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Thursday, January 24, 2013

Semper Fidelis`Semper Fi``Always Faithful

   Do you believe in destiny:The sense or feeling  that a life has been fated for what their purpose in life will be even before they arrived in this world?  I do. 
Zach, my grandson,was always challenging life,even at the tender age of 3..His Mom, my daughter, would call me from Georgia to catch me up on how the family was doing and what Zach's newest adventure was. 
"I don't understand the boy, "His Mom would say,"today I found him standing on a red fire ant hill. Those ants were crawling up his legs biting the heck out of him and he just stood there.I finally ran out to drag him off the hill." Another time I was chatting with her, and she related that Zach,now around 6years old, had climbed the neighbor's cyclone fence, had tumbled over. When she went searching for him, she found him with a huge Akita guard dog standing over him. Those dogs are noted as guard dogs and not fond of strangers. My hair was growing grayer after hearing some of her stories.

 I must have collected those stories and tucked them away for later in Zach's life,and when his family had moved back to Ohio,   when at the age 22 he had made up his mind that he was joining the United States Marine Corps. I was a bit taken back by his decision. "Why not join the Navy,the Air force,? How about the Coast Guard? Marine boot camp is very tough to get through." 
"I know,"he replied decisively. He had met a fella at the local  health club, and Zach discovered that this fella was going to join the Marines. He did a lot of internet research, talked to a  Marine recruiter, and began hanging out with a bunch of guys that were going in. 
The recruiter worked with Zach, coaching him on the physical requirements that it would take  to make it through boot camp on Parris Island. He worked out every day, began to curb his appetite of fast foods,and  to include healthy foods. He came over 2-3 times a week to swim in his Uncle's pool, building his breathing endurance. I would get in the pool to keep him company, and we'd talk about how tough and demanding his drill instructors would be. I said,"Zach,"you're going to handle the stuff they are going to put you through by knowing they're going to try and break you down both physically, but more so psychologically. It's head-game stuff Zach." "I know,"Zach replied.

   It all came back to me,Zach's early beginnings; his confronting fearful things with an equanimity which surpassed his young age;like he had purpose behind what we considered  painful experiences.I consoled his worried Mom. " He's made this decision. You know damn well, there is nothing you could ever talk him into or out of once he's made up his mind. Recall all the things he purposefully got into when he was young." She finally agreed the Marines were for Zach, and Zach was for the Marines! I did understand what Kim felt as a Mom. I went through those same feelings of separation when my youngest son, William went to the Coast Guard Academy in New London Conn. I was so sad, that after returning home, I had his sister Kim put his clothes in his bedroom. I just couldn't bring myself to deal with the huge void. God, the things that Mom's go through!
   On October  22,2012 Zach at age 22 years left for Parris Island boot camp. He flew from Cleveland to Savannah Georgia and was bused the remainer of the way. No drill instructors were on the bus, and he states, the ride was quiet;no one was chatting it up. Just thinking,just wondering what they had gotten themselves into. When at 1AM they finally arrived, he felt dead tired--he had not really slept well for 48 hours. And for awhile it was all down hill.
   When the bus pulled beyond the gates of Parris Island to the unloading area, a drill instructor boarded the bus. He laid out the rules. " Button your shirts to the neck! Tuck your shirts in your pants! No talking! You answer with a Yes Sir, No sir! Do you understand?" YES SIR, came the new recruits reply.
    They were told to all line up with their feet placed in the painted yellow footsteps of previous Marines from ages and wars ago. Those are honor footsteps a symbol of other young men who had joined the Marines, who had fought and given their lives for this country,The United States of America. Then Zach told me they were given the "Welcome to Parris Island"speech. After they were told to call their parent/s ,tell them they had made it safely:That was the last call, the last time they would hear from home till 13 weeks, and a different and changed man had come to pass..

(Zach's Platoon:1st Battalion,Delta Company,Platoon 1001)

   I asked Zach after he had graduated and was back home for a 10 day leave, what his most difficult experience was. "Being neat and orderly,making my 'rack'/ bed precisely the way the Drll Instructors had ordered us to. wanted it done all at a fast pace. I was never concerned as to whether I'd pass all the physical regimes they demanded of us;the pull ups, the sit ups;carrying 100lbs of gear on a long hike. That never worried me,it was keeping my'rack' and living area perfect and up to snuff."
"Had you ever given a thought to quitting,or giving up?" 
"Yea," he lowered his head,"but that was after the 1st 2 days. I was so tired physically and emotionally. But I never , nor did anyone else give voice to how they felt after those first few days. We just kept on keeping on."
(Zach's Platoon:1st Battalion,Delta Company,Platoon 1001)

His platoon, won the Honor's Platoon Medal for passing with excellence all requirements of the Marine boot camp. Zach is proud of that. 
"What was your most memorable experience Zach?"
"Well,"He looked thoughtfully at me,"Besides the graduation, I'd have to say passing the 'crucible'. The crucible," he went on," is a rigorous 54 hour exercise encompassing everything a recruit has learned in the 13 weeks of training. There are no cooked meals served. We ate MRE's(meals ready to eat)or boxed meals. We had walked 40 miles,our feet were blistered and sore. We had no sleep. But we kept each other's  moral and spirits up. We kept going knowing that when we made it through this last test, that we really had made it! 

We hiked back and were told to line up in front of the Iwo Jima Memorial where we then received the Marine emblem;the Eagle,the globe,and anchor. Then we went to the mess hall and were given "the warrior's meal"which consisted of almost anything you'd love to eat, and we had plenty of time to eat, too. There was no wolfing this meal down!!"

Left to right:Aunt TJ, Uncle Bill,Kim(Zach's Mom), and loving sister Becky 

Zach and Uncle Bill
Proud new Marine Zach
The second most memorable event was, of course, when I saw my family on graduation day.
I saw the proud smiles on their faces. Uncle Bill and Aunt TJ, drove my Mom and sister to Parris Island to attend my graduation!

Zach in Dress Blues

Zach and Sasha
    This photo was taken at Uncle Bill's and Aunt TJ's home after Sunday church. That's Sasha,their Akita dog. Sasha doesn't give her affections easily and in some cases with people not at all. But she loves her Zach man!
Zach wanted me to add, that he appreciated everything his drill instructors taught him---They were fair, and they cared about the new recruits.

I am Zach's, Babs(grandmother) and the composer of this blog.

 OORAH, Zach!! One of "The Few, The Proud, The Marines"

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