Our Parris Island trip was nothing short of rewarding.
We left town at 10:00PM and drove through the night to South Carolina. When we got to Beaufort, our first stop was IHOP.
After guzzling a gallon of OJ and dozens of pancakes, we prettied ourselves right up in the mirror and headed to the base.
To me, the most moving part of the graduation ceremony is when the emcee tells the newly minted Marines on the parade deck that “It is no longer about you. It is about protecting the men and women and children in the stands. You now live to serve them…” and then a few minutes later, the ceremony ends and families rush the tarmac.
Proud moms and dads, girlfriends, brothers and sisters, aunts, uncles and friends congratulate their Marine. Tears all around as the transformation they notice what has happened over the last three months is undeniable. We congratulated Mattie Paxton and listened to his endless stories of overcoming.
His eyes were just as blue– but they had a steel sparkle in them now.
We made our way all around the base looking for our Stand Alone Marines, but after numerous texts, facebook messages, and emails we never found them. A reporter we spoke with said he was able to find the women’s group but never located the men. While I was disappointed (to say the least) we grabbed lunch on base and then decided to head home.
Of course, our van decided to have mechanical issues and we dropped it off at a dealership with David while the family and I ate at Cracker Barrel. The problem would take a day or two to fix and we decided to risk hobbling home rather than stay overnight.
Thankfully around 1:00am we rolled into our driveway and crawled into bed. The kiddos had made the trip without a single meltdown (the van– not so much) and gladly crawled into bed.
As I lay there, beyond exhausted, all I could think of was the men and women who had marched before me and promised to protect this country, even if it cost them their life. Their families, willing to risk their son or daughter. And nearly every week there are just as many Marines walking the parade deck graduation promising the same steadfast loyalty to this nation.
And I thought of…
How 70 years ago, my own father had been a Stand Alone Marine at his graduation.
How the Corps had shaped him into the man he became…an engineer who– without a college degree– designed, patented, and manufactured thousands of oil machinery parts.
How Parris Island had made my dad into the man who gave me every opportunity to pursue the things he never could as a child.
And how many young men and women on that parade deck would now be able to give their children a better shot
at life. A better education. A better future. Because of the willingness to believe that America deserves better and represents the best of opportunities the world has to offer.
Thank you Marine Corps for all you did for my father and what he was able to give me. Thank you Matt Paxton for answering the call to serve. And may God bless and protect every Marine!