m helping people. I’m giving people the opportunity to change their lives. We’re out here changing lives.”
In order to impact local lives, fellow Syracuse native U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Patrick Crosley, a marketing and communication Marine with Recruiting Station Albany, assists Ashby in his recruiting efforts. As he supports a potential applicant on the pull-up bar, he provides insight on what it means to help in his hometown as a Marine.
“Working in the area where I grew up is a surreal feeling," Crosley said. "Getting to go back into my community and offer kids the same opportunities that the Marine Corps has given me has been a great experience so far.”
For someone with strong ties to the community such as Ashby, collaborating with the local high school wrestling team to be sponsored by the Marines, being a presence in his high school alma mater, reconnecting with families’ local businesses, or facing familiar others while being the face of the Marine Corps gives him a sense of pride and comfort that grow with each applicant he enlists.
U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Brandon Ashby, a recruiter with Marine Recruiting Sub-Station Syracuse, speaks with attendees at the annual New York State Fair in Syracuse, New York on Aug. 29, 2022. The yearly festival welcomes people from all over the state to experience the numerous animal exhibits, commercial attractions, festival rides, food and entertainment. (Image created by USA Patriotism! from U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Tojyea G. Matally.)
Seeing his face beaming as he talks to a past educator from his younger years, puts these sentiments on grand display. As the state fair proceeds, the countless conversations with the attendees he’s shared his hometown with are both amicable and positive about joining the force that changed his life.
Consequently, when reflecting on an alternate universe in which he might never have taken those initial steps into a recruiter’s office, he reveals a straightforward reality.
“I was bouncing [as a doorman at a bar], teaching kids classes in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, taking low promotion fights, traveling out of state sometimes for them, and not getting paid anything but promotional items like a mouthpiece," Ashby said. "I’d most likely be miserable. [If I never joined] I’d be on the struggle bus and I’d be riding it hard.”
For the staff sergeant and those following his lead, the meaningful relationships built throughout the town to have an impactful position is anything but a struggle. As he starts breaking down the RSS Syracuse Marine recruiting tent for the day to return home, the only thing on his mind is his wife’s signature penne shrimp alfredo waiting for him and how to make another potential hometown hero follow that call to action the next day.
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