By Jody C. Brown, Director for Lee’s Summit Physicians Group.
Our youngest son enlisted in the delayed entry program for the Marines before his senior year of high school even began. He doesn’t come from a long line of military family members, so while he had always talked about joining the Marines, this journey was new (and very emotional) for us!
Because he had been enlisted for so long, over a year by the time he shipped out, the day of his departure was less emotional and almost more a sense of “we’ve been talking about this for so long, it’s time to just get going.” Don’t get me wrong, tears were most definitely shed that day!
The reality of Marine Boot Camp is harsh.
As much as a young man, or woman, thinks they are ready for what awaits them in their 13 weeks of boot camp, from our experience with Jake, and the many young men around him, nothing really prepares you. YouTube videos are great for giving you some idea of what you will experience, and stories from Marines back for their 10 days of leave following boot camp also give you a small glimpse of what you will experience.
I received more than a couple letters that left me in tears over what was being told to me in those letters. he Marines have a job to do, and their job is to get these young men and women ready to enter a combat situation and be able to do their job without hesitation and without distraction. I may be appalled at the tactics that are used, but I’m a mom, not a drill instructor tasked with the job of taking a recruit and making him a Marine. I did apologize to Jake at one point for not screaming at him continuously as a child, had I done that he may have felt a little more at home in boot camp.
However, after 13 weeks of no contact other than good old handwritten letters, and one phone call that came on Thanksgiving Day for 3 minutes and 45 seconds (which would be followed by 24 hours of quarantine for him and his platoon as the majority of them got food poisoning from their Thanksgiving meal) Family Day and Graduation Day finally arrived!
What an incredibly emotional and powerful ceremony to be a part of for those two days.
When we laid eyes on Jake for the first time in 13 weeks, he came so close to us that I could have reached out and touched him, but because they were performing a training exercise, he could not acknowledge us at all. Not with the slightest of smiles or even a side eye glance. I asked him later if he saw us there because I really could not tell if he had or not, but he had. After a morning of motivational runs, formations and some meetings for the parents, he was finally ours and we got to spend a whole 5 hours on base with him that day.
So many questions, so many stories and not nearly enough time after so many weeks apart, but it was a great day!
Not every recruit makes it through.
Not every recruit makes it in boot camp. (You are referred to as a recruit until you complete the Crucible which occurs in week 10.) I didn’t know until he was there, but recruits can actually quit boot camp, and they can also get sent home by the Marine Corp. Many in Jake’s platoon did not make it. Knowing this and knowing what he had endured the previous 13 weeks including upper respiratory infection, pink eye, foot issues, food poisoning and of course all the mental aspects of boot camp… such pride filled his dad and I in that moment when we first saw him. But we could only watch him.
What was the most important thing for Jake during boot camp?
Letters from home. Letters from family especially, but also from friends in our circle who Jake may not have known well, but they took the time to write him anyway. Those letters kept him going. The encouragement held within every single letter he received pushed him to succeed in his goal.
My heart was broken one evening when I found out that a young recruit in his platoon, who happened to be from the Kansas City area, had not received a single letter halfway through boot camp. I did not know this young man, but I sent him a letter that same day. He wrote the nicest letter back and I was thankful to be able to meet him on Family Day. He was so thankful for that letter from “Brown’s mom” and it got me thinking, how many other young men don’t have the family support that Jake had to encourage them and tell them how proud they are of them? My guess is that there are more than a few.
I will continue to write letters to recruits in Golf Company whenever a new group is starting. A little bit of encouragement from a proud stranger can’t hurt!