When Louis Cardin signed up for the Marines’ delayed entry program, he still had a year to go at Temecula’s Chaparral High School.
Cardin — a tall, blonde guy with a ready grin in photographs — was already seeking something bigger.
The next spring, he graduated from high school on a Friday. On the following Monday at 5 a.m., Marines arrived to collect him for boot camp in San Diego.
"It was the challenge," his mother, Pat Cardin, said in a recent interview about her son.
"Kids don’t really know what they want at that point in high school. Some kids are brilliant enough to say, ‘This will give me an opportunity to think about what I want to do. At the same time, I’ve got a challenge going.’"
Louis Cardin served in the Marine Corps for a decade.
There was a 2007 deployment to Iraq at the height of the war and three to Afghanistan — a tough way to spend one’s late teens and early 20s.
Pat Cardin said her son never consciously planned to make the Marines a lifetime career. But he re-enlisted while on one deployment, and then again after he made staff sergeant, a rank that put him in a leadership role among his troops.
The re-enlistment bonus was a factor, his mother remembers with a chuckle.
A single guy with no children, Louis liked nice things. His 2014 Chevy Impala with leather seats was a source of pride.