When my nephew, Nick, announced that he had enlisted in the Marines just months after graduating from high school, my first thought was "Are you nuts??? Don't you watch the news????"
I just returned from San Diego where I watched this young man graduate from the rigorous Marine boot camp. I watched the marching, the ceremony, and the video "The Making of a Marine". I marveled on how this organization could take young men, some only 17 or 18 years old, and in 12 weeks transform them into confident, proud fit individuals. They came in slouchy pants, baggy shirts, shaggy hair, mumbling and whining, not knowing what they would do with their lives, and now they stood proudly and confidently and with a clear vision of what they could do and would do.
I am very discouraged with the war in Iraq, and cringe whenever the newscaster tell of yet another explosion which destroyed lives and families. I am disappointed that in this stage of our civilization, we still resort to dealing with disagreements with force and violence. I yearn for the peace and respect that our country enjoyed a few years ago, when gas prices were lower, homes weren't being foreclosed in record numbers, and the economy was good. I wonder why anyone would be willing to risk so much to run for president of this country and shoulder the responsibilities of trying to turn the economy and war around. I find myself very interested in this political election, and am pleased to see how the young people are getting involved again, and it reminds me of my high years and John F. Kennedy, and how we became excited about our ability to make this country better.
Then it gets personal. A young man is putting his life on the line for his country. I am so proud of Nick, and what he has overcome to earn the title of Marine. I have learned how he will now always be a Marine with Courage, Committment and Honor engrained in his heart. He has joined a group of proud individuals who have a bond....they have completed the most grueling of any bootcamps. I watched the video show them completing the Crucible, when they went without food and sleep, hiked up the steep Grim Reaper with full packs, and when they thought they couldn't go another moment,were able to dig deep within themselves to make the final steps. Then, to be greeted with the flags and applause as they finished this grueling trek. I saw the tears running down their cheeks as they were handed the pin that they would wear with pride at graduation. I heard the interviews with these boys who were lost, didn't have direction, lacked discipline, and now had a confidence and pride in their eyes that they had earned through great effort.
I sometimes think that perhaps all of our youth should spend six months after high school to go through a program like this. Aimless, angry, and lost youths could find themselves and discover their inner strengths and possiblities. THEN they could go on to college....or vocational school....or continue with the military for a longer time. Perhaps the government would then pay their first year of schooling. With what is being spent on incarceration and court costs for confused young people, instead, we would have a trained group of people who would have the discipline and direction to move forward as productive members of society.
But Friday was Nick's day. I was so proud of him, and shocked at the pictures.....it was almost like I saw my Dad in Nick's proud grin. Dad passed 4 years ago, but I am sure he was standing beside a confident, young Marine on Friday....and his arms were around this young man, and also around the woman he loved......and does...and will. Congratulations, Nick!