Growing up, I always imagined myself being a service member someday. For me, it was all about value. Being of value to your country and being a valuable member of a team. Not just any team, either: the Marines. I was in love with the idea of being a part of a real life version of Band of Brothers. This was my opportunity for great personal development and so I went for it.
Three months prior to leaving for boot camp I met the woman who would become my wife. I didn’t just fall. I fell hard. The preceding year I spent avoiding potential relationships, but this was different.
Like all recruits west of the Mississippi, my boot camp experience started at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego—MCRD for short. If it seemed like a fortress it’s because it is one. Walls 15 feet high surround the small base not far from downtown San Diego. It even featured the proper soundtrack of young recruits screaming in response to their drill instructors. It was almost like something out of a movie except it was real. This was the summer of 2009 and I was determined the make the cut. You only get one chance to be a Marine. If you fail that’s it. I was determined to not let my dreams wash away.
The day I left was a strange one; it was pouring down rain in the middle of July like a dramatic scene from an old movie. I spent the time I could with my girlfriend, but my recruiter would be coming to pick me up shortly. I remember the last few minutes with her holding onto each other like we’d never see each other again. When a government vehicle pulled up I knew it was him and before I knew it my recruiter would softy say to me, “it’s time to go.” Equally cinematic was my girlfriend’s face as she stared back at us driving away.
We arrived in Portland sho...
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...es. Emotion swept over all of us.
My experience at boot camp was bookended by Marine week, a time that family comes to visit and you’re finally allowed to be a human again. No longer would we have to eat with our hands in under two minutes or be called nasty names. We would eventually do what is called a moto run, which is five miles long and ends in formation by our families. I have never been a fan of running, but finishing that run was the greatest high I’ve ever felt. Not just because I could see my girlfriend for the first time in three months, but because I knew I was not only part of something greater and that I proved it. Exactly twelve months later I would be married. After three deployments and four years of honorable service, I am glad to say that we are happily married. I got to be a part of a real Band of Brothers, but I also got something a lot greater:
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