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Becoming a Marine Mom

I’ll never forget the first time I heard the words, “I want to be a Marine.” I was standing in the living room one late November afternoon. I looked down the hall at my 5’1”, 125-pound, very feminine, very “girly,” oldest daughter and thought I certainly must have misheard.

“What?”

I think over the next day or two I repeated the question “are you sure?” every time we spoke!

I was instantly wary of her recruiter, and questioned everything. I “Googled” and read everything I could online. I talked to everyone I could, and everyone was supportive, and proud. I was too, but I was also worried.

I had so many questions, “how does the Corps treat it’s female Marines, what about sexual harassment, what if she hates it, and is stuck hating it for her entire enlistment?”

I thought “my daughter is artistic, and creative, and feminine- she won’t be the same!”

Entirely Committed

Her mind was set though, and she wasn’t worried. She was sure. Entirely committed and nothing was going to stand in her way, not even the blizzard conditions the day she was to leave for MEPS, four hours away from home. On Jan. 2, 2010, she got on a plane in Portland with a handful of guys who were all wanting to be Marines. That night, she placed her feet on the yellow footprints and walked through that door.

I got my phone call.

She was there… it was the first time she’d ever hung up without saying “I love you”.

The next thirteen weeks I wrote every day. I marked off the days on the calendar one by one. I found a matrix online of what she was likely to do each day, and I wondered each day how she did with each challenge.

When the letters finally started arriving I was so grateful to hear from her.

The first letter or two sounded so positive. She was doing ok. She’d met some great girls, and she felt so good about her decision. Then, the “homesick” letters started. “I miss you guys…I’m doing ok, but I’m so tired…I go to church every week. It’s the one place it feels quiet and no one bothers me.” It broke my heart. Thank goodness there were only a couple of those letters!

About the fourth week, her letters changed. Her resolve was so great it poured off the pages. The first time with pugil sticks she was knocked on her butt. “But it will never happen again,” she said.  And it didn’t. Her pride and confidence grew, and we saw it through each letter. She said things in those letters I never expected to hear her say.

“Sunrise on Parris Island is beautiful.” – You saw a sunrise?

“I like running, I think I might run every day from now on.” – Okay, that one didn’t stick.

“Mom, it turns out you’re good training for the Marine Corps.” – Hmmm, is that a good thing or a bad thing?

“Mom, I’m still me, I’m just better. I’m like Amy 2.1!”

Family Day was wonderful. Hugging her again was the best thing in the world. Her “rack mate” spent the day with us too. Listening to them had us all laughing and smiling. Learning just some of what they’d done and seeing some of the courses increased our pride and love not just for our daughter, but for all Marines. It was priceless.

Graduation was a joy too. While waiting for the moto run and then Graduation we had a chance to talk with other parents. There was a enormous sense of love and pride for them and all that they’d accomplished, and there were tears too. We drove back to Maine, with our vehicle windows painted for our new Marine, and a bumper sticker that read: “My Daughter is a Marine”. We lost count of the thumbs up, beeping horns, and shouts of cheer from the other drivers on the road. Our new Marine was stunned by people coming up to her, shaking her hand, and thanking her for her service.

The Journey

It has been an wonderful journey for our Marine, and also for our family. We learned truly that it is a Corps of “The Few…”

Not everyone who left from Maine that day with our daughter wears the uniform. Not everyone in her platoon made it through either.

The questions I had in the beginning have been answered through time and experience. The Marine Corps was able to take her naturally artistic ability and capitalize on it and she’s definitely just as girly. She’s never experienced harassment.

She went on to Marine Combat Training, then to MOS school, and is now stationed at MCAS Yuma. She’s the only female in her shop, but as she says, “you get used to being the only female”. She loves the Corps, she loves her job and she’s blessed to be surrounded by Marines who feel the same. She’s grown so much. She was right when she said “I’m still me, I’m just better.”

If you ask her, she will tell you that I’m her hero. But, the truth is she’s mine.

