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It is the last step, the last big test before graduation. Fifty-four hours of being stretched to the limit. Forty-five miles of marching. Two and one-half MREs. Seventy recruits that trained side by side for the last 12 weeks acting as one unit.
At the end they meet at a replica of the Marine Memorial from Arlington National Ceremony. Here, a Chaplain says a prayer, the Drill Instructors will shake each hand and then place in that hand the Globe and Anchor and address the recruit as “Marine” for the first time.
This past week, someone other than myself called my son “Marine.” This time it was for real. He’s made it through. And on Sunday afternoon he was granted some base Liberty and allowed access to a telephone. For five minutes we got to talk, to hear his voice. It was lower in register, more assured, not the voice of my baby boy but a glimpse of the man I’ll get to meet later this week.
Wednesday morning, puppy dog will go to the sitter, siblings will cram their stuff in the car, and along with Grandpa, Mom and Dad will begin the long journey south, through the mountains of West Virginia and into the Carolinas. On Thursday morning we’ll meet for the first time. I know I will recognize the eyes and the goofy grin but I’ll marvel at the changes the Corps has made to him in the last 13 weeks.
The question is, will he see the difference in me? Will he see that I will stand before him a much humbled individual? Will he see how proud I am that he has made more of himself at 18 than I accomplished in a lifetime?
Now, he is part of that brotherhood I will never truly know, those few, those happy few. While politicians squander, squabble, piddle and diddle, those few march on to their own drum. It beats out a constant rhythm: Honor. Courage. Commitment.
I have given my beloved nation a United States Marine. May the nation return to him and to his new brothers and sisters the same values that they are giving to her.
EJHill will not be Photoshopping this week. Mssrs. Long, Robinson and the Blue Yeti are on their own. They’ll manage fine without him.