Veteran Spotlight: Marine Cpl. Pete Belmonte
Peter Belmonte served his country in the Marine Corps from 1989 to 1994. A mere 10 days after his graduation, he was standing on Parris Island.
"It was a real shock. Everyone arrives in the dark. In basic, you're there for one week and your drill instructors are still in school so you don't get the full brunt. But they make up for it," he recalled.
Belmonte, a corporal, did however, remember one of his drill instructors that was the real deal.
"His name was Tyronza Conard ... the epitome of what a Marine should be. He caught me looking at him one day and said, 'get your eyeballs off me!' Then came up to me and leaned in and said, 'You're not going to be one of my problems are you?'" Belmonte smiled.
He continued, "The first day they call Mount Suribachi. They throw all your stuff into the middle of the room, then you have to climb it."
After graduating basic training of 13 weeks, he went on to Marine Combat Training to become an infantryman and eight weeks of Infantry School. Belmonte was then sent to Security Forces School ( A "dismal swamp" as he remembered it) where he studied small arms and learned close quarters battle. He was stationed on the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower for a year and a half, where many of his duties and responsibilities were top secret.
When asked about the holidays and being away from home, Belmonte laughed and said, "you work. We had 65 Marines on ship. We worked."
After his duty on the Ike, he was assigned to a Marine Corps Security Forces Battalion in Norfolk, Va., where he was involved in numerous security related missions, including some that were high level. He described the base in Norfolk as "enormous. Just like a city."
I asked Belmonte if he had a mentor and he came back with an extremely poignant insight.
"All Marines have a mentor. It's usually the rank in front of you. You also need to know the Marine behind you. Every Marine is taught to be a leader of sorts ... think about the battlefield, attrition ... a Marine is taught to push forward, always strategic movement," he said.
After breaking his leg, Belmonte was put into an administrative position. "In 1994, I was trying to extend my time as I wanted to make the Marines a career but got an honorable medical discharge, and was awarded the Good Conduct Medal. It was a giant letdown not to be able to make it a career. I wanted to be a helicopter pilot and go to school. Downsizing the military killed my career," he recalled.
His thoughts on service brought out his true passion on being a Marine.
"It's an emotional tie to something. One of the most glorifying things I think I've done in my life. You're not part of a team, you're part of a brotherhood. You get what you put in. It's a necessity, an obligation and honor. A Marine runs toward the bullets," he said as he showed me the tattoos he has of two fallen Marine comrades, Chad Germain and Aaron Weisenbrun. He is currently the executive chef at the Williams Inn.
Corporal Pete Belmonte, thank you for your service to our great country.
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