Cpl. Thomas Gifford always knew he would be a Marine. With two older brothers already serving in the Corps, it was all he wanted to do too.
"As soon as I joined and told them what I had done, they could not have been more proud," he said in a story from a U.S. military news service.
Gifford, a graduate of Mesa's Skyline High School, serves as a point man for B Company, 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion, which is currently assigned to 2nd Marine Division (Forward). The division serves as the ground combat element of Regional Command (Southwest) working with national security forces in Afghanistan.
Gifford chooses the route he and the Marines take and sweeps for any improvised explosive devices along the way to clear a safe path. Sgt. Frank Mignoli, the unit's assistant team leader, said Gifford has done a great job.
"He's done more than 50 patrols here," Mignoli said, "and he's done everything I've asked of him on every mission."
Each mission brings Gifford and the rest of his battalion a step closer to coming home. And when he does return, Gifford knows exactly what he'll do first.
"Hug my mom!" he said. "That the first thing I'm going to do as soon as I jump off the bus."