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Sergeant Recruiter Branden Lee Greb is a familiar face to not only those he serves meals to at the East Haven Senior Center, but also to those at East Haven High School, to which he often makes visits and answers questions from juniors and seniors about a career in the Marines.
Donating time to the East Haven Senior Center and serving meals to vets and their families may not seem like typical work for a Marine, but Branden says the humanitarian aspect is at the core of his service.
It's important for Branden "to do something bigger than myself," like his local community service, as well as doing humanitarian work in places like Haiti.
He's originally from Arizona, but says, "I love to travel, and I've traveled all over the world to Singapore, Dubai, Kuwait, Bahrain, Australia, and Jordan" with the Marines.
Now stationed in the New Haven recruiting center, Branden says he chose to come here because he'd never been and loves "the history of the East Coast."
He adds, "You really respect the United States a lot more when you see how struggling countries are doing. In third world countries, they are living in dirt huts, and then you come here, and you're worried about your phone charging. It's nuts."
The second youngest of five kids, Branden started his career in the Marines at the tender age of 17-he celebrated his 18th birthday in boot camp. He has been in the Marines for nine years and followed in the footsteps of his older brother, Shane; his uncle; and his grandpa.
Branden originally didn't want to go into the military, but says Shane's experience was a strong influence.
He recalls, "When I went to his boot camp graduation, I saw how much it changed him, how inspired he was by it, and my parents were so proud of him. I realized it was something I wanted to do, because I wanted that."
The change in his brother after entering the Marines was drastic.
Branden says, "He'd barely finished high school, was struggling in life, and now he's on top of his game, he's doing so well, learning Indonesian," and has much more confidence.
Branden saw a similar change in himself after his training.
"I have a lot more confidence now, am much more outgoing," he says. "There are many people that go into [training] thinking, 'I can't do this,' but when the drill sergeant forces you do it, then you complete it, and you realize, 'Wow, I can do this.'
"Then it starts opening up other doors for you and you realize I can do this, and I can do this, as long as you set your mind to it," Branden adds. "Once you get to boot camp they are on you all the time, making you do stuff and eventually they back off, and you are just doing it on your own and your confidence builds up."
The college factor was very attractive to Branden, as well-"You get college credits for just being in the Marines."
Branden's plans are to finish college and get his bachelor's degree.
He says, "It was a thing I put off for a long time, until my mom found out I get free college and then she started pushing me, like, 'What are you doing, go to college!'"
He has attended college part-time during work hours, though frequent moves have created interruptions. He plans to continue his education and take electronics, which is what he does in the Marines besides recruiting.
"I work on electronics, like radios, computers, fax machines, printers, so anything that talks to others things, except people," he says, laughing.
His love of electronics clearly takes a back seat to his love of family, which he often misses on his travels.
"It was one of the reasons why I'm going to get the new iPhone, so I have FaceTime with them."