Now, it’s been said that lightening doesn’t strike in the same place twice. It turns out that, at least for our family, that’s not true. Yesterday, I found myself asking, “Are you sure?” over and over, again. My Marine has a younger sister.

She’s 5’4”, 120 pounds, very girly, and graduates in June.

She wants to be a Marine.

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  • http://marines.dodlive.mil Marine Corps Production

    I’m sorry to hear about your son’s depression. I would encourage him to seek help. There are plenty of free services available to Marines including the DSTRESS hotline 1-877-476-7734. There is nothing wrong with getting help before something gets out of hand.

  • Layla Cisneros

    Thank you for sharing your journey as a Marine Mom, it really helped me and all I want to do now is fully support my Daughter’s decision and cheer her on through Boot Camp. God Bless Our USMC!

  • berverta doe

    My son is in the marines he will be going the on ship for 8 month but he is very depress, this is first year in marines,what can i do?

  • http://www.facebook.com/joanne.foster.148 Joanne Foster

    What you said is what I heard, done to the last word. Mine is my youngest son.we are proud of him. watching him go through the swaer in, to graduating, now going threw infantry training. He will be stationed on a ship, (thats all he knows as of now) as he put it sailing the sea’s.All this is still kinda new for me still.I know he misses the home cooked meals…haha. I can say I’am a PROUD MOM OF A MARINE

  • Emmanuel molewoi

    I will like to say thanks to those energetic young men and women that put their time and give their life for becoming a marine i will like to congratulate them all, being a marine means a lot, I too have a dream of becoming a marine thou iam a foreign national, I stay have the faith and believe that i will one day be a marine. this which has been my dream from my child hood days. I will like to have the pride of a marine

  • http://marines.dodlive.mil Marine Corps Production

    Suzan,

    The next 13 weeks are going to be difficult. One of the best ways to cope is to write her as often as possible. Use her as your diary and keep her up to date on everything you are doing. Nothing is too mundane to include. It will help you both feel closer and also give her comfort. Also, although this blog talks about separation during a deployment, some of it can still apply to your situation:

  • http://www.facebook.com/suzan.hannah.3 Suzan Hannah

    My daughter left today for bootcamp I’m excited but I’m also worried and I can’t stop crying she will be gone for 13weeks any suggestions on how to cope.

  • http://www.facebook.com/suzan.hannah.3 Suzan Hannah

    My daughter left today for bootcamp I’m excited that she is finding her way but I’m also hearbroken how do I cope with her being gone for 13weeks.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1521961634 Cecilia Oranias

    My oldest daughter is about to sign her contract with the Marine. Since the day she told me what she wanted to do I have searched, read, watched videos and especially listened to her as she explain to me many of the terms and go through different jobs she wants to do.

    This is the first time I read a blog and it feels so close to home, it brought me to tears to read another mother talking about a daughter that went through what we are going through. Thank you for sharing.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Dixie-Wall/100000779488423 Dixie Wall

    i remember my son called me and said i joined the marines i thought i was gonna hit the ceiling!!! i asked why didnt you discuss this with me first?? all he could say was i just did it and i cant change it, so ive exceoted it i worry.. he hasnt been in combat yet, i hope he doesnt. he is on his first deployment.. i worried and proud at the same time.. i wish him a safe return and he is always in my prayers. SEMPER FI

  • Jackie0637

    When my son came to me saying he wanted to be a Marine I was like you  saying the same thing are you sure I asked just about everyday even asking the day he left for Parris Island are you sure he just smiled saying yes momma I am sure and like you I was on pins and needles till I got the first call and the first letter.  When family day finally arrived I couldn’t believe myself how early I was up I just couldn’t wait to see him and instantly I recognized the change he had left me a boy then standing before me was a man I must say myself that my son is my oldest and was VERY SPOILED and yes I take all the blame for that but at that moment in those 13 weeks he had become a man he stood up straight just the way he carried himself was different and I was the proudest I had ever been. He also told us of those who didn’t make it through the course but I had no doubt in my mind that he would make it.  He is in MOA school now and I am so proud of him and every other Marine because the training they go through is hard very hard and showing that much dedication and strength to finish the course is the reason the deserve their title The Few and  The Proud

  • Tntstephens5

    My son Cody ships off to Boot Camp on Valentines Day! He is so excited and I am truly more proud of him than I could ever express! I know he will make it through Boot Camp and I know he will do very well. It’s his momma that I worry about! My heart is filled with pride, fear and heartache. I’m trying so hard to be strong. If he’s willing to be strong and make this sacrifice for his country, surely I can get through it too, right?

