By Karen Billing
A Rancho Santa Fe resident will soon be headed off to Afghanistan with the Marine Corps. Lance Cpl. Paul Grimm, 22, is expected to deploy in the coming weeks and his family recently held “the best party ever” to send him off with love and support.
Paul’s deployment could be seven months or longer.
“I guess I’m supposed to tell everyone that I’m scared. I’m probably scared but I feel pretty confident in my abilities. I’m not worried about it,” said Paul. “I’d rather go with the group of guys I’m with right now than anyone. I think we’re ready.”
His proud mother Meredith believes she is ready too.
“It’s what he wants to do,” said Meredith. “I hope he’s going to be lucky and I hope he’ll take good things from the experience and be able to find a safe place for the things that aren’t so pleasant.
“I know he’ll see a lot of challenging, difficult things but I want him to remember not to let those bad things become a part of [him],” she said, through tears. “We’ll miss him…I am so proud of him.”
Paul is a graduate of R. Roger Rowe School and attended Canyon Crest Academy before graduating from Sunset High School. The decision to enlist was a combination of a lot of little things falling into place, he said.
Trying to work and take college classes at the same time was difficult and none of his courses were really “clicking” so part of enlisting was trying something else, a change of pace.
His grandfather, a Marine Corps veteran of World War II, also inspired him.
“I had always wanted to join the military when I was younger,” Paul said.
The last three years have been spent in training and he went through boot camp at MCRD in San Diego. Paul describes himself as pretty stubborn and both Paul and his mother wince when they recall him once being wrongly characterized as “oppositionally defiant.” But both mom and son agree that the Marines have done a good job in breaking him down to build him back up. Meredith reflected that Paul looks like a different man now than he does in photos taken when he first went into the Marines.
“The Marine Corps is a really hard thing for parents because we don’t want our child to be in harm’s way but it has done a lot of good things for Paul,” said Meredith. “The most amazing thing for me about it was that he made a really tough decision and stuck with it — and that it’s something that most people would never dream of doing. It’s the beginning of his path.”
The physical aspect of boot camp was not as hard as it was being so close to home.
“I wanted to jump the fence every night,” Paul said.
When he did have time to go home during training, he often brought his new family of brothers to meet his real family, his mom providing a slice of home to Marines who were far from their own homes.
In his three years in the Marines, Paul has already had a chance to see the world and experience different cultures as part of his service with MEUs (Marine Exploratory Units). He traveled to Korea, the Philippines and Japan, where he bottled sand from Okinawa to bring back for his grandfather.
Paul said he has an idea about what to expect in Afghanistan from his close friend who has already served in the region. While he is prohibited from speaking specifically about what he will be doing in Afghanistan, his job will mainly be to support the Afghan army and police, and help prepare them to protect and serve their own country when the troops leave.
“We’re going to do some really great things but, at the same time, we wish we had more time and more resources,” Paul said.
Plenty of friends back home will make sure he’s taken care of while in Afghanistan. R. Roger Rowe School’s Kids Korps group and the Rancho Santa Fe Foundation, through its Armed Forces Interest Group initiative, plan to be a big support for Paul and his platoon while he’s over there. They plan to send care packages and letters to thank them for their service and offer a slice of home by sending needed items.
Rancho Santa Fe Foundation Programs Manager Debbie Anderson said Marines like Paul always give her a sense of pride and make her feel very safe.
“I know we’re in good hands,” said Anderson of Paul. “This is the future of our country.”
Paul is currently in a five-year contract with the Marines and enlisting has given him a better vision of what he wants to do after his contract expires. He hopes to earn a college degree and has thought of returning to the military after that.
“I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life,” said Paul. “Now I can look into the future a lot better than I could before. It doesn’t matter when you figure it out, as long as you keep trying to figure it out.”