Without a doubt, it has been the longest and most exhausting day of my life. I can barely keep my eyes open down to write this. Already I fear I’m breaking the rules being up after lights out by must record this experience before I forget it.
My pre-dawn morning began with my checking into MEPS. MEPS is a military evaluation clinic where they examine every inch of you, right down to your toenails to make sure that you meet the acceptable requirements before they put their seal of approval on you. It’s run a little better than a meatpacking plant. You are one in a line of prospects making his/her way down the assembly line of the US government.
For me, my main concern was being able to weigh in within their guidelines. I spent the last month at my recruiter’s office working out with the Marines there to lose 20 pounds so I could enlist. My time is divided amongst them, either at the gym next door or on some concrete pavement running. I have to say, I’m very grateful to them for all the effort they put in to help me when they clearly didn’t have to.
Anyway, once I’ve been poked, prodded and deemed acceptable to become property of the US government, I was taken to a room with several others to be sworn in. I have to say, raising your right hand and swearing to protect and defend your country is a surreal moment. It’s a bit stunning in the sense that you realize that little old you is important in this world after all. That you are about to change the direction of your life and make a significant impact in contributing to the history just by being there.
We were loaded onto buses and shipped to the airport. Since I was headed for Parris Island (the only recruit training location for females) I was going to land in South Carolina. I was the only one going to Parris Island and everyone on the bus was surprised that I was going into the Marine Corps. Guys and girls all commented that they couldn’t do that and stated which branch they were headed for. I was proud to be considered tough as well as the object of their awe.
Upon arriving to the airport terminal, I was met by a Marine corporal, the recruit depot liaison. He informed me that we had a few others flying in and we would be waiting for them. He took me to a room apparently used for this purpose as they had tables and chairs like a classroom. What seemed like hours passed and little by little one person at a time would show up. That’s where I first met Wyatt. She was a tall Kentuckian female who packed her no nonsense attitude with her. She didn’t say too much. I imagine she was nervous like the rest of us.
I suppose I should explain that the process of getting to Parris Island doesn’t usually happen this way. Like everything the Marine Corps does, it’s more methodical. However, we were one of the last people that would be joining this training cycle and were therefore a couple of days behind everyone else. Due to a spot opening up at the last minute, I was able to go now instead of waiting until October.
So Wyatt and I were the only two females headed for the same place. The others were males including Buckwalter, who would as it turned out, become a great friend and fellow student at the journalism school I was going to. All day today I couldn’t help but be excited despite the horror stories I had heard about the Marines and their training. I guess I’m supposed to be terrified but I’m not. I feel like my life is finally about to mean something.
Once all the prospects arrived, we were loaded into a van for an hour’s drive to Parris Island. It was the middle of the night and after all the traveling I had done all day, this last trip seem to take forever. The corporal liaison was nice enough, since there were only a few of us to stop at a gas station and let us get something to eat and drink. Still I just couldn’t wait to get here.
We finally made it to Parris Island. As we approached the depot, the corporal told us to put our heads down. It was both nervous and very excited. I knew this was the moment it would all begin. A tall, menacing drill instructor opened the sliding van door and began yelling at us to get out and put our feet on the yellow footprints. Ah, the infamous yellow footprints. From there, the next couple of hours were a bit blurry. It was a procession of paperwork, making our one phone call to let our loved ones knew we arrived safely and being issued everything we would need for the next 12 weeks.
Those first few hours were exhilarating. Just knowing that you were on your way to train to be something that would be significant to you and the world for the rest of your life. Training to be a United States Marine.
Source: Personal experience