When a young man or woman signs up to serve in one of the branches of our military, they do not become a soldier, sailor, airman, Coast Guardsman, or Marine at that moment. They have to go through something, they have to prove themselves, before that happens.
That “something” is boot camp. This video is about one young man who wanted to be a Marine for a long time, but his road to get there was different than most. We know him only as Michael.
Michael was diagnosed with leukemia when he was still very young. He endured 5 years of chemotherapy in the effort to overcome that diagnosis. Michael wanted more than anything to be a Marine, but because of his medical history, he was denied that opportunity several times. This might have stopped most young men, but it did not deter Michael.
Michael had already been tested by the harder side of life. He had endured the energy-draining, nausea-inducing, and bone-wearying tiredness of chemotherapy, and he had overcome. He was not going to let a few rejections stop him in the pursuit of his dream to be a Marine. He trained his body, built up his strength, and applied again. This time, he was given the chance to prove he could be a Marine.
All Marines remember the moment they arrived at either MCRD Paris Island or MCRD San Diego. The first thing they remember is those yellow footprints that they were forcefully directed to stand upon as they came off of the buses, with drill instructors shouting rapid-fire commands at them up close and personal. Those yellow footprints and those first moments in boot camp are tattooed into their memories. And that was only the beginning.
Weeks of hard physical training lay ahead with DIs constantly in their faces, drilling into the recruits the necessity and the values of personal discipline by every sort of means mental and physical.
The recruits may not realize it at that time, but everything that they go through is designed to shape the sometimes arrogant individual young man or woman into something else, that is, a well-tuned, integral part of a single entity, a unit. They endure weeks of this, and, still, they are nothing more than a “boot.” They are not yet a Marine.
At the end of those weeks of rigorous mental and physical training of boot camp, there remains one more test to overcome. It is called “The Crucible,” and it’s a 54-hour test of the recruit’s mental and physical determination and resilience, his or her commitment to the idea of becoming a Marine. It is a true crucible, a purifying of the mind, the body, and the spirit that brings out the true metal of the recruit.
That final experience of boot camp forms a lasting sense of accomplishment in each recruit, of having worked the hardest they have ever worked in their lives for a goal, in this case, the goal of becoming a United States Marine.
This video begins and ends with the final, long-awaited moment of boot camp when each recruit, still muddy, sweaty, and exhausted to the bone from the final 9-mile-long march of The Crucible with a full pack, wearing a helmet, and carrying their weapon, receives the Eagle Globe and Anchor pin. That single, black device signifies, finally, that you can now proudly “wear the title of United States Marine.”
You can see what that moment means to Michael and the Marines standing by him. It is a very emotional moment. It is like no other. That title, that cohesive sense of unit integrity, remains with Marines the rest of their lives. By the end of boot camp and its final test, the Crucible, each newly-minted Marine has come to understand the Marine Corps motto, “Semper Fidelis” (Always Faithful) intimately.
Michael’s story here is unique, but he is also representative of all those young men and women who have wanted to be Marines. The Corps is unique. It is not just its history or its many heroic stories over its 246 years of service that make it unique; it has its own unique brand of an indwelling sense of esprit de corps. It’s experienced as an ingrained sense of fidelity to the Corps and to fellow Marines.
A Marine is not just an individual; he or she is part of something larger than themselves. They are Marines. They are “Fratres Aeterni,” Brothers/Sisters Forever.