Nathaniel LaPrade applied to the Marine Corps as soon as he was eligible for high school.

“I saw a Marine recruiter come to our school and it was almost like instinct, like I had to have this. It was discipline, it was order,” he said.

LaPrade said his size wasn’t a major factor in his own eyes until he got to boot camp. He is 4 feet 7 inches tall. In high school, being the “little boy” didn’t matter. Being in the military made him feel like he had “something to prove.”

“If you have a weakness and you know it is your weakness, I can all but promise you that by the end of your time in the military it will become one of your greatest strengths,” he said.

It is believed that LaPrade is actually the smallest member of the US armed forces ever registered. A Green Beret, Richard Flaherty, was 4 feet 9 inches tall and served in the Vietnam War.

The toughest part of the grueling boot camp, LaPrade said, was the multiple hikes with up to 40 pounds on his back.

“I don’t want to go back and say, ‘Oh, it’s because I have little legs,’ but it’s a little harder to keep up,” he said. “But just keep your head up and move your legs one foot in front of the other. Honestly, I always felt like I had to do better than everyone else.”

LaPrade completed 13 weeks of Marine Corps recruit training at Parris Island in South Carolina this fall. This included hikes, obstacle courses and daily training. It ended with a 54-hour endurance test called the Crucible. He said he got through those difficult days with the help of his instructors, who told him to “try a little harder and dig a little deeper.”

“And actually I just do what the instructors tell me and I got it done,” he said. “I’ll say, ‘I want to be like that guy.’ And when he tells me to do something, he goes straight to the point.”

REGARD: The chaos and fog of the first night of Marine Corps boot camp

LaPrade’s plan is to become a logistics specialist. These specialists are involved in the planning and management of equipment, resources and personnel to support the operation. Longer term, he hopes to eventually return as a drill instructor, inspired by the leaders who motivated him through his own training.

“I wanted to be that kind of leader, to come in and actually help people and help them improve,” LaPrade said. “I know that if I apply what they used with us, I can become an even better teacher.”

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