Teen soldier follows in granddad’s bootsteps

Posted June 08, 2009, at 8:51 p.m.

BELMONT, Maine — More than a half-century after her grandfather completed basic training, U.S. Marine Corps Pvt. Ashley Yeaton completed her training at the same camp.

Roland Yeaton finished his basic on Jan. 5, 1945. His granddaughter graduated last Friday, 55 years later.

“I’m proud of her, we’re all proud of her,” Roland Yeaton said Monday. “It’s hard to believe. For a girl to go through that, my God. She would write home and it turned out she was doing the same things we used to do.”

Those things amounted to a lot of marching, running obstacle courses and rugged Marine training in the woods of Parris Island, S.C. Along the way, Pvt. Yeaton became a marksman with an M-16 rifle.

“You had to carry the M-16 all the time,” she said. “You get real close to it and you lock it to your rack at night. They had us name them, and I named mine Anthony.”

The 18-year-old Marine is home on a 10-day leave this week and will return to Camp Lejeune, N.C., where she will begin training in legal administration. She expects to work as a paralegal.

Yeaton’s grandfather was a Marine corporal aboard the USS Intrepid from July 1945 to December 1946. He served in the Pacific and ended up in Yokosuka, Japan, during the postwar occupation. He stood guard and manned anti-aircraft weapons while aboard ship. He was asked to continue in the Marines as a ceremonial guard in Washington, D.C., but declined and returned to Maine.

Ashley Yeaton was home-schooled in Belmont and attended high school at Lighthouse Christian Academy in Brooks. She said she considered joining the Army National Guard but changed her mind when she started looking into the Marines.

“They’re the best service,” she said as her grandfather nodded in agreement.

Yeaton lived and trained with female recruits, and their drill instructors were also women. The women did certain aspects of training on the same track as their male counterparts but for the most part trained alone. The end-of-training “crucible” was conducted jointly by the men and the women.

The recruits were given three meals ready to eat during the 54-hour crucible and were allowed only seven hours of sleep. The recruits hiked 12 miles each day and camped in the woods. They also took a five-mile hike by night.

“It was all about teamwork. They try to see if you can work as a team,” she said.

Yeaton said she got homesick near the end of training but never wavered in her commitment to the Marines. Her faith and letters from home helped her endure the rain, heat, bugs and exhaustion.

“When I was in [the Marines], some of the boys didn’t get letters at mail call, so I knew we had to send her letters,” her grandfather said. “We tried to send her a letter every week.”

wgriffin@bangordailynews.net

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BANGOR DAILY NEWS PHOTO BY WALTER GRIFFIN

U.S. Marine Corps Pvt. Ashley Yeaton visits with her grandfather Roland Yeaton, a Marine veteran, at his Belmont home Monday. Ashley Yeaton graduated from basic training at Parris Island, S.C., on Friday. Her grandfather had basic training at the same camp 55 years ago.

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