Like many other students, my son finished high school and attended college through the COVID pandemic. Earlier this year, he neared graduation from our local community college and was about to earn top honors for his achievements. He was poised to matriculate to a four-year university this past fall – and was planning to earn his degree as well as get his ATP, his Air Transport Pilot rating. His plan was to become a professional pilot, flying passengers along the friendly skies. He came to me one day and shared that he wasn’t inspired by that, right now. He chose to follow a road less traveled and enlist in the Marine Corps.
All the men in my family were Marines. My father, my uncles, (those related by blood and those my dad knew from the US Marine Corps). My god father was my father’s best friend in “the Old Corps” as they called it. His oldest son also became a Marine. Now, most of these men were Marines back-in-the-day of compulsory service. Well, everyone but my god brother. My dad was the ultimate scholarship boy. His father had a third grade education – my father earned a football scholarship to Stanford University and then went on to fulfill his military obligation in the US Marines. His twin, my uncle, went with him. Their older brother served late in World War II. Yes, my father’s brother served in the US Marines during World War II. And, I’m so honored to be related to all of these men.
My dad and my god father met during Officer Candidate School – they were the original wedding crashers, taking a weekend of liberty by riding the train to Washington D.C. from Quantico and posing as society reporters at a wedding reception held in the Willard Hotel. OMG, that’s a whole Goodwill Story in and of itself. For a time, my father served as an aide to General Victor (Brute) Krulak, a Marine Corps legend. He was only in the Marines for two years, and yet, he made the most of it. But I digress…
So, despite having all this Marine Corps legacy in my family, it was in the way-back. My father passed away when my son was only seven years old. After my father had been gone for about three months, my son said to me, “Mom, I can’t remember PopPop’s voice anymore.” Oh, that was a hard day. Those two had bonded over World War II docu-dramas and football. But that was over a decade ago. And my father had been in the Marines fifty years before that.
I think, well, I know my son has always been captivated by military history. He can rattle off battle statistics and the influences for success or failure like some people rattle off baseball scores. When he enlisted, my son was driven and so excited to begin his service in the Corps.
So, he left in mid-August and has been at it ten weeks. This week is Crucible Week. It begins at O-dark-thirty on Tuesday and over the ensuing 54 hours, it is a definitive experience, to include food and sleep deprivation, and nearly 50 miles of marching. The recruits face many obstacles throughout boot camp but I’m certain the biggest ones include their fears. I’ve been writing my son about the importance of courage. About working through one’s fears and finding resolve and strength. I share this letter I wrote to him with you; and ask that you send your prayers and good wishes to my son during this pivotal time.
When I returned from camping this past weekend, your letters were waiting for me. Since reading them, I’ve been thinking a lot, reflecting on things. First, know that I love you and that I am absolutely SURE you will be successful in overcoming any difficulties you face in boot camp.
Keep working. Keep trying and keep learning and listening. This period of boot camp is designed to ensure you unlearn and set aside what you knew in the past and that you learn and master Marine Corps principles...these skills will carry you forward in life and possibly save your life. They certainly will serve you as a man -- and set you apart as one in a small, elite group of men and women who chose to become part of the Corps. Anyone who meets you will know you accomplished something greater -- in all ways.
I know a few things, for sure. That since you were a small child you have been fascinated with military history, and with the Marine Corps, in particular. You were captivated with the Corps' experiences, strengths, and values. What 11 year-old watches WWI and WWII docu-dramas and reads Band of Brothers, on purpose? It inspired me and, yet, I spent time trying to show you other career options. You always gravitated back to this one. You chose this because it fired you up. You really wanted this, all along.
After having been accepted to the university, to their pilot training program, I was proud because I knew you earned it with your outstanding grades and achievements. Yet, I could also see that it was just another set of schooling for you. I could see you were just going through the motions at the time. When I suggested you get a part-time job to help pay for school, you were NOT inspired. When I asked, "Well, what about the military?" You positively LIT UP!
You made that appointment to meet with the recruiter, and worked through the process of being approved for boot camp...like you were on FI-ARE. And you worked hard at getting physically fit -- the Hugh Heffner robe you used to wear was all but discarded. You achieved one of the top spots in your physical fitness test, the weekend before you shipped out. I SAW it, first hand. You were third at the 1/2-way point in your run, and placed fifth, overall. And I don't think anyone did as many pull-ups as you. It's amazing to me, your transformation.
We are meant to grow and go out into the world -- you are meant for greater things, my young man. I love you. I am your mom and your closest family. I will always be here for you. And, part of my role as a mother is to encourage you to go forth and grow as a man, to become confident, courageous, and compassionate and to find a purpose that balances inspiration and remuneration -- as I've always said to you. Maybe at some point that means you go to OCS and then flight school? Maybe it means you shift gears and train to be an electrician? Whatever it may be for you, this is a well and good foundation. One that you wanted. You may fear failure and question your abilities right now and that is completely understandable.
I will ALWAYS be your mom. You will ALWAYS be my bright star in the sky. I will ALWAYS be proud of you, as my son. And, I know you will be incredibly proud of yourself for the work you will do to create bonds with your fellow recruits, to overcome difficulties, to work beyond and with the difficult people you encounter, and to complete this training.
Reach out. Ask for help. And be kind to yourself, encourage yourself, and your other platoon members. Your whole life, you have been someone people gravitate to because you are so open and accepting -- you listen with caring ears and people recognize that, right away. It's hard to see that when you feel like you're letting your squad down. As you get to know your fellow recruits. I bet you’ll find they think that is not the case. And even if it is, keep working at it. This is meant to be hard. If it were easy, everyone would do it.
I'm sending along some pictures from my camping adventures, last weekend! Saw a lot of wildlife--still no Yeti sightings. After last weekend, I REALLY appreciate indoor plumbing! I also really appreciate our beautiful, American wild lands. These are among the important places that you and your fellow Marines help protect and keep safe.
I L❤VE you -- Mom