Jake Haas and Tyler Hallman met as first graders and grew up together in Westminster. The 18-year-old best friends recently completed boot camp together and graduated side by side last month as U.S. Marines.
Haas said Hallman is “pretty much his brother.”
“We’ve been friends since first grade,” he said. “We grew up doing things together.”
Kelly Haas, Jake’s mom, said the two boys started out having sleep overs and eventually went on to join the same troop in Scouts BSA.
Last year, before graduating from Westminster High School, Jake said he was trying to decide what direction he was going to take in life. A Marine recruiter reached out to him in January 2021, and Jake began pursuing the idea.
“Jake struggled with virtual schooling and we had discussed the possibility of trade school,” Kelly said.” After we picked him up from the recruiter’s office he knew what he wanted to do and since then he hasn’t wavered.”
Once he spoke to a recruiter, Jake pitched the idea of joining the Marines to Tyler, who had previously expressed interest in joining the U.S. Air Force.
“When I saw Jake was joining the Marines I thought, ‘Maybe I’ll give that a shot,’” Hallman said, connecting with the same recruiter who had reached out to his friend.
Over the last year the two boys worked out together at the gym almost every day in order to get in peak physical condition before boot camp, pushing and motivating each other along the way. Hallman lost about 70 pounds and Haas dropped 50 pounds before boot camp.
“By the time we were done we both lost another 20 or 30 pounds,” Hallman said. “It’s been a crazy year for us both trying to get in shape. We’re both a little competitive and that made it fun.”
Not only did the two friends join together, but they were also assigned to the same platoon and ended up sharing a bunk bed.
“It was all luck, really,” Hallman said. “We just stayed close together.”
The two teens, who were interviewed while on leave in Carroll County, agree that having a close friend nearby through the boot camp process made the experience much better.
“I could look over and see my best friend there with me,” Haas said. “When he had bad days and I had good days and [and vice versa] we could cheer each other up.”
Both graduated April 29 as Marines at Parris Island, South Carolina.
“We even got to stand next to each other during graduation,” Hallman said, adding they both got emotional at the ceremony.
Haas and Hallman leave for North Carolina later this month to complete Marine combat training.
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Haas encouraged others to pair up when going into boot camp, if possible.
“I want people to know it’s not impossible,” he said. “A lot of people didn’t think I could do it but I proved them wrong. … You always have to have that fire in your heart.”
Kelly Haas said it’s been “an incredible journey” so far for both families. While the boys have been gone, she and Tyler’s mother, Michelle Knott, have supported each other.
“Kelly and I wouldn’t have made it if we didn’t have each other,” Knott said. “We were so excited to be able to see our sons go together. … They were brothers before they were Marine brothers.”
Knott said everything worked out so well that it seems like it was “meant to be.”
“We couldn’t be prouder of the boys,” she said.