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Fireworks, Feasting Take on a Whole New Meaning

(ROCKWALL, TX — June 27, 2018) In the grandstands of the parade deck, the wind ripped through us; it was freezing, one of the coldest days ever at Parris Island, South Carolina. We shivered, immersed in U.S. Marine culture, waiting for our son’s platoon to march across. It was the glorious end to a long journey, a journey that started 13 weeks earlier when he stepped off a bus in the middle of the night and onto some yellow painted footprints where he learned his first lessons of Honor, Courage, and Commitment.

He called that night, a scripted hollering (recruits have to scream everything) that announced he arrived. It would be the last time I heard from that boy, the next communication arrived in letters from someone inching closer to a man. We wrote back and forth and I read every missive over and over. He told of the challenges he faced, his nervousness about the upcoming shooting instruction and how, as a Gill, he felt he should qualify as expert (we do a lot of shooting in my family). We did the only thing a Marine recruit parent can: we prayed and we hoped that he would complete his training unscathed. There’s no “helicopter parenting” a Marine recruit, no emailing a drill instructor to check on “little Throckmorton,” no texting or instant messaging to say, “I love you.” Heck, Aidan’s boot camp occurred when Hurricane Matthew threatened the East Coast. There was no phone call, just a generic message board announcing that they evacuated to a base inland where they would continue their training, and that mail would likely be delayed.

The last week of training culminates in an event called “The Crucible.” The Crucible is 54 hours of endurance and pain that tests the recruits to their core. By the end, they’ve marched 48 miles on only two meals and they’ve fought, dragged, crawled, lifted, and bled – sleep-deprived and starving. Upon completion, they stand in front of the famous World War II monument of the flag raising at Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima. It is there that the recruit receives their Eagle, Globe, and Anchor (the Marine Corps insignia) and they are finally considered Marines. On the home front, it is a tradition for the recruit’s family to place a light in the window to shine during their recruit’s Crucible. We hung a little lantern and each morning I woke, I prayed extra hard.

Once we arrived on the island, we watched our boy snap to attention, march perfectly in formation—matching every step, and stand tall to salute the Stars and Stripes.

Tears poured.

I’m part of the eight percent of the country that possesses a master’s degree, and I thought that’s pretty rare and impressive, but before my eyes stood the 0.069 percent that call themselves Marines, part of the 0.4 percent that currently serve in the military, and knowing that changed everything.

I’ve always been patriotic, but each morning when we pledge in my classroom, I stand taller than ever before. Knowing what my kid has and continues to endure for my freedom makes it difficult to choke back tears during that discipline, and it’s even harder to control my temper when others disrespect it. The Fourth of July has always been one of my favorite holidays, but now it’s nearly sacred. The BBQ I feast on and the fireworks I enjoy take on a whole new meaning as one of my boys stands on a tarmac miles and miles away, sacrificing comfort for the life we call dear, a life that started when a few men met together and pledged their lives, declaring our independence.

By Scott Gill of Rockwall. Scott is a teacher, coach, and author of “Goliath Catfish.” Follow Scott’s blog at puptentpapa.blogspot.com and read his “Front Porch Ramblings” at BlueRibbonNews.com.

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