GRADUATION AT UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS DEPOT
SAN DIEGO, CA. 10-19 07
The alarm woke early on Thursday morning, 6:15. Quickly I shaved and dressed as my wife prepared herself. Our son called from his room soon after to announce they were ready to roll. We all assembled in the parking lot of the hotel and were rolling by 7:15. A short drive had us at gate 5 of the USMCRD, where we showed ID and had our car inspected by young Marines. all exited the vehicles and all doors were opened and the rear hatches and under hoods were inspected. Then were allowed to proceed to the parking area near where the events of the day were to take place. Our vehicle being licenced as handicap quickly found a spot. Exiting the cars we started to stroll around trying to figure what to do next.
Out on the big grinder (parade deck to those of you not familiar with Marine Corps slang) we spotted rank upon rank of young men in their digital camouflage uniforms. It was our near Marines practicing for the graduation ceremony on the next day. We knew which platoon our fellow was in and positioned our self’s behind them. I knew that our big J was in the last rank either number 7 or 8. After some augment we finally decided on #8 as we were behind them and all being dressed alike it was hard to determine. The light was dim as it was still overcast and slightly foggy. When the finally did a right face we were sure it was him.
Everyone was yelling out names and greetings, but the young men true to training did not respond over even roll their eyes in our direction. and marched off to finish the practice. We started to move to the next area where the next event was to take place, the motivation run. This is the last run they will make as recruits. Each platoon’s position had been marked so family’s could assemble close to their starting place. Promptly at 8:30 we could hear in the distance the measured cadence and steps of marching feet approaching. Then in the distance we saw the first of the platoons begin to come into view. One by one they marched past until number 3267 stopped right in front of us. We could see big J on the other side of the group standing straight and tall eyes front, and serious as a heart attract. It was a thrill to see this close after three months. Needless to say pandemonium broke out all up and down the line of parents, girlfriends, and proud grand parents. In front of us was arrayed 735 fresh new Marines.
After a short speech and explanation they were off at double time in perfect rhythm. The made a full circuit of the base. The crowd of onlookers were herded up to the theater where a open area in front had been roped off. Finally we could her them coming in from a distance sing cadence. Then a glimpse of the lead platoon’s guideon and then the running young men made their appearance. Coursing down in front of all the main structures of the Recruit Depot. Passing the old 1920’s Mission style buildings with the red clay tile roof’s so familiar to us former recruits. The platoons ran into the roped area and stopped in formation quckly dressing ranks. More speeches were made and introductions made and recognitions of performance announced. Then they swung away at quick time off to the barracks to shower and dress for the EGA ceremony.
By 11:00 we were in the grand stands in front f the parade deck awaiting the appearance of the Third Battalion, Mike Company, Platoon’s 3261 to 3267. In the distance we could hear the Base Marine Corps band marching to the parade feild. They marched out and gave a short serenade, followed by some more introduction speeches and explanations of Marine Corps history and traditions, and what was to come.
Finally the whole of Mike company made their appearance whit a slow step formal march (God how I hated that step, it is a slow step with a slight hesitation with each step forward, impressive to look at but hard to execute). When all were in place and more speeches and announcements were made. Each platoon maneuvered into place in front of the stands where family members had positioned their-selves according to sign’s showing where their young man’s platoon would be. The platoons opened ranks then at the senior DI’s order the assistant DI”s brought the wooden cases containing the Eagle, Globe and Anchor emblem’s forward. The DI’s Then went down the ranks stopping at each man and presented him with his emblen and shook his hand and congratulated him and formally called him a Marine. The new Marine then removed his hat and proceeded to pin it on and then stood proud at attention until the ceremony was over
When all were pined and the Drill Instructors were back in place, one last speech was made welcoming all 735 New Marines to the Corps. Then the Officer in charge issued the last and most important command, Drill Instructor’s "Dismiss Your Platoon’s!