  • Nicola

    Being from the UK and female becoming a Royal Marine was never an option to me unless I wanted to join the band service. With my lack of talent in playing an instrument it was never going to happen.

    It’s great to see the US Marine Corps open to women, perhaps one day the title of Royal Marines Commando will be open to women here after the women of the US Marine Corps have led the way.

  • Clouddancer367

    I also went through this.the same letters from Parris Island.My marine is stationed in Japan. She turned 20 in Queensland Australia. She will be pril 2012..and I can not wait to see. her!Semper Fi!

  • Cayleeboo

    My son is in Boot Camp right now. He graduates in October. He’s only been gone a week but I can’t stop crying. I am so proud of him, He has alway wanted to be a Marine. I’ve know for the past 8 years this day was coming. I just hope not seeing him gets a little easier.

  • Jessjackson27

    Thank you for this message.
     

  • sharon duncan

    My son is set to leave for boot camp August 31st. He is headed to Camp Pendleton. As a Marine Corps Veteran, I couldn’t be prouder of my son; but as a Mother I cry everytime I think of him leaving me. i pray that both our sons receive as much (if not more) of the self-respect and maturity that I did during my tour. My thoughts and prayers go out to EVERY Mother that has went through and that will go through their children leaving for boot camp. It will be the longest 13 weeks of my life.

  • Anonymous

    well guys i’m a new marine mom, my girl of 5’1 110 pounds left 2 weeks and 5 days ago, its been very hard for me…. her first few letters were not her at all.. she was hating life but never did she say she wanted to leave or come home, that just made me feel even more proud of her.   The 3rd letter came last thursday, it was her writing now, her neat handwritting and her way of talking sounded just like her.  She is sounding very strong.  Can’t wait to the next one… we send her letters everyday…

    Well she told us 1 year ago that she wanted to be a marine, i was like “what” but then i calmed down when the recruiter and Gunny came to the house, they answered all our questiong and then the whole process started.

    Well i will be checking in to let you all know how its going.  I really need any support anyone can give me.. thanks.. everyone…

     love my future Marine…

  • Mrzflower

    Through tears, I thank you for sharing your heartfelt story. Ten years ago, my daughter decided that she would one day be a Marine. Today, she is seventeen and just as sure as she ever was. Though my husband (her stepfather) and I have attempted to steer her toward college, we very recently came to the realization that although a college degree is a goal for her, the U.S. Marine Corps is first. She is a petite lil’ ball of fire, standing 5’1″ and 124 lbs. Accepting the fact that pushing her into college would not be to her benefit, we recently welcome recruiters into our home to have the first of many discussions … our daughter wants to join the U.S. Marine Corps. She had her first meeting with the recruiter last night, hung on the bar for 40 seconds and walked out of that office so completely elated. We are considering, through much prayer, giving her our blessing to enlist at 17 and complete her senior year of high school making preparations to be successful at boot camp. Our daughter loves God, America, her family and the United States Marine Corps. She aspires to touch the world by someday serving as a United States senator, and she believes that the Corps is exactly where the Lord wants her to start. So, as parents, we realize that to some people she is going about this “backwards.” After all, the intelligent youth of today are “supposed to go to college, graduate and then join.” Right? Well, we are embracing the fact that God directs us all along our own road in life. Sometimes it might not make sense to everyone around us, but … how beautiful and how sweet it is to hear His voice telling us that ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE TO THOSE THAT BELIEVE!
    Semper Fi!

  • Sharonlk

    I so wish every new Marine could read this! Describes it so well, and would help them remember what they have endured to be one of the few, the proud, A Marine! You are a great inspiration!

