From Machine Gunner to MIG Welder

From Machine Gunner to MIG Welder

By: Nick Morales

I was watching an interview the other day, it was a High School football coach talking with his team and began to explain the difference between the mediocre and the champion mindset. 

He said, the mediocre put in minimum work and expect to be great, and on the other side of the spectrum a person with the champion mindset puts in the work, and when they’re done they do some more… then ask “AM I DOING ENOUGH?” 

That’s the focus and work ethic we as Veterans need to exemplify.

GRINDING, HARD WORK and DEDICATION are all at the cornerstone of our service. If we think back, specifically at Boot Camp we pushed our minds and bodies way past the limits we once conceived to be the furthest we can go. 

That same focus is what we need to maintain once our time in uniform is over, those same principles are the recipe to success. In this article you’ll see how one Veteran is applying those same traits to his career and his life.

0311 USMC Cpl. James Pitre is an old soul, a man’s man. Riding a kick start Harley Davidson Shovel Head, wearing steel toe boots and carharrt overalls. A strong demeanor, and pride as a Marine shines through in all he puts his hands to do. 


“I’m proud of being a Marine!” Pitre added. His love and respect for the Corps is evident in the manner in which he carries himself. 


When I first met him you can tell he’s a hard worker. A direct result of how he was raised. His Grandfather was a Marine and James would follow in his footsteps all the way to Marine Corps Recruit Depot Paris Island, South Carolina. 

It’s there that his grit was tested and he earned the title U.S. Marine. After he attended U.S.M.C School of Infantry honing his skills as a 0311, James was assigned to Lima Co. 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Division and would deploy to Operation Iraqi Freedom.

“We were kids, doing grown man shit” said Peitre. He began to recount how his squad leaders took care of their Marines and you could see the appreciation on his face. He recounted one Corporal in particular that saved his life one night on a dismounted patrol, and alerted James to an I.E.D which he was steps away from. “I have a responsibility to live my life for those that didn’t make it back” added Pitre.

That was at the very beginning of 3/3s deployment to Iraq. They would go on to some of the toughest fighting that would inevitably affect the decisions these Marines would make concerning re-enlisting or leaving the Corps. 

Back from deployment he was on Regimental Duty and his A-Duty was going through some mail and there was a flyer on a welding school. James asked, “can you make that a career? Do they make good money?” Those are questions we all ask when looking at the possibility of a career change. That planted the seed.

Fast forward some time, James has moved back to North Carolina and he’s enrolled in college. “Fresh back from Iraq, leaving the Corps, and back in school, it was too much, too fast” it was during this time he learned taking a knee is ok. Taking care of himself and refocusing on goals is what he did to make his path clear.

Towards the end of his first semester he just wasn’t feeling college, and that’s when he received some life changing counsel. His Grandfather sat him down and said "James you need a Trade, a career." 

It was at that moment that he remembered his duty shift at Regiment and the welding flyer he saw. He took action and enrolled in a welding program and things became clear.

It’s often for us Veterans that we look for something that would give us the same feeling we had while in uniform. Some of us chase that feeling and have yet to find it, however once you find it, it’s a wrap. 

James makes reference to the first time he held a welding torch, “it was like holding my M-16 for the first time, It felt right.” It was there that the lessons he learned as a Marine Rifleman; breathing control, and finesse that have propelled him to a high caliber Welder & Fabricator in the Tampa Bay Area.

A lot of us reminisce of back in the day and some of us still live in past successes, and we stay there. We as a community are better than that. James uses his position and success as an opportunity to teach and mentor junior welders, just like he did in the Corps.

There will be difficult times, times when all we want to do is give up, but remember when you couldn’t make that formation run, that time where you thought I can’t do this! This is too much for me to handle! But look at you now.

The resilience that Pitre has shown is an example that the best days are yet to come. 


SEMPER FIDELIS  James Pitre, thank you for being a BETERAN!!!

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