A resounding “Aye, Aye, Sir” echoed over the fieldand one step back and a snappy about face and the ranks dissolved. the stands erupted and I grabbed my wife who is unsteady on her feet at the best of time to keep her from being knocked down, as people streamed around us.
Through the confusion I could see Big J being swamped by his family and friend and girl friend. He broke away and hugged his grandmother and stuck out his hand around her back. I clasped and said “congratulations Marine.” Still holding my hand he replied “Thank you Marine.” made this old mans hearty swell with pride.
The rest of the event was anticlimactic, we straggled over to the food court and fought the lines for bad fast food and poor service. My wife was so near exhaustion that I decided we should leave. Making her wait by the side of the structures I retrieved the car and came back to pick her up and returned to the Hotel where she slept all afternoon and most of the night.
GRADUATION DAY OCT.19,2007
We slept about a hour later on Friday morning then all assembled in the parking lot again and decited to go to the IHOP for breakfast and skip the Marine Corps powdered Eggs this time around this time. That was a mistake after slow, poor service by a maddeningly slow male waiter we were later getting to the base than intended. There was a long line of cars being inspected but we passed through quickly and got the last handicap spot. Our son had to park almost a mile away. We had family members show up later. My wife’s niece’s husband a Viet Nam area Marine and graduate of San Diego and his son a newly penned First Mate in Naval Reserve, and former Navy Nuclear Submarine member for 8 years came down. they parked in the restricted Marine parking are a little closer because he has a defense sticker on his car. The Chief Mate wore his uniform and looked sharp. (A neat thing occurred, a old recently retired Chief Mate came and introduced himself to Tim and he was in his uniform, full dress. He gave Tim a silver and gold plated token a little larger than a silver dollar, with the Navy symbol on one side and the unit he served with on the other. I introduced myself to him after the graduation and he told me he had had two of the tokens. One he gave to his son and he decided to give this one he had kept for his self to Tim on the spur of the moment and to tell Tim to pass it on someday.)
WE located our seats early enough to keep my wife from having to climb the stands. By ten the Band was back on the field the speeches began and finally slowly in the hesitation step all seven platoons marched onto the field. More long winded speeches about who gave a damn was spouted and finaly the Generals congratulations were read. Then the guys passed in review. And a anticlimactic dismissed was given.
All seven platoons had placed their sea bags, a carry bag and a garment bad in formation order before hand. Now a mad scramble was on to retrieve their gear and git. We were parked the closest to the bags so J got his stuff and threw it into our vehicle. It was hard to tear him away from his buddies they were all hugging and shaking hands and wishing each other luck. At the same time he was anchious to get off the base. We qued up in the long line of people fleeing the bedlam and headed for the exit. As I neared the gate traffic slowed down to a crawl. I started counting back from 5,4,3,2,1,1/2, and had to stop across the gate I told him I’m off the base but you people in the back seat are still on.
We got him back to the hotel and he wanted to change out of uniform. His size 36 genes were to large, he had to borrow his friends 32’s he has lost 30 pounds in boot-camp. Tall straight and slim and hard as a rock.He and his family had a lunch with us before they left and he repeatedly thanked his grandma and Me for all the letters and material we sent him while in there. He said that most times at least twenty people read our letters and the jokes made the whole bay. He said some kids never got and mail at all an a lot just very few. I know while we were trying to leave he kept trying to introduce me ot other guys and telling them I was the one who Sent all the letters and stuff. Many thanked me also. Made me feel good.
I have a breakfast scheduled with him next week so I can hear his stories and pick his brain. Now I visit several USMC web site and a common topic is the sorry state of affairs in boot camp today. Let me tell you This crap about stress cards does not exist and these kids are every bit as much a Marine as us old guys ever were. And they are getting a lot of stuff we never had in boot camp. It’s not just learning to march and shoot anymore there is a lot more, some things we got in Combat training after they get now and under more intense pressure. Yes they still are making Marines out of boys, thank God and the Commandant for it.
Well you can see old ramblingbob is one proud grandpa!!