Letters From Boot Camp 3

Recently, my young cousin graduated high school and shipped of Marine Corps Boot Camp in Parris Island. I can tell you I had no overt influence on this decision and was actually surprised the lad had any interest in being a Marine. I can only assume family lore about my adventures, or more likely blood curdling tales about my father inspired this decision. It might also have been something he saw on a video game, but never mind that.

He actually signed up a year or so before he graduated, so I’ve had a long time to offer advice and give him some required reading.

The other day I received a letter from MCRD Parris Island from the young recruit. It is one long rambling paragraph as proper grammar and whatnot or for people who have time to worry about those things. Here it is in part:

Dear cousin Mike,

    This shit sucks. Well of course, this is receiving week so no training. Just lots of yelling and gear gathering. I haven’t been issued my rifle yet but hopefully should get it soon. Our platoon is about 85 strong. A few people have been dropped for various reasons (like falling asleep in the hearing test) but so far everything is okay. I just hate it when the other recruits won’t yell. I don’t think they realize yet that it gets worse if we don’t sound off. We have yet to step foot in a chow hall and all I’ve been getting are these day old meals just waiting for a hangry recruit. The one thing I haven’t grasped is a sense of time. I wake before light, I am inside a lot during the day and I’m doing something every minute. If it’s not waiting it’s screaming. I’ve made lots of friends we’re all just too tired to help each other unless our ass is on the line, but once we’re adjusted to sleep here on the island we’ll be good. Till next time.

    – J

His father and I had a good laugh at this as the letter he sent to his parents was all rose gardens and good times. Of course, I had forcefully recommended to the lad he write his parents, particularly his mother. As soon as any young prospect begins talking to a Marine recruiter, mothers immediately react as if their baby is in deadly hand to hand combat RIGHT NOW. This is as it should be of course and letters to mothers tend to help soothe this anxiety a little.

I recall that receiving just sucked. Much as it was described above it was mostly yelling by the receiving Drill Instructors because none of us could find our ass with both hands. Everything we did was wrong and I recall the DIs praying with some ferocity that there was someone with a little G-2 (intelligence) among us.

In receiving you really lose all track of time and very little sleep is had if I recall. I remember being herded outside at certain points and being surprised the sun was up. No one likes to admit they were ever nervous but I remember not having much of an appetite and not taking a crap for three days. Being a recruit during receiving is a lonely prospect at best. For me it included nausea and constipation as well. Ah memories.

During one of our trips to the chow hall (what time was it? Day time) I remember miserably picking at a plate of fruit I wasn’t eating as I hadn’t regained any appetite as yet. One of the recruits on mess duty was cleaning nearby tables. Recruits on mess duty have already been in Boot Camp for nearly three months and were merely a couple weeks away from graduation. He was practically a Marine!

As he came near my table he whispered: “Don’t worry, you’ll make it.”

As soon as the words left his mouth I heard a voice in my head: “DAMN RIGHT I’M GONNA MAKE IT!” I attacked what was left of my pineapple and melon slices with more gusto than I had seconds before.

Speaking to me at all was a horrific breach of standard operating procedure. We were not allowed to talk in the chow hall and certainly didn’t chat it up with recruits junior to ourselves. But he’d already learned something I hadn’t about becoming a Marine. None of us is alone.

I never knew who that guy was and I cannot remember his face. All I know is he gave me some encouragement right when I needed some. It was a timely introduction to the camaraderie associated with being a Marine.

So parents, if you child is in Boot Camp this summer, fear not. Your kid is not alone. They are supervised by Drill Instructors charged to forge these recruits into Marines. The training will be as fair as it is hard. As they progress,  they’ll make bonds with the recruit to their left and right they may have never had before. They will endure together.

Semper Fidelis!

America’s SgtMaj

/ / / /


    1. This coming Saturday, August the 6th, will make 37 years since I stepped on those yellow footprints on Parris Island. A lot of the memories have faded, but I still recall a lot of things. Nearly sliding off the second deck ladder well in the old wooden receiving barracks. Being made a squad leader and discovering that I paid for my squad’s screw ups. Contacting cellulitis, being put on bed rest for a couple of days, during which time we had a fire drill. A couple of recruits were helping me down stairs from the third deck, one of the a Drill Instructors from another platoon told me the I would never graduate with my platoon. “You want to bet” I said to myself. And my Drill Instructor Staff Sergeant Randall telling us that we may think that they had f*cked with us, but wait until we got to the Fleet, that we hadn’t seen anything yet. But I am thankful for those experiences, there and with 1/8 where I spent the rest of my time in the Corps. They made me a better person and changed my life. Semper Fi.

    2. Thank you for posting this! I laughed , and cried, but mostly laughed! It has been hard for J to be away from my watchful eye and protective hand, but I find peace in knowing he is with his new brothers! I write to our son everyday and have enlisted other family and friends to keep his spirits up! I remind him every letter that he can do this!! Thank you for being there for his questions and for your advice. We are very proud of him and remind him of it daily! Thank you!

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published.