Meech Speaks Is More Than A Decorated Marine
Interview With Andre J. Ellington and Demetrius Thigpen (also known as Meech Speaks)
“Your environment is going to always have a plan for you if you don’t have a plan for yourself.”
This interview has been condensed for lengthy and clarity
Andre J. Ellington: Talk about your upbringing on the Eastside of Detroit, MI.
MS: I was born in Detroit, MI, in the Red Zone and raised by a single mother. I tell people a single mother raised me because it’s hard being a single parent. Her raising me alone is a testament to her strength. My mother graduated at the top of her classes in school, but a significant setback for us was my father being an alcoholic. When you have a family member that’s an alcoholic, they come in and out of your life. One minute they’re clean, the next minute they’re not, and this cycle repeats itself. My father was a reoccurring character in my life’s story.
When I was eight years old, my dad sat me down and told me that I was the man of the house. From then on, I only saw my dad sparingly throughout the next 15 years, and I haven’t seen my father since I started having kids.
Whenever I tell people I’m from Detroit, they assume my early life resembled the movie 8 Mile. Let me be the first to tell you — nobody is battle rapping in Detroit, but the drugs, violence, and gang activity is real.
AJE: How did your family react to you wanting to join the military, especially since media plays a role in the unsettling nature of how we view being in the service?
MS: My family looked at me like I was crazy. Nobody believed in me or thought it was a good idea to join the military. When I entered the military, they thought I would get blown up, have PTSD, and a host of other ailments. I can even remember my neighbors trying to rip up my military papers.
I didn’t want to work a regular job or go to college, so the military was the best opportunity for me, given the circumstances I was in at that time. When I showed up to the Marine Corps, my family cried and told my recruiter that I better come back in one piece. Ultimately, this decision ended up being one of the best I’ve made in my life.
AJE: What were some of your future plans prior to you joining the military?
MS: In high school, I knew I didn’t want to go to college. One day, while going to take the ACT-SAT, my name wasn’t called to receive a test, so I had to figure out what I was going to do with my life. I had the drive for success, but I didn’t have direction. After graduating high school, I became a cart pusher at Meijer. While at work, I saw a military recruiter and asked him if he’d recruit me into the military. From there, I enlisted into the United States Marine Corps in 2009.
AJE: How were your first years like in the military?
MS: I almost didn’t survive my first few years in the military. The easiest part of joining the military was the physical nature of playing sports as a child. Even the yelling and screaming from ranking members didn’t bother me because of my experiences in Detroit. The hardest part of joining the military was transitioning from being on your own to having someone else tell you what to do. If I failed boot camp, I was going back to Detroit, whereas everyone else I was around had a backup plan. I tell all young recruiters that if you survive the transition, you can survive anything.
AJE: How did you handle being around individuals in the military who weren’t cut from the same cloth as you?
MS: Joining the military allowed me to see different people from different walks of life. Initially, I couldn’t stand people in the military who didn’t take their job seriously or didn’t come from my environment. But as I moved into leadership positions, I started to become more empathetic toward people. It took a while, but I eventually turned that angst into comradery.
AJE: What made you want to become a high-ranking leader in the military?
MS: I always knew I wanted to lead Marines, but I had to figure out the internal aspects. Before I received a leadership position, I would organize my peers at my rank level and get them to do various tasks. Once I gained the respect of my peers, my superiors started to notice me, which opened up a wealth of opportunities. By the time my leadership positions kicked in, I was already being deployed to Afghanistan for the first time. While there, I told myself that my decision-making would determine whether somebody else lives or dies. This was when I knew I was built to be a leader.
AJE: When did you get the urge to start speaking to groups on a professional level and become a published author?
MS: I used to have a fear of public speaking, but the military taught me how to get over this hurdle while I was a Martial Arts Instructor. After every class, I would talk to the students, which allowed me to become comfortable with public speaking. I honestly thought I would serve 20 years in the Marine Corps and figure out the aspects of speaking afterward, but everything changed in 2019.
In 2019, I was in California, and my Sergeant Major wanted me to speak at the Lance Corporal seminar. I was nervous, but I went anyway. When I got there, I talked about how no matter what you do to a single dollar bill (crumble it, step on it, throw it), its value won’t change. After I finished, a Marine came up to me, and she started crying while saying she was the dollar. I told God that we might have something up our sleeves that day.
During my next speaking engagement in 2019, I sat on a panel with several esteemed speakers who were accredited in their fields of work. When it was my turn to speak, I jumped off the stage and started talking in the middle of the crowd. Once I was done, I got a standing ovation from the entire room. I didn’t know the significance of why I needed to be on that stage until that very moment. After the speaking engagement, I started my first podcast, Extraordinary Thoughts for the Ordinary Mind.
MS: I was booked to speak at a Women’s Empowerment Conference featuring Lisa Nichols. While showing my brother the flyer, he told me that I had to create a book and podcast to establish authority in my field. After that conversation, I began writing my manuscript for my book, The Extraordinary Thought From an Ordinary Mind in March of 2020 and released it in July of 2020.
When I started Extraordinary Thoughts for the Ordinary Mind, I knew I wanted my prime focus to be mental health which is such a huge topic in the military. Many people in the military deal with mental health issues, but we refuse to talk about it because we don’t want to seem weak or incapable of handling these issues. But with the podcast, I realized I was suffering in silence. I would go home and drink until I passed out on my patio because I was trying to numb my pain. I didn’t know much about creating a podcast, but I knew I had to do it.
Before it was called Extraordinary Thoughts for the Ordinary Mind, it was called Motivation For the Starving Soul. I named it this because I thought I had to be polished and proper during the podcast. When I let a few people hear the first two episodes, they told me I sounded fake, and honestly, they were right. Once I started speaking from the heart, the podcast took off.
With the episodes of my podcast, I don’t talk about things that I’ve gotten over… I talk about things I’ve gotten through.
AJE: What’s next for you?
MS: 2022 is personal for me because 2021 was a year of growing pains. I couldn’t believe that I made it through last year because I was so depressed and full of hate. Now, I’m ready to take my life to the next level and become more committed to everything I’m currently doing.
In 2022, I plan to release more merchandise, and I’m also working on my next book.