‘Facing Stigma’ with Justin Constantine – Headstrong Project
“I joined the Marines in a less traditional way than most. I was already in law school and didn’t think I was eligible until a friend of mine mentioned a special program for lawyers. I knew I wanted to join the Marine Corps, and so that’s what I did in the summer of 1997. I came on active duty in 1998 as a Judge Advocate (attorney), and my first duty station was in Okinawa, Japan. I was a criminal defense lawyer there for one year and I was involved with a lot different cases and interesting trials. As a Captain I was a criminal prosecutor at Camp Pendleton, California for about four years. I ended up extending my time after 9/11 for a couple years, but I never deployed while I was on active duty. I decided to leave active duty in 2004, and I took an attorney position with Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in Washington, DC. I joined the Reserves in 2005, and started teaching the Laws of War, Geneva Convention, and Rules of Engagement to Marine units that were getting ready to deploy. I did that until 2006 when the message came out that a Civil Affairs unit was looking for Marine officers for an upcoming deployment. I volunteered to transfer to that unit and deployed as a Civil Affairs Team Leader, where I led a small team of Marines that ended up being attached to a larger infantry battalion. We landed in Iraq in the fall of 2006, and it was a really fiercely contested place at that time. On October 18, 2006, we were out on one of our usual patrols, except we had recently lost two Marines in this particular area to an enemy sniper. We had a reporter there for a couple days doing a story about the battalion, and I told him that he needed to move a little quicker with the sniper in the area. As soon as I said that, he took a big step forward and seconds later a shot hit the wall between us where his head had been. The next round the sniper shot hit me behind my left ear and exploded out of my mouth causing incredible damage. I went into shock shortly afterward and my mind just shut down.