ZEELAND, Mich. (WOOD) — Eighteen-year-old Erik Boeve has known he wanted to be a Marine since his freshman year of high school.
His older brother enlisted in 2008 and served overseas in Afghanistan.
“He kind of ingrained in me the military,” Boeve said.
Boeve was able to expedite the process by graduating months early from Zeeland West High School. He finished up in March and then it was off to Parris Island in South Carolina for a grueling three months of boot camp.
“I tell you what, the first couple of days there I was like, ‘Man, is this really for me?'” he told 24 Hour News 8 Monday.
But Boeve quickly embraced the process and was even appointed the guide of his platoon.
“The hardest part was being able to maintain leadership,” he said. “Because everyone can be a leader at some point, but maintaining that for the whole three months was difficult.”
But he did maintain it, leading dozens of fellow recruits all the way to graduation day Friday, when he was promoted to private first class.
Boeve’s family was there to capture the moment as he was recognized as the honor graduate of his platoon. Boeve’s mom said the local U.S. Marine Corps recruiter told her this is the first time someone from the Holland area has achieved that honor.
“Just blown away. Like I said, he’s always been a leader,” Boeve’s mother Helen Boeve said. “He wants to serve our country. He wants to protect our freedoms.”
Another top honor at Friday’s graduation went to a fellow recruit from Zeeland. Hunter Zwiers was recognized as the company high shooter for his marksmanship, scoring 338 out of 350 points.
The new Marines are now back home, spending time with family and friends. Erik Boeve has a 10-day break before he flies out to North Carolina for more training. Eventually, he’ll be stationed, though he doesn’t yet know where.
Regardless of where he’s sent, he welcomes the challenges that lie ahead. He wants to be deployed as soon as possible.
“When I walk around now, (people) notice the haircut and they notice the tags and they notice how I talk, and they already know I’m military. They say, ‘Thank you for your service.’ And I sit there and I think, ‘Well, don’t thank me yet,'” Boeve said.
“To me, it’ll feel real when I finally contribute to the nation,” he continued. “Hopefully I get deployed rather soon after I get shipped off to the fleet, so I can actually feel better when people say, ‘Thank you.'”
Nearly 350 recruits became Marines at the Friday graduation ceremony.