Marine Corps was needed step for Lewis

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 11, 2009

When 18-year-old Ben Lewis was looking to life after high school, he knew he needed a challenge.

It wasn’t time for college, and Lewis needed a plan that would consume his life.

The U.S. Marine Corps became Lewis’ next step.

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Lewis, 27, served in the Marines from 2000 to 2004, which included a six-month stay in Iraq from January to June 2003.

“That was definitely the most interesting six months of the entire four years,” Lewis said. “We probably should have been a lot more nervous than we were.”

While he was in Iraq, Lewis was a motor transport mechanic that drove Humvees as a part of a security platoon.

“Our job was to escort convoys and provide security for them in the event of an attack.”

One of the most exciting things he’s ever witnessed, Lewis said, was the destruction of one of those Humvees at the hands of the Marines.

“We got to blow one up that broke down on the convoy,” Lewis said. “There was no shop or anything out there that could fix it, and you don’t want to just abandon it so the technology can fall in the hands of the enemy, so the best thing to do is just destroy it.

“We drained the oil out and blew it up. We left it there for dead I guess you can say.”

For Lewis, a 2000 graduate of Adams County Christian School, joining the Marines was a way of challenging himself to get the very best out of life.

“I wasn’t really ready for college at age 18,” Lewis said. “I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I was interested in the military because I had both an uncle and a grandfather in the Navy, and another grandfather in the Army that served under General (George S.) Patton in World War II.”

Lewis said he heard stories from his Navy grandfather about the camaraderie between people in the armed forces, and how his grandfather had kept up with them until he passed away. The camaraderie was something that Lewis said he experienced first hand during his tour of duty.

“I made some good friends I still keep in touch with,” Lewis said.

The Marine Corps was exactly what Lewis needed, he now says.

“When I joined, I wanted to do something where I could go ‘all in,’” Lewis said. “There’s definitely a sense of accomplishment to doing it, especially after getting through boot camp.”

In addition to Iraq, Lewis also spent time in California and North Carolina. When his tour ended, he remained in North Carolina for a while before returning to Natchez to attend Copiah-Lincoln Community College.

“I’m a construction engineering major,” Lewis said. “I chose that major because it’s something you can do anywhere, because there’s always construction going on everywhere. I’d like to build houses. (Doing that is something where) you can see the benefit of your work.”

When he’s not taking classes, Lewis is either painting someone’s house or doing various other odd jobs for people’s homes. He’s also a singer for the local band Minus 300.

“I used to sing in high school, and I sang with a band called Ninth in Line while I was in North Carolina.

“When I got back to Natchez, I started playing with In Red Letters, but then that band split, and me and the guitarist from that band helped form Minus 300.”