D.C.

John Strobridge, Thomas Gibbons-Neff reflect on Marine Corps, college life

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WASHINGTON (WJLA) - Upon first glace, their apartment looks like any other college student's - video games, a big TV, and pizza boxes on the kitchen table.

Photo: Rachael Voorhees via Flickr

But peer more closely, and there's a different story to tell.

An American flag hangs proudly above the couch and a picture of soldiers holding their guns high is hung on the adjacent wall. Their bedrooms house camouflage gear and a bright red flag bearing the Marine Corps logo for all to see.

"I decided to join the Marine Corps because my dad was a Marine, but more importantly was because it was 9/11," said John Strobridge.

The former Marine joined the Corps in 2003.

"I remember being a junior in high school and watching it and from there I kind of knew, that's my calling."

These days it's more likely to see Strobridge with a textbook than a weapon. After leaving the service in 2011, Strobridge decided he wanted to pursue a college education.

"If you had asked me in 2006 or 2007 if I was ever going to go to college, I would have told you absolutely not," said Strobridge, 28. "Something just changed over my last four years in the military. I understood that in order to affect a bigger change that I needed to go to school."

He now attends Georgetown University, living off-campus with another former Marine.

Thomas Gibbons-Neff spent four years in the military.

"It gave me time to gather myself, gather my thoughts, gather how I perceive myself," Gibbons-Neff, 26, said. "I always wanted to get a higher education."

Although these roommates have traveled the world, been to war, and have seen and experienced things that many of their peers never will, they said their college life is very similar to any other student's.

"I think I freak out more about quizzes and test grades than something I would overseas," Strobridge explained.

One thing that does separate these soldiers from many of their campus contemporaries is that they will be among the millions of veterans being honored Monday. Strobridge and Gibbons-Neff said they will celebrate Veterans Day in their own way.

"The first thing I always do is call my dad and thank him for his service," Strobridge recounted.

He also said he would be making a visit to Arlington Cemetery to visit his friends' graves.

"Maybe their families aren't within proximity or able to go see them on that day, but those are the people that I like to pay tribute to on a day like Veterans Day."

For Gibbons-Neff, the day is more about introspection.

"It's just a reflection on the choices I made, that my friends made, and we're moving forward in a life that is marked by a very significant experience."

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