Story and photo by Sgt. Jimmy Green
His character and demeanor demand attention without a word being spoken. His collar insignia reaffirm that he has earned his place—his authoritative being is justified.
Sergeant Major Enrique X. Hines, 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit sergeant major, climbed up many steppingstones to get where he is today.
“I always say I was born a Marine,” said Hines as he reminisced. “There is a picture of me at four-years-old with a high and tight and everyone says I looked the same then as I do now.”
Hines, who hails from Costa Rica, Central America, moved to Bronx, New York when he was four years old. It was not long after that he came in contact with a Marine who very well may have planted a seed in his head that over the next 12 years would grow into a new way of life.
The Hines’ family are devoted Catholics. After Sunday service, Hines would notice that a few boys from the congregation were dressed in uniforms and he wondered what they did.
After looking further into his observation, he discovered they were boy scouts and brought to his mother’s attention that this was something he wanted to do.
“I was always one of those kids that liked to complete things,” said Hines. And that he did. The boy scouts proved to be more than a summer hobby for him. He went on to become an eagle scout. Hines’ scout master was a former Marine and often brought along some of his Marine buddies when they went places.
“At the time, I didn’t know the difference between Marines and Army,” said Hines. “I just knew they were some kind of soldiers.”
Although his scout master did not talk much about the Marine Corps, Hines said he noticed his discipline and the way he carried himself. He lived by a higher standard.
At age 16, Hines knew he wanted to join the military. He told his mother he wanted to join the Army and become a ranger. She told him to talk to his uncle, a captain in the Army 82nd Airborne Division, to decide if that is what he truly wanted to do.
“My uncle told me that if I was going to join the service then to go Marine Corps,” said Hines. “He explained to me that the Army was such a big machine that I would be seen as a number rather than an individual.”
His uncle went on to tell him about Marines he served with, and how he wished the Army had that camaraderie.
He talked to his uncle about the officer and enlisted options and decided he did not want to hop right back into school, so he chose to go enlisted.
Hines took his uncle’s advice and with his parental consent he enlisted in the Marine Corps in the 11th grade. He joined under an open contract with a ground option. He received the occupational specialty of combat engineer.
Having a background in martial arts, Hines arrived physically ready when he hit the yellow footprints. His passion for the martial arts led him to perform several collateral duties in that department throughout his career.
“I was always into martial arts,” explained Hines.” I went from the basics to a junior black belt, and got into competitions.”
Hines instructed every form of martial arts and hand-to-hand combat that he encountered throughout his tour. He went on to win championships in Japan and North Carolina. Currently, he dons a black belt with two red tabs signifying his second degree instructor trainer status in the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program.
Hines spoke of many proud moments during his almost 30 years of service. However, he said the one moment that sits at the top of his list would be looking forward to retiring as a sergeant major, achieving the grade of top enlisted Marine.
“When you’re a (private first class) you don’t think of retiring as a sergeant major,” Hines laughed. “You’re just trying to make sergeant.”
After achieving the rank of sergeant, Hines knew he wanted to go for 20 years of service before retiring.
From combat to conflict and back to combat over the past 29-and-a-half years, Hines has seen and been through a lot. He made it quite clear he wasn’t going to choose just one significant event, but instead a culmination of his entire career defined his most proud moment.
“I’ve had a lot of proud moments, it’s hard to pick just one,” Hines said. “Looking back, I would have to say everything I experienced over the last 30 years, put together, is what I am most proud of.”
With every life story comes a speed bump or two.
Hines had back surgery for two herniated discs as a first sergeant. He said he was put down hard for an entire month.
“I felt like I wasn’t going to walk to again,” he explained. “I couldn’t understand how I made it through combat tours as a combat engineer, with no injuries, and then all of a sudden I am incapacitated due to wear and tear.”
He said he didn’t know what was going on and the doctors couldn’t really explain it. He had to learn how to move, walk and re-learn all the basics in life that he took for granted.
“I really got a greater appreciation for life after that,” he said.
Regardless of his experience, he never lost motivation and never fails to offer advice to young Marines.
“I have a tattoo on my back that sums up my time in the Marine Corps. It’s four words: Love, Discipline, Spirit and Warrior,” said Hines. “It’s in kanji, because most things in kanji are symbolic.”
He explained love stands for love for the corps, family and things of that nature.
“You tend to take care of the things you love,” said Hines. Discipline is the key to success. He believes discipline allows you to do things you’d sometimes rather not. Spirit is how you attack things, he said.
“A good spirit is contagious,” he added. “And being a warrior is fighting for what is right, both mentally and physically.”
“Since day one in the Corps, I didn’t know if I would do 20, but I knew I was damn sure going to try,” said Hines.
One of his influences in particular led him to that decision.
“I had a first sergeant, 1st Sgt. Hampton in Camp Lejuene, N.C., who I believe was most influential to me,” he said. “After working for him, I said ‘hey, I need to emulate that guy, he is the epitome of what it means to be a Marine.’”
Hines believes his senior leadership definitely molded him, but his junior Marines made him most proud. He said getting a “going away” plaque from Marines he led has much more meaning than getting a meritorious service medal from someone who thought he did a good job.
“There is nothing better than a young Marine saying ‘you were the best sergeant major I ever had’,” Hines noted.
Hines said if he didn’t join the Marine Corps he would have most likely joined the police force. He has a passion for service, and if he couldn’t serve his country then he would serve his community.
“Coming to the completion of my 30 years, I must say it has been a pleasure. I can’t believe the magnitude of people I have met,” said Hines. “People make the Marine Corps, we should never forget that. “
Hines advises young Marines to choose their friends wisely because a good friend will take care of you. He affirmed that the Marine Corps is an institution that will stay in your life forever.
He plans to retire on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, 2010—the birthday of the combat engineers.