The Few, The Proud…the family of a Marine

The summer has sped by all too fast. I love the warm weather and sun. I love living with the windows wide open and the breezes blowing through the house. I love the long days and the sun coming up early in the morning. I have watched the weeks progress through the summer with half my mind on enjoyment and the other half dreading the end of summer. There has been one event, however, which has ameliorated any distress about the end of summer. That event has been Alex’s September 10th graduation from boot camp on Parris Island.

Marine boot camp is thirteen grueling weeks of training. Training is broken into three phases. The first phase is the most hellish. Recruits are subjected to torrents of abuse and heavy physical activity. The point is to get each indivitual to stop thinking about themselves and to become a part of a team, to think of the group and not one’s own wants and desires. The second phase is focused on skills training including marksmanship and riflery. The third phase wraps up all previous work and implements what the recruits have learned. Boot camp culminates with the Crucible–54 hours of sleep and food deprivation and physical challenges dependent upon teamwork. Once a recruit has finished the Crucible, they are technically a Marine. The Crucible concludes with a ceremony where each recruit is presented with his Eagle, Globe and Anchor by his Senior Drill Instructor.

Alex’s letters over the course of the summer marked this progression through boot camp. The first phase was truly difficult both for our recruit and for the parents reading his letters home. The adjustment to living with absolutely no element of personal choice was tough. The drill instructors were demanding and screamed constantly. Recruits were tired, hungry and sore from physically punishing routines. After five weeks things seemed to begin to improve. Phase two and the training was more interesting and slowly the pressure on the recruits eased as they learned to drill, understood the rules and expectations and began to feel some proficiency. Time spent on the riflery range and in classroom fed their intellect and hunger for knowledge. I wouldn’t say Alex expresses any fond sentiments about his weeks on Parris Island, but he is unequivocably happy to be through boot camp, to have graduated and to be a Marine.

Driving seemed to be the best and most cost effective way to relocate the Frost’s to SC. We booked rooms in Beaufort, SC and, happily, Ferd joined us, flying in from Chicago. The drive down was about 15 hours total and we split it over two days since we couldn’t leave until late Tuesday–first day of school for both Peter and Ellie. We arrived in Beaufort around 4 p.m. Wednesday and met up with Ferd. After some exploration and dinner by the water at the Saltus River Grill, we retired with an early morning ahead.

Graduation begins with Family Day. That is the Thursday of graduation week. Family Day kicks off at 6:45 a.m. with the recruits’ Motivational Run around campus. It was still partially dark as friends and families gathered on the Parade Ground to watch our recruits march onto the field and take off for their triumphant run. Calling cadences, their progress was audible as they circled camp on their four mile run. This is the first glimpse of the new Marine for anxious families. Warned in advance that we might not recognize our recruit, I was unable to pick Alex out of his platoon. At 9:30 families gathered again in the All Weather Training Facility for a speech and introduction of the drill instructors for each of the six platoons. At the end of the presentation, recruits were released until 3:00 p.m. for Family Day and families rushed to hug their new Marine. It was a very exciting moment.

We spent our day with our Marine touring the Island, visitng the Marine Museum, grabbing some lunch at the MCX, exploring the Island and catching up with Alex’s adventures. We visited his barracks and loaded one of his duffles into the car. After we left, the Marines had several hours of drilling to prepare for the next day.  Jim and I had a good five mile walk with a little ice cream half-time and tour of Beaufort. That night we dined at a lovely restaurant in Beaufort called Emily’s. Highly recommended.

Graduation started with the flag raising ceremony at 7:45. We arrived in good time and were all quite well attired in our red “family of a Marine” t-shirts–de rigeur attire for many attendees.  The Marine Corps Marching Band played and it was a beautiful blue-sky morning as we watched our colors fly. Afterwards we headed back to the Parade Ground for the graduation ceremony. It was quite an impressive sight to see the six platoons of Marines march in formation. The band played and were unbelievably remarkable as they played and marched in precise patterns. It was a moving ceremony and it was hard not to be incredibly proud of each of these men and what they have accomplished and the commitment they have made to their country and service.

It is hard to describe the mixture of pride and wonder I feel towards my son. He has accomplished something most people could never hope to do. He has grown tremendously and carries himself with great dignity and seriousness. He has made a commitment to military service and will undoubtedly spend time in some dangerous places. I am so very happy to see him growing up to become a man and I am so terribly sad to see the little boy fading away. This is what every parent wants and what breaks the heart of every parent. My son is a good and honorable man. He has a loving heart and a sense of compassion. I am so very proud of what he has become.

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