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.
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!”
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.
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.