Understanding the Marines Corps, is trying to understand a whole new world. Having a fourteen year old son tell you that he is considering joining the Marines, can be a changing event in both our lives.
As a parent I have concerns. As an American and Latina, I am honored, but is the Marine Corp the right choice for him?
Fourteen years ago I was giving birth to my first born child, a son. As I stared at him, I wondered what kind of man he would be; what kind of teenage problems I would have with him, would he give me as many headaches as I gave my mother. I would never have thought that my fourteen year old son and I would be having a conversation about him wanting to join the Marines. As I sat there and heard him tell me that he wanted to prove to his father that men and women in the military are honorable people.
It all started on one hot Saturday afternoon in New Mexico near Holloman Base when my son was 8 years old and he found himself looking up at the fighter planes passing by. I can still hear him tell his father that he wanted to fly those planes. His father's answer to his comment was, "What for? The Military just uses its men and woman."
I believe those were the life changing words for my son. I noticed the interest my son has gotten recently with military movies like Band of Brothers, Saving Private Ryan, Flags of our Fathers and Jarhead. I never thought that he would consider joining the Marines.
This conversation has stayed with me for a couple of months, so I decided to speak to a couple of former Marines and educate myself on what the Marines Corps is really all about. It has not been easy researching this special breed of men and women but I have come across information that has changed the way I look at these people.
In late March I had the privilege to speak with Sergeant Major Jose Trujillo, a retired twenty-three year veteran of the United States Marine Corps. As we sat down and talked, I was nervous about speaking with a man that held so much history. He was kind enough to want to share his knowledge with me.
I asked the most important question for me first: What do you say to a mother whose child is thinking about joining the Marines? "You should be honored that he wants to join such an elite group of people," he said. "Honored I am" I stated, "But fear is what I have." "There is nothing to fear, Marines are trained to be the best they can be." He said to me.
"You must understand something," said Sergeant Major Trujillo, who also spent some of his career as a Drill Instructor. "Marines are trained by other Marines and we break them down and build them back up in body and mind. But as we build them back up we teach them to always think of the person next to him. In the Marines there is no me or I, it's about us and we. This is what makes us different from the rest of the military branches. Every Marine is taught to be a rifleman first. Then they are taught to be proud of the history of the Marine Corps and the sacrifices made by those who came before them. Ask any Marine what they remember the most about boot camp. Most will tell you that they remember their history; a history that has defined what the Marine Corps stands for. If one Marine recruit feels like they will not be able to complete the task ahead of them, we as Drill Instructors remind them there have been other Marines before them that have completed these tasks but on actual battlefields."
As our conversation continued, we touched on every subject that his relegated to the Marines. The love the man shares for the Corps is something that is very contagious. I can't seem to explain it but the way he speaks about the Corps makes you want to go and join just to be a part of such an elite group of people. Speaking to Sergeant-Major Trujillo helped me understand why Marines are Marines. He told me, "Your son will be trained by the best Drill Instructors and it will not be easy but if he wants to do it then let him try. He will become a young man that has pride that will be able to lead other men and women. He will serve his country like the rest of us and stand with pride when we see the flag of the United States. Yes we are at war and yes we might still be at war when he joins but know that he will be properly trained to be the best Marine he can be."
As I continued my research I came across a special edition article by Newsweek called "Voices of the Fallen, Any day I'm here could be the day I die. The Iraq War in The Words of America's Dead" by Meacham, J. published April 2, 2007. This particular special edition has been one of the hardest things I have read in my life. These are letters written by fallen soldiers, men and women sending there love and last thoughts to their beloved family members.
There is a particular letter that stands out in my head written by Lance Cpl. Lance Graham to his parents where he asked his family, "Please don't be mad at the Marine Corps. It was my choice to join and come here. I honestly believe this is what I was meant to do."
As a mother reading this letter it breaks my heart. As an American I am so honored that there are people out there like Lance Cpl. Lance Graham who want to stand up and protect this country. Yet what do you tell a mother who has lost a child? Claudia, who is my younger sister and only has one child, fears that maybe her 10 year old son too will want to join the Marines. "There is nothing you can say to a mother who has lost a child, especially if she only has one child," Claudia told me.