  • Mrsdacoop

    My son is a Marine. He will be going back overseas soon on his second deployment. I am so proud of him and all the men and woman who serve our country. God bless them all. Semper Fi.

  • Mstineman

    I loved this letter. I cried BIG tears.  I never forget the first time I heard those words either,”I want to be a Marine.” I miss my Marine every day.  At this time we are able to talk nightly, and my heart goes out to those who can’t. I pray for all Marines and our troops  everywhere.   Love and blessings to them all.

  • Candia Dorman

    Yes it will be very tough,but it sounds like you have the determination to do it.  My son graduated 1/14/11 and I’m so very proud of him.  It was so tough for me he had not been away from home for more than 3 days,he left for boot 3 days before his 19th Birthday.  We also missed Thanksgiving and Christmas and every holiday since,we are starting to get used to it. It sounds like you have a great legacy of  a miltary family and will have great support.  Good Luck with your journey. OORAH!!!
    Candia Dorman

  • Meg Allen

    My only child left Monday to start his Marine career. He graduated college 3 weeks ago and was commissioned as a 2nd LT the same day. It was a tough day for me but reading this article gave me the strength I needed and made me so proud that he – and so many others – have chosen to serve our country. Thank you. 

  • Doc Karen

    My brother and I were Navy Corpsmen during Vietnam, both stationed at NH Beaufort and we saw plenty of Marines.  My brother went to Vietnam. I stayed in the Reserves and got out in 1973.  When my only child, my son, came up to me and said “Mom, I want to join the Corps”, I cried.  Full Metal Jacket and other bad scenes of wounded soldiers returned.  But, he REALLY wanted to do it and since he was 17, I had to sign the papers so he could go PUL.  I worried, too.  When he was deployed as a tracker, I grew depressed, and then, he returned home, changed, but, still my son.  I am so proud he did serve and I love the Marine Corps for making him the fine young man he turned out to be.

  • LeighL66

    My one and ony child leaves in 5 days for boot camp in Parris Island. He is only 18 and I am so very worried, scared and sad and there is not a support group in  our hometown.  I feel very alone  afraid for him.

  • Morenarivera27

    I just joined and my biggest fear is the pain I am causing my mom and how much I am being told that I will change. Reading this has given me hope that I can become a Marine and still be me. Thank you

  • Trasay

    It is nice to read another Marine Mom’s journey. It is something forced on us, yet we accept it with honor and pride. My journey was almost exactly as yours. I thought at first you were describing my daughter! She graduated Nov2009 from PI and now stationed in NC. We are proud of her and all she as accomplished to becoome a Marine!

  • clynn91

    This is soon to be me. I leave for parris island this fall and I’m so excited. The marine corps has my heart and i can’t wait to join your daughter and the marine family!

  • Ruth

    All Marines are our children – this mother is very proud of you!!!!!!!

  • 2/1 Marine Mon

    My youngest son has been a Marine for two years now and just returned from Afghanistan a few weeks ago. To say we are proud of the man he has become does not really describe the feelings we have. He has become everything we ever wanted for him and MORE and his platoon has become our family. God Bless our servicemen and women and their families and I thank all of them for their service and sacrifice. This isn’t easy but it is unquestionably the proudest time of our lives.

  • Gena

    My son graduated from Bootcamp June 3rd in parris island I am so proud of my Marine.
    Graduation was a day I’ll never forget.

  • N8IVEtxn

    sheesh!!! I cannot read any Marine post without just blubbering my eyes out!  What an awesome story!  Thanks for sharing it!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Sid-Wing/1274982087 Sid Wing

    As the son of a Marine, an Army veteran, and now the father of a Marine – just know this…  WE are ALL proud of you.  Semper Fi, Marine!

