Teen eager to be a Marine with stepdad's moniker

Codie Gipson is planning a complete makeover. That's up to and including his name.

Three months after graduating from Elliott Alternative Education Center in June, Gipson, 18, will go to boot camp with the Marine Corps. And after boot camp, he and his sweetheart, Ashley Henson, are planning to wed.

Before those chapters in his life, Gipson plans to change his last name to Bryant, after the name of the only man he has ever called "Dad," Mike Bryant.

"My (biological) father wouldn't let me be adopted while I was under 18," Gipson said.

Gipson will act soon to honor his stepdad, going to the county clerk's office to complete the work already done in his heart.

With his Marine future, he is following in the footsteps of his best friend, Jay Davi. Davi was one of four friends who joined the Marines together in September. Only two of the four made it through boot camp, Davi and Michael Wormuth.

William Howard was released after two weeks because of migraines. Logan Heilman was discharged after failing to report for boot camp.

Staff Sgt. Isidro Zamudio said the Marines usually don't release people who get cold feet about reporting, but after reviews it can happen. He said the number of recruits who don't make it through boot camp is small.

Howard has two years from when he left boot camp to reapply if his physical condition improves.

Gipson said he wasn't unsettled by the two who didn't finish. "I've been dreaming about this since I was 4 or 5 years old."

His mom, Geri Bryant, 44, confirms her son's early dreams. "It's all he's ever talked about since he was little. Friends said he'd outgrow it, but he never did."

She said it was hard for him to be left out. "When they left (last year), especially Jay, he was devastated," Bryant said.

She won't be wringing her hands while he's gone. "I'm not one to pray. He's a good kid and knows what he wants. I'll just hope for the best."

Gipson said he was impressed and encouraged by Davi, who finished boot camp and now is back at Camp Pendleton for further training. Gipson saw Davi in Modesto when his friend was home on leave. "(Davi) says he's a changed person. He never felt stronger, never felt more in control of himself."

Henson, Gipson's fiancée, said she has known since she met Gipson that he would join the military. Her feelings of pride are tinged with anxiety.

Gipson knows that he will be a role model for many close to him. He has two cousins who may follow in his footsteps one day. His mom took over guardianship for Stan, 7, and Chase, 2. Gipson is close to Stan, whom he calls "my mini me."

He isn't worried about the challenges of being a role model or trying to succeed where others have failed. He said he takes his creed from the Lonestar song "Mountains": "The good Lord gave us mountains, so we could learn how to climb."

He said he takes his example from his dad. "He's my idol. He's worked every day of his life."

Gipson's most prized possession is the watch his dad gave him. That is, until he takes his name. He expects to answer the roll call in the Corps for "Bryant, Codie."

Staff writer Roger W. Hoskins may be reached at rhoskins@modbee.com. or 578-2311.