Robert James, Jr., who prefers to go by the name Robbie, recalls hearing the stories that his grandfathers shared of their fathers who served in World War I. His grandfathers felt the need to serve, so they fought during World War II. Robbie’s entire family has deep roots in all branches of the military, from the earlier conflicts of America all the way through Vietnam. However, no one ever served in the Marines. That’s where Robbie comes in.
At the age of 17, while still in high school, Robbie enlisted in the U.S. Marines through the delayed entry program. Just four days after graduating from high school, he entered the Active Duty Marine Corps. Boot Camp went by fast, and before Robbie knew it, his training at MCRD Parris Island, South Carolina, was over. On September 4th, 1996, Robbie officially became a United States Marine.
Robbie spent most of his Marine career in Okinawa, Japan, as a member of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit – Special Operations Capable (31st MEU – SOC). After two-and-a-half years, Robbie returned stateside to finish out his military career… or so he thought. Robbie left active duty in 2000 and pursued a civilian career as an EMT. By May of 2001, Robbie realized that he missed life in the military. He decided to reenlist, but not with the Marines. This time, he enlisted as a Forward Observer in the North Carolina Army National Guard.
The events that took place on September 11, 2001, caused Robbie’s job in the National Guard to change drastically. Everyone in his unit anticipated going to Afghanistan, but they all ended up going to Iraq instead to serve in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Robbie served as a Specialist until it was his turn to rotate out in 2005. During his time in the Army, Robbie told us, “There were a few bumps in the road along the way… ambushes, IED explosions, mortar attacks… but we made it out alive.”
Although Robbie made it out of the military alive, he has suffered along the way. On a day-to-day basis, Robbie deals with hearing loss, problems with large crowds, and Post-Traumatic Stress.
Robbie and his family will be living in a house in Denver, North Carolina, through our Veterans Home Ownership Program. When asked what this intervention from Purple Heart Homes means to Robbie, he swells with gratitude. “This doesn’t seem real. It’s unbelievable. This gives us 15 years of our lives back. I don’t have to struggle so much to take care of my family anymore.”
Thank you, Robbie, for serving our country not only once, but twice. Your dedication to our national protection means everything to us. We welcome you and your family to our Purple Heart Homes family!