I was standing on the famous Yellow Foot Prints at the Receiving Barracks at US Marine Corps Recruiting Depot in Parris Island, South Carolina 34 years ago this year. The distinct memories of that experience feel like it was yesterday. I can still hear the chaotic and contradicting orders that were barked at me and my 80 classmates. Don’t move recruit, move it recruit, too slow, too fast, up, down, what is wrong with you recruit? Those were some of the commands yelled at us, all designed to further confuse already dazed and confused Marine Recruits.
The Drill Instructors, who I think enjoyed their job a little too much, were very intimidating men dressed in their “Charlie” uniforms consisting of green trousers, tan short sleeve shirts with creases that you could sharpen a knife on, black leather shoes spit shined to a mirror finish and the famous Marine Corps Campaign Covers a top their immaculately shaved heads.
My Senior Drill instructor was actually a great guy and a father figure to all of us. He helped us to endure the grueling three months of recruit training. I distinctly recall laying in my rack at night and envisioning how that I could – impossibly – slip out of the barracks undetected in the middle of the night, make my way to the shoreline and swim through alligator infested waters to a friendlier community that I thought existed somewhere else in South Carolina. Of course that was a dream and it was never going to happen nor was I serious about it either. But on any given day after enduring endless minutes of mountain climbers in the sand pit or hours and hours of close order drill on the parade field it was not an uncommon day dream to have.
Military life is not for everyone but I do believe that it is a great way for our young people to start out their lives and careers. Boot Camp in any military service is designed to strip away and reduce an individual down to his or her core, to their soul, and then rebuild that person into a Marine, a Sailor, Airman, Soldier or Coast Guardsman. The end goal being that the individual can work cohesively and unselfishly with a team and to be part of something far bigger and greater than one person. That is the experience that helps mold an individual to be successful for one tour, for an entire career and undoubtedly for life.
Marine Corps Boot Camp and my life in the Marines made me the man I am today. That is a fact and I am very grateful for that experience.
On this day, November 10th, the official 240th birthday of the United States Marine Corps I salute and say Happy Birthday to all my fellow Marines.
Viper One Six
Sergeant, USMC 1981-1988