Lying in bed was a boy. This boy fell asleep to a thudding in a rhythmic pattern and a noise that rattled his bed, the whup-whup-whup sound of helicopters and gunfire that split the night's silence with pops and flashes. This boy fell asleep to the sound of his country's civil war. This boy, Benjamin, would go to sleep, often fearful, and wonder if the militia would come into his house and kill him and his family. He usually never knew if that night was going to be his last.
U.S. Marine Corps Pfc. Benjamin Crayton, a motor vehicle operator with Headquarters and Support Battalion, Marine Corps Installations Pacific, was born in Monrovia, Liberia.
Shortly after his birth, his family moved to Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire, due to the escalation of violence in his country. While in Côte d'Ivoire, he went to school where he played soccer and ran track. It was not long before the war traveled further into Africa, and soon the militia was patrolling up and down his street.
“Almost every night, I would hear shooting for hours because my house was not far from a popular hotel where the president stayed, '' said Crayton. “I would hear the militia marching at night outside my door. It was common to hear gunshots as helicopters flew over my house, firing at the hotel. It was very overwhelming. That is when I learned that no one was safe, so my family immigrated to Europe.”
In 2013, Crayton arrived in France, where he lived with his uncle and aunt and continued schooling. A few years after he arrived, his mother contacted his family members requesting to be reunited in the U.S. He was concerned about meeting his mother. After some persuasion from his family he agreed to meet her. At the end of 2014, he made his way to Philadelphia to meet his mom for the first time.
Crayton then started working with his mom. She was a cashier at a local store and helped him acquire a job as a cart pusher. Crayton worked hard at the store, but it closed a few months later.
“I worked hard when I was at the store, but when the store closed, I felt like it was a message from God telling me to do something bigger and better,” said Crayton. “We decided that my next step in life would be to try to go back to school. I had my green card and Free Application for Federal Student Aid, but sadly I couldn’t get any scholarships or afford college.”
Due to his circumstances, he became homeless. He would wake up early in the morning and go to a gym. After a brief workout he would shower, find his friends, and something to eat. After finding food, he would then sit and try to figure out how to fix his situation and find a better life. One day, one of his fathers’ friends contacted him and said he wanted to help him get out of his position. After looking at his options in Philadelphia, Crayton knew he had to go somewhere else.
He began his search for his new calling to Lawrenceville, Georgia. He then searched for employment in Lawrenceville and, while doing so, found new career opportunities with a moving company.
During one of his commissions, he met a Marine Corps recruiter who came to him and asked questions about himself and if he was interested in joining the Marine Corps. Crayton believes that everything that happened that day was a sign from God telling him to serve. In February 2021, he arrived to Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island and set to grow from his failures.
“I feel that when you fail and things feel too hard, it is easy to quit,” he said. “It is important to me that people expand their minds and their bodies. In the Marine Corps, there’s no such thing as quitting. It was hard, but I had to push through the challenges. When I felt like I couldn’t get through an obstacle, I had my Marines to my left and right to help push me forward.”
“Pfc. Crayton has been a hard-working Marine ever since he came to the unit and is always willing to help out his peers, '' said Gunnery Sgt. Lawrence Minott, a utility chief, with Headquarters and Support Battalion, Marine Corps Installations Pacific. “He is an amiable Marine. He has an upbeat demeanor, respectful, courteous and liked amongst his peers.”
To maintain his high work ethic, he pushes these mental and physical barriers by going to the gym. “The gym is important to me because my whole life I was skinny,” he said. “Being physically fit is something I feel is important as a Marine, but this has been important to me long before the Marine Corps. When I am at the gym, I feel like everything is falling in order, and that feeling brings me peace from everything that has happened in my past. I give myself a goal every year to achieve a higher Physical Fitness Test and Combat Fitness Test, and going to the gym helps me achieve those goals helping me to be combat-ready.”
“He has proved time and time again that he possesses the ability to adapt to changing requirements to support the mission and gains knowledge through every challenge he faces,” said Minott. “He constantly uses what he’s learned in the past to better serve the challenges he and his peers will face in the future.”
Crayton explained that we all have good days and bad days in life and that everything happens for a reason. The struggles people go through today and tomorrow are temporary. Life circumstances might seem hard at the moment, but we have to push through them and not give up.
“I prayed, and I put faith in myself,” he said. “I realized that I am the only person who can control my life. I look at the Marine Corps and the second chance; I was given and feel blessed. This chance has allowed me to share my story, and I hope that my story will help others who are going through or have gone through the same situations or worse.”