CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. – Growing up, Cpl. Clifton McReynolds, food service specialist, Food Service Company, Headquarters Regiment, 1st Marine Logistics Group, never imagined he would join the military. McReynolds was raised as the only child in a strict household in the small city of Wilcox, Ariz., which, according to McReynolds, peaks at around 10,000 people in the winter when it becomes a get-away for those looking to escape cold weather.
"Living with all the rules and restrictions as a kid, I ended up turning into a bit of a wild child when I was living on my own after high school," said McReynolds, recalling why he joined the Marine Corps. "I wasn't very mature after high school and I heard about the camaraderie in the Corps. I also heard about opportunities to meet interesting people, travel the world and become more mature."
Upon his enlistment, the 22-year-old was told he would be a food service specialist. He wasn't very fond of his job at first, but he found a passion for working with people and now thrives in a job which enables him to serve and converse with hundreds of Marines daily.
"You never know if someone might be having a bad day, so I always try to ‘serve happiness with a smile'," said McReynolds, who takes great pride in his work, especially when it is his responsibility to prepare the food. His favorite dish is veal with a gravy sauce and vegetables that he learned to prepare while serving in Okinawa, Japan.
One of McReynolds favorite parts of his job is when a Marine comes back through the line to compliment one of the dishes he prepared.
"I remember serving chow to a colonel and a sergeant major on a day when I cooked the country fried steak," said McReynolds, recalling one of his favorite moments in his military career. "I recommended the steak to them, saying it would be better than what their mother makes, and the sergeant major came back and said ‘ it wasn't better than what my mother makes but it was damn good.'"
As McReynolds' career in the Corps began, he fell under the leadership and supervision of his ‘most influential role model' when he a private first class.
"My first impression of him was that he was obedient," said former Sgt. Nathan Toon, who was a chief cook at Combat Logistics Regiment 37, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, in Okinawa, Japan, at the time. "Anything we asked of him was no problem. He struck me as a very ‘good-to-go' guy."
McReynolds served under Toon for about 13 months, during which, he developed exceptional leadership traits under Toon's guidance. Eventually, McReynolds' hard work paid off and he was designated chief cook.
"There was one time when he was chief cook for his platoon and had only one Marine working with him to prepare and serve the chow," said Toon, a native of Washburn, Mo., as he recalled a time when McReynolds demonstrated his exceptional leadership and dependability. "Although it was a junior Marine working with him, McReynolds told the Marine to take a break while he continued working to ensure business in the chow hall was conducted professionally and efficiently."
McReynolds is grateful for the opportunities he had to serve his fellow Marines and lead them in several countries to include Thailand, Japan, South Korea and the Philippines. His current contract is slated to expire in October, 2014, after which, he will begin his 10-year plan to earn a degree in biogenetic engineering.
"There is just something about genes, the very core of how a person acts; it fascinates me," said McReynolds, who plans to also earn his bartending license within the next four years to help pay for his education.
McReynolds is thankful for his experience serving in the Marine Corps as he prepares for a new beginning at the University of Arizona.
"The camaraderie of the Corps and all the interesting people I've encountered will be sorely missed," said McReynolds. "I definitely needed this in my life. The discipline and the maturity I gained during my service set me up for future success as I start a new chapter in my life."