NEW HOPE, Ala. — Marine veteran Justin James Atchley Jr. may look like a normal guy in his small town but he is quickly becoming a star in the Marine Corps after seizing the cover of Bass Angler this month. Atchley, who completed four years of active duty service last fall, returned to his home state to drink beer and fish, and never expected to receive so much attention from those with whom he served.
“I didn’t really do that well in the Marine Corps, and I never really got promoted,” said Atchley. “But I’m glad that I am able to put a smile on the guys’ faces.”
Atchley joined the Marine Corps in 2009 after high school, where he graduated with a 1.98 G.P.A. and failed Home Economics class. He wasn’t certain about joining the Marine Corps, but took the advice of an uncle drafted during the Vietnam War, who told him the “best pussy he ‘er had was in the Corps.” Atchley finished his four-year tour in the Marine Corps as an infantryman serving as an admin clerk for 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines out of Twentynine Palms, California.
While Atchley doesn’t mind the newfound attention, he frequently reminds Marines that he served in both Iraq and Afghanistan and that he is not just a fat guy fishing on a magazine cover. “Sometimes I get a Marine who stares at my belly, and I just say to him, ‘Hey Marine, eyeballs!’” said Atchley. “I know they don’t mean to be offensive, so I don’t get offended.”
Atchley is also quick to remind service members that he is more than a drunk fisherman. He also races go-carts, is an avid weed-cultivator and even mended his dog’s broken leg when it was run over by a pick-up truck last winter.
“More than anything I want to take this attention and use it to better represent the Marine Corps,” Atchley told reporters. As for future plans, Atchley said he is thinking of starting his own line of fishing equipment, Marine Marine and Fish, but is having difficulty with the dual meaning of the word “marine.” He is also in talks with Bass Angler about a potential 2015 calendar.
“I am proud to be a Marine more than anything,” said Atchley, “and I will make sure that whatever I do I remember all the Marines out there supporting me. Semper Fi Marines, ooh rah!”