  • Marine Wife

    My husband is a marine. Was in Afghanistan. Came home 3 weeks before our wedding. I am crying because of this, its amazing <3 goodluck marine!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1545654748 Christine Shane Oyler

    What a great story! My son is 30 days away from graduating basic and I couldn’t be more proud of him!!  We went through he same thing with the letters … it breaks your heart that you cannot be there, but through letter we send back we offer that words of encouragement that they need to hear.  Congratulations and Thank You to ALL of those who chose to sever and protect our great nation!!  We salute you

  • Mackenzi’s Mom

    Hello, This is my first time writing. My daughter left for Parris Island on May 16th. I am very proud of her, but as her Mom, I’m worried. We just got our first letter from her. She sounded very upbeat and we were very glad to hear from her. I can’t tell you how helpful your site is to me. It makes me feel more a part of the Marine family. Thank’s for being there!

  • Issac Ballot

    I can relate to the letters of homesick. I enlisted in 1995 and boot camp was in San Diego, so the depot was 10 minutes away from the airport. I remember laying there every night watching as Alaska Airlines come and go thinking I want to be on one of those. But that fades away and you continue on. Thank you and your daughter for your service! The Marine Corps is absolutely the best service to serve in! Semper Fi

  • Nancy

    Thanks Amy2.1 for your service!My son is a marine in Afghanistan on his second tour and my nephew is a cook in Okinawa.I also have a daughter leaving for the Navy this summer!!SEMPER FI!!!

  • Nancy

     I love the letter!!My son is a Marine and he is back in afghanistan on his second deployment but I can remember those words l WANT TO BE A MARINE, like it was yesterday!God Bless the Marine Corps..I now have two daughters also serving in the Navy..one is an officer and joined as a nurse and the other just graduated from high school and leaves for boot camp in Aug.!!

  • Thefourparrotts

    Mary, thank you so much for sharing your story, as it mirrors my own.  My 17 year old petite daughter departed on May 17th for Parris Island to become a Marine.  We are so very proud of her however I have cried everyday and miss her terribly.  You have given me hope that she will still be who she was when she left only better.  The first letter from her, describing what she is enduring, was difficult but I am looking forward to the letters when she tells us the great things she is doing.  You’ve touched my heart and for that I am extremely grateful.  God Bless our troops!

  • Marine Lt

    Thank you for sharing your story not only as a mother of a Marine but as a mother of a female Marine. Some people assume that in a male dominated environment that sexual harassment must ensue, yet I have never encountered it. Marines are professional warfighters and take care of each other. Standards are enforced and Marines are held accountable and that is one main reason I choose this path. It would be a proud day for me if I ever heard those words out of my daughter’s mouth, that she wanted to be a Marine. Just last week I accompanied my daughter’s babysitter to meet with a Marine recruiter and as she begins her journey, I am extremely excited to witness her transformation.

  • Robinaar

    I hope lots of parents of recruits and new Marines read this letter.  Your story of your daughter’s boot camp brings it all back.     I am the mother of a currently deployed Lance Cpl.  Your recounting of your daughter’s big announcement rings so true.  I am sure that every mother of a young Marine  remembers exactly where she was when she heard the news. Very few parents of college students realize that Marine parents frequently  learn their child’s plans suddenly–with no warning.  The announcement is almost always  a huge, shocking, surprise. I was standing in the kitchen and its just luck that I did not drop the entire dinner on the floor.   Many, many of us learned that the Marine Corps was our child’s plan, when we were planning for on college. 

    I remember thinking, “he’s brave, but how brave am I?”  

    Apparently I am braver than I thought.  (Apparently the Marines builds moms! )

    And he knew me so well.  He said, “Mom, I know you admire these Marines.”  And all I wanted to say was ” Well yeah, of course–but you are my baby!”When I really miss him, or get very worried, I try to remember that my son’s and your daughter’s sacrifice is so much more. Day to day, I know I could not do what they do.    I was scared to death, but I have seen my son grow up and become a young man.  He is personally modest   and yet he also has  more confidence and discipline than almost any young civilians I know.  When he does go to university, and he is still planning on it, he will be going with the sure knowledge that he can do anything that he puts his mind to.  You must be a wonderful Mom to have raised two self-reliant, strong and capable young women with a passion to serve.