I grew up as a Marine. My late grandpa, a retired MSgt, always shared with me and my siblings the places, stories and lore of the Corps throughout his service in WWII, Korea and Viet Nam. He was a bad-ass, not-so-lean, but green and mean 5’6″ Marine. He was as old school as they get. He went to PI back when they ferried recruits in. My father, a retired Gunny, served twice in Viet Nam in 1st Marine Division. While he did go to boot camp at San Diego, he served two tours as a DI and Senior DI at Parris Island. My family bounced around the country quite a bit over his 20+ years in the Corps, but our time at PI constituted some of my most formative years. It was kind of strange now that I look back at it, knowing dad as the loving, kind and wise soul of a father but also witnessing him as the hard-as-nails, in your face, barking bad ass DI that humbles everyone. All of those memories served me well when I went through PI at the tender young age of 17. When I got my ass chewed, I knew it wasn’t personal. That DI in my face was yelling at a tree like he did in DI school (yes, I’ve seen that too). But I knew that DI still instilled the fear of God and Chesty Puller into my soul. He was doing his job to make me a Marine. My brother and I both proudly made it through Parris Island. I even came out with a meritorious PFC. I almost made it through without any of my DI’s knowing of my family history, but was found out the week before graduation. One of my DI’s saw a plaque in A Company HQ with my father’s name. It’s an unusual name so he connected the dots, and that was all it took to make my last week there a living hell. Well, on grad day after the ceremony, it was the coolest thing in life to see my DI’s and Senior DI lock it up and present themselves to my father and grandpa, who both came in their dress blues, adorned with their chests full of medal. That was my second-best memory at Parris Island back in ‘81. But my absolute best memory of Parris Island came years later, when my oldest son graduated in ’09. Seeing him out front as a PFC squad leader on the parade deck, knowing that he was carrying on the family tradition (the family business, as he refers to it) was absolutely awesome. He went on to serve in Afghanistan. He returned a hero and is now retired. Every time I go back to PI, I walk away with an even keener sense of what my family’s history is and what I hope it continues to be. We are Marines.
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