Growing up Dyllin Drolz knew there was one path he would never go down. The military seemed like a far cry from anything that he would be interested in or good at. Yet something called him to a career in the service and over three years later he still has no regrets.
In high school Dyllin played football, enjoyed auto mechanics and banged on the drums in pep band. Dyllin lead a fairly normal
life for an American high schooler, something that would plague his mind later, that word, “normal.” Like any young person or really any person at all, he had his own insecurities. One of these insecurities was his weight. Though not exceptionally heavy, Dyllin had always been a “big guy” and didn’t consider himself fit enough to be fire fighter let alone a United States Marine. Firefighting seemed like a good idea but fighting fires required physical fitness too and is an extremely competitive profession. After Dyllin graduated from high school, the idea of military career started to seem like the best way to acquire some of the skills he would need to become a fire fighter.
As Dyllin’s friend, it’s crazy to hear him talk about some of his insecurities. Fear of failure, fear of being average. From the outside, Dyllin always appeared comfortable in his own skin and at times, maybe even overly confident. While Dyllin himself didn’t see himself joining the military early on, I was not surprised when I heard the news. The confidence he portrayed, extreme loyalty to his family and desire to help others (he has won numerous volunteer awards) provided a background that would prove to be a perfect fit for the military.
Those traits are what Dyllin reflects on now. When you ask him why he joined the Marines, he’ll mention a desire to serve his country or do his duty. While the opportunity to benefit from the GI Bill was also a factor, Dyllin shipped off to boot camp on September 19, 2011, not because he was simply trying to pay the bills, but because he was on a quest to better himself.
While the Marine Corps certainly isn’t for anyone, Dyllin was drawn to it because of its core value system. The Marine Corps brotherhood stood for what Dyllin stands for. One team. One Fight. It’s rather incredible that Dyllin joined the marines considering his struggles with weight. It’s no secret that the Marine Corps is usually considered the toughest branch of the military. In high school, it would’ve been hard to imagine Dyllin as a marine, but now it’s hard to think of him as anything less than a badass. He has leaned out, bulked up and gained a new kind of confidence that’s rather remarkable.
Now an air craft mechanic in the Marines, Dyllin has been deployed twice and is awaiting confirmation of a third deployment. The Marine Corps has taken him around the world. Spain, England, Iceland, Kuwait, Bahrain, Jordan, Djibouti have all been checked off the list with Japan on the horizon. The work he is doing is intensive. While he is currently is not deployed and is living in California, 50 hours a week is the norm. Despite the long days and limited sleep it doesn’t usually feel like work for Dyllin. “Semper Gumby” or always flexible is an unofficial motto of the Marine Corps and one Dyllin and his brothers live by. The term “brothers” isn’t used lightly either. These are the men Dyllin would die for and he knows they would do the same.
“My brothers at work, we motivate each other,” said Dyllin. “You can have the worst day at work with jobs and chores but if you have good morale you can have a good day, you can have a fun day. You’re working with your brothers and best friends all the time.”
Despite the taxing job and long hours, Dyllin still finds time to hit the gym and got married in December of last year. The gym is his happy place, so to speak. It’s where Dyllin challenges himself on a more individual level. A career in the Marine Corps
means one must be physically fit, no exception. Dyllin has not only become physically fit, he has found a hobby that his transformed his body, mindset and even career ambitions. This gym mentality of doing an extra rep, adding another set, pushing yourself when you think you can’t translates into his job as a marine as well.
“There’s always a little more than you think you can. In the gym doing eight sets when you know damn well you can do 10,” reflected Dyllin. “I find myself stopping at work and being like you know what you should probably be going a little bit harder than you are now.”
Although I consider myself to be fairly well-versed in the military lifestyle, my interview with Dyllin on his strenuous lifestyle was eye opening even for me. But that’s all Dyllin asks of people, a little understanding. Veterans and soldiers aren’t always thought of as heroes and during a time of unpopular wars, sometimes the treatment at home isn’t much better than deployment overseas.
Adaption to civilian life is a struggle for many marines post-service. Dyllin jokes that his grandma has simply come to accept the fact that he has the mouth of sailor now, and that’s part of the culture. Shifting from one extreme culture to a “normal” life can be shocking to vets who aren’t used to speaking in a politically correct way, having a routine lifestyle or even sitting most of the day. Contract deadlines creep up on you and all of a sudden a marine is back in a world that is now unfamiliar.
Though pity is the last thing Dyllin or any veteran wants, Dyllin acknowledges that more respect from the civilian world would be appreciated. Dyllin and his brothers (and sisters) are proud of what they do and do it for little pay. Dyllin reminds me that when you take into consideration hours worked verse pay, a huge percentage of service men and women don’t break minimum wage. Yet during economic hardships, the military is always put on the table as one of the first things to cut.
“We don’t do it for the money but people are so willing to materialize the service members, they’re just the boys and girls overseas doing stuff,” Said Dyllin.
A $15 an hour wage seems almost dreamlike to a solder getting shot at making half that much.
“A mutual respect is needed,” added Dyllin. “We raised our right hand and you said I’m going to protect everyone in this nation and our constitution by any means necessary. They did that for you.”
After a third deployment, Dyllin will exit active service in September of 2016 with an additional three years of reserve duty left. Right now he plans to earn a business degree and open his own gym. While the Marine Corps has helped Dyllin to realize his full potential, he hopes to do the same for others.
“Release your inhibitions and get more ambitious,” advised Dylin. “Do what you want to do instead of what you think you should do.”
I have always been proud to call Corporal Drolz a friend and watching his transformation into a young man the whole nation can be proud of has been nothing short of a joy.
*This is the first of a series on veteran and military topics. If you are or know a person I should be talking to, whether a veteran, army wife, VA employee or something in-between, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.