I served in the United States Marine Corps. I graduated from high school on a Friday night and was standing on a set of yellow footprints on Monday as a scared seventeen year-old. It was dark and the smell of marsh and saltwater filled the bus as we made our way past the front gate of Parris Island in what seemed like a slow-motion ride to the receiving barracks. As the bus pulled to a stop, one of the Marine Corps’ finest (I really mean that) boarded the bus. I can still remember every word he spoke. “On behalf of the commanding general, I want to welcome you to Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island.” I thought that was nice. With a change in tone he followed that up with “Now get off my bus.” It took me about 30 seconds to wonder where the “nice” went. Funny, it never showed up again.
Parts of book camp are a blur. Although I remember a great deal, I can’t remember every single detail. I remember it was hot. Oh my, was it hot. If there is a place hotter than Parris Island in June, July, and August, I haven’t been there. I remember sounds, smells, and especially how quiet Parris Island is at night. It is almost eerie how quiet it is. I can remember the silence being broken with the beautiful sound of a drill instructor calling cadence. One memory is unique to my experience. On the evening of August 3, 1990, we were watching the evening news during our half-hour of free time. The headlines that night were that Sadaam Hussein had invaded their neighboring country of Kuwait. My Senior Drill Instructor came out and said that there would be some of going to Kuwait. How prophetic. Four months later, I was there. I turned eighteen about half-way through boot camp while at the rifle range. My graduation date, August 31st, 1990 is a day I will never forget.
I appreciate the Marine Corps more than I can say. I love what the Marine Corps stands for. I loved being a Marine. While those months at Parris Island are arguably the most difficult of my life, I would not give them back even if I could. The Marine Corps helped me to grow up. I found a sense of purpose and a place of belonging that I had never had growing up. Second only to Christ, the Marine Corps changed my life and made me who I am today.
I said all of that to say this. Today is the United States Marine Corps’ 235th birthday. Our Marine Corps has a very storied past. It is one of devotion, pride, and integrity. It is a way of life that I was privileged to be a part of once. So, to the institution that helped shape me, I say “Happy Birthday Marines.”