AL ASAD, Iraq -- Every Marine remembers the day they first set foot on a Marine Corps Recruit Depot, to stand on the yellow footprints and begin training as one of the few and the proud.
Gunnery Sgt. Stuart M. Saylor, like many Marines, joined the Corps right out of high school to serve his country and see the world.
His country was not his only passion though; baseball, America's national pastime, was a sport he grew to love as a child.
The 40-year-old Flint, Mich., native began playing tee-ball at the age of six, and found that the love of the game and the natural skills he possessed, drove him to continue chasing his dream.
Saylor continued to play Little League, junior high and high school baseball as a catcher. During his senior year in high school, he received offers from two colleges to play baseball but he was already enrolled in the Marine Corps' Delayed Entry Program.
"Every child has that dream of what they want to be when they grow up," said Saylor. "Some want to be a fireman, an astronaut or a professional athlete. For me it was to play professional baseball."
Saylor attended boot camp in December 1984 and became a crash, fire and rescue specialist. In his off time, he played for his command's softball team and was selected for the All-Marine softball team after playing in the regional championship.
As a third baseman, Saylor excelled as a player and began to set his sites on baseball once again. In 1988 Saylor's enlistment was finished, so he got out of the Marines to pursue his baseball dreams. He tried out with the Riverside Red Waves, a minor-league team for the San Diego Padres in San Bernadino, Calif.
After 90 days out of the Marine Corps, Saylor knew he wanted to play baseball but felt something missing from his life -- the Marine Corps. The camaraderie he had experienced in the short time he served left a gap in his life.
"It's something that nobody can explain except for those who have experienced it," he said. "Once you have it and leave it, you realize something's missing."
Seeing that Saylor longed to return to the life he had in the Corps, his friends and family convinced him to return to the Marines and continue his military career. Taking their advice, Saylor rejoined the Marine Corps in April 1989. He began to play softball again and was re-selected to the All-Marine softball team while stationed at Marine Corps Air Station El Toro, Calif.
Saylor soon realized that he wanted to provide more of a service to his country and decided to change his military occupational specialty and began on-the-job-training as an intelligence analyst.
In April 1990, just one year after returning to the Marine Corps, he attended the Marine Air Ground Task Force Intelligence Specialist course in Damneck, Va.
Since becoming an intelligence specialist, Saylor has spent a lot of time away from home on deployments. In 22 years, he has served in every conflict since Operation Desert Shield/ Desert Storm, and throughout Operation Iraqi Freedom.
He is currently assigned to the intelligence section of Marine Aircraft Group 16 (Reinforced), 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing.
In between deployments, Saylor continued to play softball at a high level and played on 17 regional teams, made eight appearances on the All-Marine Softball Team and earned two All-Armed Forces silver medals in the league.
"I have learned a lot during my time in the Marine Corps," said Saylor. "My only regret is that all of my daughter's memories of me have been either on the softball field or at the armory waiting for me to deploy."
During his career, Saylor has missed his daughter growing up, but now at the age of 11, his daughter, Kayla, is waiting for her father to say goodbye to the Marine Corps and return home from his last deployment.
"While in the Marines I have faced hardships and have dealt with stress as all Marines have done before me," said Saylor. "We all deal with hardships of deployments and other things that make our lives difficult, but if we just give up, who will take our place?"