"Mom, I am going to join the Marines" all I heard was, "Mom, I am going to join the Marines and die in war" Obviously that is not what he said, but that is what I heard. It is so scary to think that my son is going to join the military much less the Marines. I can not say that I am shocked...out of all of my sons, Jack would be the one to join the Marines. None the less, I was terrified. What also scared me, I knew that he would do well. The Marines would love him and want to use him even more. I did not know what for, but it all made me fearful that I would lose my son one day. A mother's fear.
Since I have a social media following and my husband is a professor, we were invited to do an educators workshop at Parris Island. I would get to go the place that my son was trained to be a Marine, I would get to experience what he did...so of course, I said YES!! I decided that I would give 110%. I had to represent my son well. I did not want anyone to see my name and be disappointed...I had to go at this like Jack did, focused and doing my best...doing beyond my best.
We arrived very early that morning. It was still dark outside, we were on the bus that they bring in recruits. I watched out the window while they drove us through the base and all I could think about was, what did Jack think as he did this ride. Did he think, what have I done? Was he nervous about what was going to happen? I got a tear in my eye thinking that he did this, and I couldn't have done anything...he was on his own. We arrived and they did give us information about what they do to the new recruits and how they prep them....THEN it got real. We were to line up outside like recruits. I was going to give my all, but I did not understand how serious our Drill Instructor was, she took this seriously...we were her recruits. She barked out orders and told us what we were to do. We did it terribly, we were punished. She explained again....again, we failed and we were punished. I thought she would give up...no, she expected us to do it correctly. I do not have a loud voice, it is soft and sweet. I didn't get why we had to yell so much, but our DI (Drill Instructor) wanted us to, so I did. I did ask my son, Jack, later, why all of the yelling, it hurt my voice. He said they are preparing us for the battle field. It is loud and we have to be able to speak loudly. It made sense now...they were training my boy so he could communicate during a battle. My fellow recruits were not doing as our DI instructed. I was hustling, I was yelling louder thinking if she heard me, she would not punish us...WRONG!! She expected ALL of us to do as she said. We did the formation over and over and over again, until we did it correctly. There was a small part of me that got mad at my recruits. Just do as she says...PLEASE!!!!
We went to their barracks, please excuse me if I do not use the right terms, it was difficult learning their terminology in just a couple of days. We met more Drill Instructors. I will admit, they scared me. They are tough, they look tough and they sound tough. I went between being upset at them knowing the hell they put my son through and loving them because I knew they trained my boy to be a Marine, They trained him to survive war and to save his fellow Marines. We went to the sand pit. The DIs Were watching...what if one of them had been Jacks DI? I made sure I would do my best in the pit. Our DI barked out orders.. When people didn't do it right (and of course we didn't) we had to keep going. Those with heart conditions and other injuries were allowed to not participate...but those of us that did were expected to do it right. I was dying, I was hot, I had sand all over me..my face, hair, body.....and we were still messing up. I started to get angry and I won't lie, I wanted to go to those messing up and tell them to get their sh*t together!! But I knew my DI would not allow that, so I kept doing what she said until we all finished it properly. We were a unit...we can not succeed as one but all of us as one.
We would at times ride the bus to our next destination, but at times, we ran. I'm stubborn....so I kept pace with the men. My body was hurting, but you can push that pain to the back of your head. I have done this with child birth and I did it when I did the Amazing Race....I was tired and I was afraid at times...but to finish first....you push on. So, I did.
They showed us the programs they have for Marines and their families, college opportunities, job opportunities, support system. I'm starting to see the Marines differently....its not about sending my boy to war, but offering him opportunities. The leadership, the honor, the responsiblity, the discipline...I'm wishing I had joined as a young woman. How many of today's youth, how many of us could have used this when we were 18? There is that chance of deployment, but there are so many opportunities too. I will admit..my son went into the Marines as a wild child...he came out a responsible man (still wild) but he knows his limits. He has already been promoted twice, you don't want to mess that up and lose it. The Marines gave him something that I never could and I'm thankful for that.
We watched a water class...they teach our recruits how to survive in water. We went into the gas chamber and the residue alone was enough to make my eyes water and my nose and throat burn. They taught my boy how to use a mask to save his life. We rapelled down the Marine wall!! My goodness, I could have done that all day. Some were scared, but they were my fellow recruits and we encouraged them that they could do it. Every recruit did it!!! We shot live rounds. Ok...I was not the best!! Even tho I live in Alabama, I don't shoot guns. The Marines were nice to me teaching me how to shoot. I felt kinda cool doing it!!
We went the the confidence course. Remember, I told you all that I was giving beyond my best??? Well....I was doing one obstacle....jumped...hit my chest so hard that I thought I broke my boob!! It hurt so badly. Once I got home, the pain was pretty bad along with my ribs. I did bruise my boob and my ribs!!! I'm proud of that too. That I went so hard that I left with injuries!! We moved on to another section.. Besides the wall, this was my favorite. We had to work as a team to accomplish our goal. Our first task, we didn't win. That did not sit well with me. So I volunteered to be the leader for the second task. We won!!! My team worked well together. We discussed the best plan of action and we did it. Being a good leader isn't about being bossy. It's about listening to your team and deciding which is the best solution, then executing it. We did perfectly. We ate with recruits. These boys were like my son. So precious and I did want to hug them, but I held off. They told us their experience there. They were close to being done. They were at the point where they saw all of their training was good. Even tho hard at times, they understood why.
Finally, we watched graduation. These recruits were now Marines. They weren't my son, but I was proud as if they were my boy. I remember watching my son march by. I remember wanting to grab him but having to wait. I remember standing outside of the port a potty for him just so I could look into his eyes and I remember hugging him after the ceremony...touching him after I hadn't been able to for months!
I came home sore. I could barely walk, my boob and my ribs hurt. But I wouldn't do any thing differently. I went there to get a taste...small taste of what my son went through. I was even more proud of him...if that's even possible!
So mommas....when your child says they are joining the Marines, you need to know, they are going to become even more amazing men and women. I understand being afraid. I still am. He might be deployed. But I know he got the best training in boot camp at Parris Island and I'm so happy that I was able to be a recruit for 2 days.