Military stories from past to present, both wars.

Graduation from Parris Island

January 14th, 2014 Posted in The SandGram v1.0

This is part of a book my friend and former Marine DI is writing.  I love Ken’s work and can’t wait until the book arrives.  So keep and eye out for Ken Capps and his next book.

 

Parris Island, South Carolina
June 2004
 
GRADUATION EVE
 
The night before graduation, Schulz dismissed all three of his junior drill instructors, and an hour before final lights-out, he exited the duty hut and walked among his platoon. He’d left his Smokey on his desk in the duty hut. Quietly he called his men to the quarterdeck, a large open area in front of the duty hut, and asked them to, “please gather ‘round.” Not an order, not a command, but a respectful plea to a group he respected. The platoon stood shoulder to shoulder in a tight formation with just enough room between them to sit cross-legged on the deck if told.
            “At ease, at ease,” Schulz began as he motioned with both hands palms down in a gentle pushing motion. “I want to start by saying thank you for voluntarily enlisting into the world’s finest fighting force, the United States Marine Corps, and coming here to keep me entertained these last seventy-three days.”
            Sensing the relaxed atmosphere, the platoon broke into laughter, which slowly tapered off as Schulz held up his hand to continue his speech.
            “I am proud of you. Each and every one of you came here knowing that you are about to step into harm’s way. For two hundred twenty-nine years, brave men like you have stepped forward to join a brotherhood which stands against tyranny, for justice, and with pride—representing those who cannot stand or fight for themselves . It’s been tough on you, I know. It was tough on me when I was in your boots, and that is now something we share in common. This is my Marine Corps, and you can’t come in unless you measure up, unless you pass the test … or this would just be a daycare.”
Laughter broke out again. Schulz extended his arms and pointed at the young faces before him in sweeping motions. “And thanks to all of you for allowing me the joy of passing on the tradition of my Marine Corps to you.
            “You now all share two birthdays that will define you for the rest of your life. November 10, 1775, the birthday of your Corps, and June 18, 2004, tomorrow, the day you officially become Marines. But tonight before you spend your very last night together as a platoon, before you close your eyes, remember this place and what you have learned. The sound of your boots striking the ground in unison as one, like thunder.”
His voice rose to a crescendo as he lifted his chin, clenched his fists, and closed his eyes. The platoon roared in response to his obvious emotions conjoining with his words. Slowly, the roar of the platoon faded and calmed, but Schulz was still bathing in the moment, as he lowered his chin and opened his eyes.
            “No matter if you stay in for one more day or retire after thirty years, you are a Marine forever. Take what you have learned here and use it to better your lives.”
The platoon soaked in every word and could barely contain their emotions at his candid, fatherly words. They patted each other on the back and let out the occasional Ohhh-rah . Their normally stone-faced visages softened in the moment as they smiled in satisfaction at this—their moment. And more of that to come tomorrow.
            “It is my honor to embrace you as my brothers, as Marines.”
            At the completion of Schulz’s speech, the squad bay erupted into an explosion of sounds that blasted through the windows and reverberated off the bulkheads louder than thunder, perhaps louder even than combat. It continued while Scholz waded his way through the crowd of smiling faces to shake the hands of each and every Marine in his platoon. He was proud of them all.
            The euphoria lasted well after lights-out as the fledgling Marines milled about, talking and spending just a few more moments trying to cut the edge of the excitement down enough to fall asleep.

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