Yet her feelings for her son joining are more of a selfish tone than anything else. She tells me, "My son can make a difference, too, but he does not have to join the Marines to do so. I don't want him to join because I wouldn't want to lose him, and as selfish as that might sound, he is the only child I have and if he were to die in war there would be no words or anything that will comfort me. A folded flag will and can not substitute my son."
Those words hit home as I looked at my son who was sitting across the way. I could not bear the thought of losing my child but yet there have been so many other parents who have lost their children in this war and past wars. These parents have given their best to our country. In times when our country needs protecting why should I be selfish and tell my son "no"? There will be many men and women who will never have the chance to children of there own, who will no longer share a drink with a friend or a spouse. How can this be what my son wants?
I still can't understand why a person would want to go through the rigors of a thirteen week boot camp training just to be called a Marine. Marines are pushed to their limits and when they think they can go no more, they are pushed even harder. But when you really think about it, these young men and women are trained to be elite fighting machines, to have a warrior ethos of cultures past.
It shows even in their television commercials, because they do not talk about college money or job training like the other services do but the entire commercial is about challenge, pride and honor. They are trained to set aside their pain and discomfort and do what they have to do to accomplish the mission. They are not just mindless robots made to follow orders blindly but they are taught to think fast under physical and mental stress and be able to make life and death decisions within minutes, no matter what rank or age they are.
The Marines are the smallest of the U.S military services and though the Army is one the largest of Military Branches, the Marines has the longest and hardest boot camps around. The current war statistics show that in 2005, Marines lost 530 of the more than 1820 U.S personnel who died in Iraq in 2005. Roughly 23,000 Marines out of a total of 138,000 members of the armed forces were stationed in Iraq which meant the Marines made up 17% of the force, but they took 30% of the casualties. (Smith, L., (2006). The few and the proud. New York: Norton)
"Their's is the richest culture: formalistic, insular, elitist with a deep anchor in their own history and mythology". (Ricks, T. (1997). Making the Corps. New York: Touchstone Simon and Schuster.) "This is what makes them different; this is what attracts so many young men and woman to the Marines. They place pride and responsibility at the lowest levels of the organization." (Ricks, T. (1997). Making the Corps. New York: Touchstone Simon and Schuster.)
This is so important because they know that even if they are at the bottom of the ladder they are still responsible for something or someone; there is someone else that they are responsible for. Someone can look at any young twenty-two year old civilian young man or woman and see them as a young person capable of holding an entry level job and pay his or her bills. Yet you see a twenty-two year old Marine and you know that he can inspire his subordinates and lead his men into battle. You see someone that is decisive and strong willed.
Marines are trained from day one to think ahead of the game to foresee what might happen and accomplish their mission. Four years in college can never compare to the skills learned in four years in the Marine Corps. Many go to college to find themselves but you join the Marines because you know what you want out of life.rnrnMarines are in a league of their own. They volunteer to join and live a Spartan way of life and give up those daily comforts we all take granted for. This might be my son in a few years.
It has not been easy to read and understand Marines; they have challenged my beliefs as far as the military is concerned. The way that they see the world is different than the other military branches. They are a group of young men and women that are very prideful and they know who they are and what they can do.
I know that my son is growing-up and he will be making his own decisions and choices sooner than I can imagine, I hope that I have taught him well and that he will make the right choices. I know that if he were to join the Marines that it would be a good choice. I would stand next to him with pride and honor and know that because of the men and women before him that have laid down such a rich legacy and heritage that he will do just fine.
He will go from being a young boy to a young man.
When you see a Marine stand, you see them stand with pride with their chest out, there arms straight down next to them and their fingers curled in a fist shape with their thumbs facing forward. This is what is taught to them, to take pride in being a Marine. I can understand why my son wants to join. Yet the fears will never leave my side, they will be with me for as long as my son decides to serve. But at the end of the story it is his choice to join or not. I will support his decision, what ever that might be. I will be a proud of him either way. Today he is my teenage son and tomorrow he might be a United States Marine.
Meacham, J. (2007, April 2). Voices of the fallen. Newsweek, 14, 24-29.rnSchaffer, J., & Schaffer, F. (2002). Keeping Faith. New York: Carroll and GrafrnRicks, T. (1997). Making the Corps. New York: Touchstone Simon and SchusterrnSmith, L. (2006). The few and the proud. New York: Norton
Latina mother that is proud to be an American.rnemail firstname.lastname@example.org with comments