29 April, 1983. Thirty years ago today, my life forever changed. I heard the words that I had spent the last three months striving towards. Three months…12 weeks.
I spent that time learning about people I didn’t know had ever existed. Guys like Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller, Dan Daley, Carlos Hathcock, and Manila John Basilone who actually bears a great resemblance to Dean Martin.
I saw things that I had never even thought about before like the inner workings of a “gas operated, magazine fed, air cooled, shoulder fired automatic weapon” and the view of San Diego from atop a ladder made of telephone poles. Breathtaking to say the least.
I learned words like school circle, bulkhead, and porthole. Scuttlebutt, hatch, port, and starboard. A mop was now a swab, and the floor was now the deck. And I no longer had a bed, I had a rack (and a nice one at that!). A completely new language, each new word replacing an old one in my vocabulary.
I learned that my body is capable of so much more than I thought before. My mind taught my body to “improvise, adapt, and overcome”. I learned how to make my boots shine like glass and how to fold my skivvies (another new word) down to the size of a pack of coffin nails. And I learned how to make it rain… sand.
I also learned things like “Honor, Courage, and Commitment”. Things like teamwork, reliability, and respect. Without these, a man is just flesh and blood, skin and bones. But add these and that same man becomes virtuous.
Three months…12 weeks. I had become different. I could march with thunderous precision and shoot with accuracy envied by others. My mind was now sharp like the creases in my uniforms. I stood taller and straighter. My hair was short and my skin tanned. I had become different and my family and friends no longer recognized me. I was no longer the chubby kid with no purpose.
29 April, 1983. I was for the first time in the last three months referred to by a name that had seemed unattainable 12 weeks prior. Three months ago I discovered that there can actually be something lower than whale sh-t. Six weeks ago I was a maggot. But today, 29 April, 1983, I became a Marine and I have been ever since. Semper Fi.