Senior year in high school is hectic for anyone who is looking forward to graduation. Landon White was no exception.
But it’s probably safe to say the 18-year-old, who is now headed to boot camp at Camp Pendelton, was even busier than most of his former schoolmates, or any high school senior for that matter. He didn’t even have time to pursue any hobby, and he explained why.
“Working – that was my hobby,” said the oldest of the three children, and the only son, of Fred and Rochelle White of Manteca.
“I worked the graveyard shift throughout my senior year,” said White.
That meant going to work at 7 o’clock in the evening at a warehouse in Tracy and coming home in the wee hours of the morning, catch a few hours of sleep then go to school again. In the afternoon, “I’d be home at 2:25, get some sleep, then I’d be back out to work at 6:15,” he said.
It was a tight schedule but he managed to do it because of “good luck, and God was helping me,” said the Buffalo graduate who dreamed about becoming a Marine for as long as he can remember.
He maintained his tight school and graveyard work shift schedule until his grades started to suffer and he began to worry about qualifying for the military.
“My grades were starting to really drop and graduation was coming around really quick,” White said during a telephone interview just two days before his departure.
He explained his dilemma to his employers, and two months before graduation he started working at another job, a steel fabrication shop. He worked there until about a month after he shipped out for boot camp.
In the wee hours of Sunday morning, the Buffalo graduate was headed off to his quest of fulfilling his childhood dream.
“My heart was always in the Marine Corps. I’ve always wanted to be a Marine,” said the 18-year-old recalling the genesis of his lifelong plan to be in the military.
In fact, he signed up even before his graduation.
“I’ve been a hundred percent sure since the day I signed up,” he said.
The same can’t be said about his parents’ initial reaction to his decision.
“His father and I had a very hard time at the beginning supporting him because we know people who were killed in Afghanistan and Iraq,” Rochelle White said.
Involved with Memorial Weekend tributes
They were only too aware of that because the White family has been involved in the annual Memorial Weekend Not Forgotten event in Manteca for years. In fact, Landon himself was also actively involved in it for a number of years, especially with the very moving traveling tribute that bears the names of those who made the ultimate sacrifice during the War on Terror.
Fred White, who used to have his own video production, did a lot of the videos that served as the backdrop for the annual Not Forgotten programs which Pastor Mike Dillman and his congregation presented during the Place of Refuge’s annual Memorial Day offering even before the huge public event began.
Landon helped out with the effort “for quite a few years” at the church, and later at the subsequent public memorials doing mostly grunt work, he said.
“Pastor Dillman was the brain of the whole operation. I was the grunt carrying stuff over” from the church to the park “along with other volunteers,” said Landon who added he grew up in the church.
“I used to help move the traveling tribute, the different panels of all who died in Afghanistan and Iraq (in the War on Terror) that were put up. My dad created that. He made it and designed it, and I used to go around and helped put it up,” he said.
Due to the combined pressure of working full time and going to school at the same time, he was unable to maintain that volunteer work in the last few years.
It was working that closely with the memorial panels which made his parents hesitant to see their only son join the Marine Corps.
“We were really involved in the Memorial. We know people who were killed, and working so close with their families, his father and I had a very hard time (accepting his decision) because of the possibility of him being deployed to Afghanistan and not coming home, that our son could be one of those killed,” Rochelle White explained.
“But we love our country and we’re huge supporters of our veterans, so we chose to support his choice,” she said of her son’s decision to join the military.
The Not Forgotten Memorial event was not the only community project that kept Landon White busy during the years he was going to school. He was also a Manteca Fire Explorer.
At Manteca High, he plate was also full with extracurricular activities. He played football his first three years. He was involved in golf for a year, and was in swimming also for a year. He was also in the Leadership program with Mr. De Roos during his sophomore year and with Mr. Inderbitzen during his junior year. His senior year was a clean slate because during that final year in high school, he went to work full-time.
Asked if he plans to make it a career in the military, “I want to, especially with the economy the way it is, plus I always wanted to be a Marine,” Landon White said.