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Unusual recruits

"Unusual recruits" Continued...

Issue: "Faith-based about-face," Aug. 27, 2005

Houston homeschool graduate Asher Strassner feels the same way. In February he enlisted in the Navy as a hospital corpsman and signed up for Fleet Marine Forces (FMF) training, a school he hopes will land him a job as a combat medic in Iraq.

"When other people ask me how scared I am, I tell them not at all," he said. "That might seem like the typical teen who thinks he's invincible. But if it's my time to die, I will, whether it's in Iraq or crossing the street. . . . If God wants me to live only 18 or 19 years-or to be 100-it's up to Him."

Asher told WORLD his job is to glorify God, not himself. He seems to have been busy about that task, chalking up high grades and high scores on college aptitude tests. In June, he earned the Congressional Award, an honor Congress established in 1979 to recognize initiative, achievement, and service in young people.

To win it, Asher completed a two-year program: He volunteered for 450 hours in a Houston hospital, learned horticulture and landscaping, became a top-ranked junior golfer, and organized a camping expedition that followed the Texas Independence Trail.

Not exactly your Maher-style military down-and-outer. So Asher surprised even himself when he decided to join the Navy. "Weeks before I enlisted, I never would have considered the military," he said. "My friends were surprised . . . but I didn't think I was ready for college. I thought if I went to college in the fall, I'd end up goofing off and getting bad grades."

Bound for boot camp this month, then corpsman and FMF training, Asher could touch down in Iraq late next year. He's hoping that's where he winds up.

"I have a friend in the Army who just got back and he's always telling us that the negative stuff we hear in the media [about American progress in Iraq] is 99 percent made up," Asher said. "He tells about all the Iraqis who love the Americans. . . . I think that's very interesting. I'd like to see that myself."

Ross Williams would like to see it, too, which is why the Princeton senior chose the Marine Corps, a ground force, instead of a more high-tech but remote branch like the Air Force or the Navy. "It's more personal. You interact more with the culture you're protecting," Ross said. "I didn't want to go into the service looking for a spot where I'd feel more comfortable. I wanted to choose the spot I'll get most out of."

If his resumé is any indication, Ross, 21, will give as much as he gets. At his high school in Oyster Bay, N.Y.-a small town he describes as "close enough to New York City that you could smell September 11"-he served as student body president and graduated third in his class with a 4.0 GPA. He also earned all-state honors in vocal competition and made the all-county team as a long-distance runner.

Now a Princeton political science major who rows for his school's nationally ranked crew team, Ross had originally been accepted to West Point. "But I was told by a couple of cadets that if I wanted any sort of academic college life, I should go to a different school."

After completing his degree next spring, Ross plans to attend a 10-week officer training course in Quantico, Va., then accept a Marine Corps commission. His grandfather served as a Marine during World War II, and Ross said he also feels a call to serve his country, to do "something I'd enjoy looking back on, something I could be proud that I'd done."

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