By Judith Gifford
As Marine veterans, my husband and I were thrilled this week to be headed to MCRD, San Diego to see our newest Marines graduate from boot camp. We’d had the pleasure of returning to MCRD, Parris Island two years ago for a base tour and graduation ceremony. It had been nearly 30 years since we stood on that parade deck but the old feelings engulfed us and the pride in our young Marines and in our country were renewed in a way we could only explain to another Marine. Parris Island will forever be a part of us and we’re grateful for our history there.
Neither of us had been to San Diego and while we were anxious to see our newest Marines we met many Americans along the way who gave us reason to be grateful. You know who I’m talking about, those “ordinary” Americans who in some way are connected to the 1% who currently serve in the armed forces of our country. The first one was the captain of the flight crew of our jet. In his remarks to our full flight he made a point to thank the military personnel and their families who make their way across the country on his watch. It was clear by the tone of his voice that his remarks were heartfelt and a part of a deeper commitment and story.
As we re-boarded in Dallas we saw two more. A father and sister wearing Marine Corps graduation T-shirts—headed to graduation no doubt. Their wide-eyes and eager faces told the bigger story. We saw over 1000 of them as we sat in the stands and watched our Marines march out for their day. There is nothing quite like watching the Moms, Dads, children, families, friends etc. rush out to embrace their new Marine after the DIs have bellowed their final “DISMISSED.” I could’ve watched for an hour as they laughed, hugged, shouted, slapped, and embraced one another. What a joyful reunion–what a life our newest Marines had begun. What a distinct pleasure to be just a small part of it.
On the way home we saw them again. We took the opportunity to approach every young man who looked “Marine” and ask if he was a new graduate. We shook hands, offered a brief word of encouragement, and thanked them for their service. What a joy–what a profound blessing to live in this country where young men and women and those who love them stand together to do what none of us could do alone. May the Lord prepare them and their loved ones for all that lies ahead and may we not forget to pray for their hearts. OOOOOrah!