Nervous but not ‘scared’
December 31, 2007
Chris Bova had culture shock when he returned to Park City from his Marine Corps base in Japan to celebrate the holidays with his family.
The 20-year-old graduate of Park City High School spent the last two years training in exotic locales with the 3rd Recon Battalion and is pushing out to Iraq in March.
"Adjusting for the first few days, you’ve got to watch what you say. The things that bother me just go in one ear and out the other," Bova said in an interview Sunday. "What I’ve experienced has broadened my horizons on how these kids act. Just seeing the kind of lifestyle [others] have to live every day, changes the way you feel about how people are living in Park City."
According to Bova, "the United States is very fortunate, even in some of the tougher areas of the nation."
Park Meadows resident Charles Bova insists his youngest child wasn’t always this well spoken.
"Our children definitely teach us a lot," the father said.
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Bova chose to audition for the elite Marine reconnaissance unit while attending infantry school in Twentynine Palms, Calif.
"I was in pretty good shape and they usually don’t let the younger guys get in," Bova said. "But there is a rude awakening to the maturity level you have to be on to be [in Iraq] working."
He added, "it was a big shock."
"I definitely went through a lot of struggles, but my family supported me 100 percent," Bova said.
During the training’s "control phase," Bova was deposited for nine days in the woods with an instructor "over a huge training area" at Camp Pendleton in Southern California.
"You don’t eat," he said describing 10-kilometer movements he engaged in each night lugging a 110-pound backpack. "You set up during the day on observation posts or a sniper hut."
Several hours of physical training began each day around 3 a.m.
"I was amazed at how tough their training is," Charles Bova said.
Chris, who is the youngest soldier in his company, officially graduated to recon in 2006.
There is not a penalty for not finishing, but those who quit "definitely walk out of there with their heads down in a shameful manner," Bova said.
"They try to break you down," he said. "I felt good about graduating, but I just knew bigger and worse things were coming."
The mission of reconnaissance Marines is "to push out forward of all the other units to gather information on what the enemy is doing," Bova said.
"You feed that back to the intel guys in the rear and they frag you out with missions on who you’re going to hit and what’s going on next," he explained about the war’s front line. "I’m a little nervous. I don’t want to say ‘scared,’ because I think we’re with a really solid unit. But Murphy’s Law is always out there and bullets don’t stop IEDs."
Deb Melle, Bova’s mother, said she did not support her son’s desire to join the Marines.
"He wanted us to let him sign up early and on his 18th birthday the recruiter drove up to Park City, picked him up and signed him up," she lamented. "For this liberal, Democratic, pacifist mother, it was a hard pill to swallow. Right now, I’m just enjoying him being home and trying not to think about Iraq until it happens."
Chris insists he did not enlist to defy his parents.
"I fully knew what was going on. I felt the need after Sept. 11 and what was going on in the world to put my time in for my country," he said.
He can sympathize with his parents’ fears, "but I’ve got to do what I’ve got to do," Bova said.
"They try to put on a show like they’re not worried, but it’s pretty weak acting," he said.
For now Bova avoids political discussions about the war in Iraq.
"People just need to realize that there is a lot more going on than they know about," Bova said. "It’s not at all about politics for me over there. It’s about coming back with hands on my left and my right."