So, as I promised yesterday, here is the story of my first day in the Marine Corps. This is the first post in a series of 5 random things about me. I thought it would be fun for you to get to know me better. I’d love for you to tell me 5 random things about you in the comments so I can get to know you better as well.
It was Fall 1984 when I stepped off the bus with my eyes wide and my heart pounding. I was exhausted and bewildered and wondering how I had gotten myself here. What was I thinking? I was barely 20 years old and I had joined because I had been working two part time fast food jobs after quitting my first attempt at college and we just weren’t making it. I had been married about 10 months when I went to boot camp. Both my parents had been Marines and I was proud to be a part of that legacy. But on that first day I was seriously doubting the glory of my bright idea.
The drill instructors were yelling and the bus full of women were milling around like confused cattle. It was about 2 a.m. and we had been awake since the previous morning. I’m sure some had been able to sleep on the plane but not me. They made us grab our luggage and had us walk to a big concrete building where we had to open our suitcases. We could retrieve things like our toiletries but everything else got zipped up into the suitcase and put in storage. It felt like saying goodbye to my life. They gave us a pen and some paper and made us write a quick letter to our loved ones letting them know we arrived safely. We didn’t have a choice. It wasn’t a nicety. We were to do it. All the while they were yelling, yelling, yelling. We were walked to the barracks and received some instruction and then were allowed to get into bed, or “the rack” as it’s called in the military.
Once the lights went out you could hear sniffles and sobs all throughout the squad bay. I don’t remember if I cried or not that night but I knew I felt horribly out of place. What the heck was I doing here?
I’m not sure exactly what time it was when they woke us up but I know it wasn’t fully light yet. They woke us up with yelling and banging on lockers. The drill instructors gave us a few minutes to go to the bathroom. I vaulted out of bed, startled, and headed for the restroom. I heard girls being yelled at when they passed by a drill instructor. Apparently that was somehow rude. When I passed by I said, “excuse me,” as a lame attempt to escape notice. Bad choice. “WHAT DID YOU DO? FART?” Wow, I was completely at a loss for how to respond and I felt humiliated in front of this room full of strangers. Apparently the right answer is, “By your leave, Ma’am.” I never forgot that lesson again.
The day was filled with learning how to march, getting our uniforms, doing PT (physical training), and learning the routine at the chow hall (eat fast). There was much yelling and many punishments. We got in trouble for strings hanging off our uniforms, talking at the wrong times, standing with our feet at the wrong angle and many more minor infractions. It was constant confusion.
Over the next two months the drill instructors groomed us from a bunch of young individuals to a platoon of Marines who were proud to follow leadership. Joining the Marine Corps was one of the best decisions I ever made. On that first day I wasn’t so sure though. Actually I doubted it many of the days over the eight weeks that I was there. My four years in the Marine Corps helped me to grow up. That time reinforced many of the values that I had grown up with: integrity, initiative, and loyalty. It gave me a sense of pride in my work, introduced me to many amazing people, started building in me some leadership skills, a sense of belonging and much more.
Now it’s your turn. Tell me some random facts about you.