A Community of Service: Jesse Phillips

USMC Infantry Sergeant Jesse Phillips lives in Starkville with his wife Lexie, twin daughters Sadie and Stormie and son J.R. (Submitted photo)
Staff Writer

Golden Triangle native Jesse Phillips was only 11 years old when he felt the call to serve his county on Sept. 11, 2001.

"I was eleven years old," he said. "That's when I decided. I called my good friend from here in Starkville, Grant Jefferies, on the phone that day and we decided we were going to join the Marine Corps when we got old enough. As soon as we graduated high school that's what we did."

Phillips is a Sergeant in the Marine Corps Infantry. He was born in Tibbee and currently lives in Starkville with his wife Lexie, five-year-old twin daughters Stormie and Sadie and one-year-old son J.R. In the eight years Phillips has served in the Marine Corps, he has travelled around the world, mainly to countries in South America.

Phillips said he didn't want to focus on his military service, rather what his service has taught him.

"I've spent a lot of time with World War II guys, Vietnam and Korean veterans and my own brothers now, and I think the thing that I realize more now than ever, I can see it even more clearly being in the service, is that we're nothing special," he said. "I think the biggest take away for me is just that we're normal old Joes just doing our job."

Phillips said while he and other service members followed their calling to serve their country, any American can serve their country regardless of their occupation.

"If we're going about life thinking about others as more important than ourselves and trying to make our little spot around us a better place, it doesn't matter if we're in the military or what occupation we chose to do," he said. "Now that I'm in the military I can see that more clearly now."

Phillips also works as a photographer and filmmaker, which is influenced by his time as a Marine.

"I'm working on documentaries about World War II, Korea and Vietnam war veterans," he said.

Phillips said he tries to keep his military and civilian life separate, but both aspects of his life pull from each other.

"Being a Marine makes me a better filmmaker, photographer and storyteller, but I don't even like to call myself a photographer," he said. "Photography and filmmaking are just tools I use as a storyteller."

Phillips said his military service keeps him away from his family each year, especially extended periods of time when he is deployed, but photography and filmmaking has allowed him to spend as much time with his family as he can.

"I'm thankful the Lord has blessed me to be able to work for myself, so when I'm not serving I can create my own schedule," he said. "I work where I can and when I can, but when I need to be home with them I can do that too."

Phillips is one of 13 siblings. He has one brother who is also a Marine and two brothers who are soldiers in the Army.

"We were raised to think of others and protect the weak," he said. "In the Bible it says 'Ye that are strong bear the infirmities of the weak.' and so I've always felt that we were a strong family and we need to do our part to protect those who are weaker. I think anyone in the military would feel the same way."

Phillips said his biggest advice to anyone who is considering enlisting is to join the Marine Corps Infantry.

"You'll have a lot more fun that way," Phillips said. "And embrace the suck, embrace the misery and don't be afraid to fail. We spend a lot more time in life, not just in the military, getting beat down and very little time on the mountain top.

Go ahead and get used to getting knocked down and being a failure, but don't be satisfied with failing. Embrace it and learn from it."

When Phillips' military service is over, he said he plans to stay in Starkville and spend time with his family.

"Starkville is a good town," he said. "My work takes me all over the country but Starkville is definitely where I plan on living for the rest of my life."