Eight weeks ago Christopher came to Tabitha and me, asking if he could join the Young Marines unit here in Nashville. I wasn’t surprised as most of the men on my mother’s side of the family have served in the Navy or the Marines and I was no exception. I asked him to consider the Air Force JROTC or the Navy Sea Cadets, but he was dead determined to do the Young Marines.
The Young Marines Nashville chapter is the one of the hardest in TN and we knew that going in. Having gone through Parris Island myself I knew what would be required of him and I tried my best to prepare him for it. It wasn’t enough.
My going through boot was one thing, but sending my 12-year-old son to something that primes you for the Island is another. Older members that have completed the course act as drill instructors and yell and scream at the new recruits much the same way as my drill instructors did to me. I have to thank Senior Drill Instructor Gunnery Sergeant Leon and Drill Instructors Staff Sergeant Davis, SSGT Colon, and SGT King for giving me the tools to somewhat prepare my son. Even with what those men did for me, it was gut wrenching to watch my son go through it on the first day. All that was missing was a night-time ride, yellow foot prints painted on the deck and the absence of parents. Needless to say he was in tears at the end of the day.
It tore Tab and I up to urge him forward that day, but we, Tab, Chris and I, made a commitment to see his 13 weekends through to completion of “boot camp”. Life after school will get hard and we’re preparing him for a life of pushing forward even when things get difficult.
As I said, it’s one of the hardest chapters in the state and there is a lot of physical training (PT), drill, and learning of Marine Corps history and the history of the Marine Corps League, its sponsor.
There were 30 young men and women when the platoon first started almost 7 weeks ago and now there are only 11. The first three weeks were difficult for him, but he’s found that it gets easier with each week he attends. And make no mistake, I am with him and these kids as they go through the PT aspect of training.
I haven’t run anything longer than across the front yard in almost 20 years. I’ve grown soft myself and I’m paying for it, and I can’t tell Chris that a 3 mile run and doing push ups until your drill instructors or company commander is tired is good for him and not do it, too. Tab and I are running with Chris and I’m doing the extended formation runs with him.
The first time the platoons did a 3 mile run, I joined them. The company commander and the platoon sergeant were both surprised, maybe even shocked, to see me. In fact, the company commander did a double take when he saw me behind the recruit platoon. Both have told me that never before has a parent run or PTed with the kids. Like I said, I can’t push my son to do something physically taxing without doing it with him. I believe in lead by example. I’m still recovering from runner’s knee in both knees, but I continue to do what I can with him and Tabitha’s doing work with him as well.
We’re coming up on 7 weeks into it and are halfway through recruit training. Chris is still nervous about it all, but it’s nowhere like it was. Past three weeks he’s gotten into the minivan motivated and proud of what he’s achieved. In six weeks he’s gone from being unable to do a mile run non stop (He stopped every 300 feet the first two weeks) to doing two miles nonstop. He’s gone from zero pull-ups to 3, he can do 30 sit-ups before getting tired where 5 wore him out at the start, and he can do his 30 push ups with little effort. Chris has also dropped 15 pounds and the muscle he’s developing is clearly visible.
He understands that even though dear old dad isn’t always right (ask mom and she’ll agree), but he was in regards to it all becoming easier as you go forward.
I’m proud of my son for doing things he thought was hard and accomplishing them. I’m proud of him for learning that things are only hard if you quit and if you quit, you’ll never achieve anything. Hell, I’m just proud of my son for being the best young man that he can be. I love you, Chris.