Teacher becomes Marine

Former teacher, Pfc. Patrick Collman, Platoon 2109, Company E, had the option to go to Officer Candidate School because he had a bachelor’s degree, but chose to enlist instead, for the challenge. He wanted to start from the bottom and work his way up, as he has demonstrated in virtually every aspect of his life leading to boot camp.

“That way, if you do get into a higher position you know what the lower positions are going through,” Collman said.

Having grown up in the mountains of Colorado, Collman loved the outdoors, and as a result, became a Boy Scout, then attained the rank of Eagle Scout during his senior year of high school.

But before Collman could lead scouts, he had to start somewhere. Just as Marines start as recruits, Boy Scouts must go through the ranks and start as Cub Scouts.

“I was never satisfied with stopping half way,” said Collman. Being an Eagle Scout was just another challenge for him.

Like excelling in scouting, Collman was not satisfied with just being a high school student.

During high school, he worked for three years designing databases for a telecommunications firm. It made him realize that he didn’t like “suit and tie jobs,” but it had its own merits, he said.

On top of having telecommunications experiences, Collman was also active in search and rescue and became a certified wilderness first responder. He participated in search and rescue operations, was responsible for saving the lives of many people, performed CPR and organized helicopter evacuations, he said.

“Basically it’s a back-country search and rescue,” Collman said as he described the duties of a wilderness first responder.

After graduating from high school, Collman went to college at the University of Colorado – Boulder, paying his way through in his own way.

Collman operated his own contracting and construction company and worked in the retail business during college to pay for tuition, books and his cost of living. He started his business on a whim during his sophomore year in college because job opportunities weren’t abundant, he said. He performed typical tasks, like staining, painting and building decks. The kind of activities you want to do, but don’t have the time to do, he said.

“It was easy to do and I like working with my hands,” Collman said. “There’s a craftsman’s pride to that line of work. When you paint a house and walk by it a year later and it’s not peeling, you can think, ‘I did that,'” he said. “It pays well, so I raided Home Depot to get myself started,” said Collman. He put out ads, walked around neighborhoods putting out flyers and said he always had very competitive pricing. The business was mostly a “one man band,” he said.

He graduated from the college with a Bachelor of Arts in history and a secondary social sciences teaching license.

Collman got a job teaching high school sophomore and junior-level history and government classes in Erie, Colo., prior to joining the Marine Corps.

He hadn’t planned on becoming a teacher; he had started out studying engineering.

“With teaching, the success is measurable, when students go from C’s to A’s, you can see the change right in front of your eyes,” he said. “A teacher educates his students not only on the subject, but on life. They teach ethics, morals and decision making,” he said.

Teachers can have a direct influence on their students’ lives, he said. A teacher can turn something dreaded into something fun, Collman said about history classes.

“I’d hear my fellow students saying, ‘History sucks,'” Collman said, looking befuddled and disgusted at the statement. “I loved history. I was tired of people bashing on history. It was like a little extra salt in my wound.”

Although he taught, he had always planned on enlisting in the Corps, Collman said.

In high school he initially looked into all the military branches because he wanted to serve his country.

“There’s just something they (Marines) have that the other branches don’t,” said Collman. “They are different from the other branches. Part of it is in the way they carry themselves.”

The difference was obvious to him when he met his first Marine recruiter.

“I walked in, and there he stood,” said Collman. “He said to me, ‘So you want to join my Marine Corps?’ The way he said it was like, ‘What the hell are you doing here?'” Collman said he took it as a challenge.

Coleman finally decided that he would join the Corps. He talked to his first recruiter when he was 16, and signed up when he was 22. He still remembered that first recruiter throwing that challenge at him.

That challenge was to become a Marine, and to defend his country, like his grandfathers did before him, he said.

“I’ve always been a die-hard patriot,” said Collman. He was a freshman in high school during the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, so that was even more motivation for him to join, he said. “There is a threat and someone has to stand against it,” said Collman.

Collman may have been trained to be a teacher, an Eagle Scout, a contractor and a wilderness first responder, but he is a Marine first, he said. But now that he has completed boot camp, he has future plans to continue to challenge himself. He said he has several options open to him while in the Marine Corps, one of which involves going to graduate school.