OOH-RAH - The Making of A Marine
"Mom, I want to be a Marine."
When I gave birth to my son, Vernon, he was perfect. Absolutely perfect. So, typical of mothers with new babies, I had all kinds of dreams for him. None of them included the military, even though my brother had been the the Air Force, two spouses had been in the Army and Navy respectively, and an ex son-in-law had been in the Coast Guard. Still, it was not my desire for him. I am a child of the sixties. Vietnam was my generation's war. Now we have so many questionable conflicts (they don't use the word 'war' these days) and our young men and women are being sent into harms way at an alarming rate. So when my son said to me, "Mom, I want to be a Marine," the bottom dropped out of my heart, but I didn't show it. We had been through 911 and were hot and heavy into the 'war on terrorism'. All I could see was my son going to Iraq and possibly coming home in a body bag. But I smiled and hugged him because I believe everyone deserves the chance to live their passion. I would not pass my fears on to my son, I would instead support him and trust God to keep him out of harms way.
It starts way before boot camp...
I believe that the making of a Marine starts long before someone leaves for boot camp. I don't think that one can be 'made' into a Marine. Sure, they can mold the clay that's already there, but I believe the qualities have to be in you from the start. I'm not talking about your environment, your social status, or your financial standing. I'm talking about those innate qualities that have nothing to do with you or I. I saw these qualities in my son at an early age.
Just because you are the oldest doesn't automatically make you the leader. You have to possess that gift, recognize that you have it, and then develop it. How you use this ability will determine whether you are a good leader or a bad one; a beloved leader or a hated one. Vernon, was the unchallenged leader of his siblings. They did whatever he told them (sometimes the orders were questionable as will be with kids). Other kids were attracted to him, even older kids. He was very involved with our church youth group. When kids would want to hang out with him on youth group night, he would tell them they would have to come to youth group. And they would come! He led several of his friends to the Lord.
He also knew how to control fear. I say control because we all experience fear at times but we cannot allow it to overpower us. Fear will paralyze you and you won't be able to think or act. I remember the time when our brain-challenged mother cat took her four baby kittens way up in the oak tree in front of our house, and left them. We could hear them mewing like crazy but couldn't find them. We finally determined that the sounds were coming from the tree outside. We tried to get the mother cat to go up and get them because it was starting to get dark but she wouldn't. We were concerned because they were so small and high up in the tree. They didn't have big, strong claws claws like their mother, theirs were tiny and couldn't grip well. I noticed that Vernon had disappeared and the next thing I knew he was on the roof. The tree was close to the house, and he thought if he could jump into the tree, he could rescue the kittens. All I could think of was my son on the ground with something broken. But I knew I couldn't stop him. "Be careful," I said. "Get a good run before you jump." My son smiled and gave me a thumbs up. I watched as he sailed through the air and into the tree. He brought down all four kittens. I can't even begin to describe the look on his face. It wasn't pride so much as joy at completing his mission. Now you may think that was a crazy, dangerous and irrational thing for Vernon to do, but isn't that what Marines do on a daily basis?
It wasn't always easy...
Please don't think that it was always smooth going--far from it. Vernon experienced a lot of the things teenagers are exposed to today. There were times I didn't even want him around because of his rudeness and disrespect. Not having a father in the home with such a strong-willed man-child was proving detrimental to all of us, but Vernon most of all. He was on a downward spiral that I was powerless to stop; I was losing my son.
One afternoon I was talking through my tears to a friend of ours about Vernon. After he listened, the friend told me that Vernon was no longer listening to me and I had to do something quickly. We had mutual friends in the same town who also loved Vernon dearly. I talked with them and I decided to release my son into their care. The husband was Border Patrol and strict. Vernon found the structure he needed. He hated me for quite a while, which made it hard living so close to him. It was the best decision I could have made. Vernon made a complete turn-around and has since thanked me for doing what I did.
He has proven himself to be a very kind and compassionate young man, who will do almost anything for a friend (even if it makes him look silly). He has a strong sense of loyalty for his family and is always ready for a good debate, especially with his sister. He has a contagious sense of humor, which has served him well and can laugh at himself when the need arises.
The desire to join the Marines continued to grow stronger, and by the time he was looking into enlisting, I was okay with it. He had to jump over a few hurdles but he kept at it and made it. He realized that it didn't matter what other people thought, he believed in himself.
A new Marine...
From Life As A Marine :
"Today and throughout our proud history, Marines have served admirably for our nation, for each other and for us all. This selfless commitment is revealed through the exemplary character Marines exhibit through service every day around the world. This is why the Marine Corps seeks only those who are willing to hold themselves to the highest standards and values."
From United States Marines Facts :
There is a special aura surrounding the word "Marine." It means something different from a soldier, a cut above, and more can be expected from this person. Pride and cockiness are the trademarks of Marines, the strongest brotherhood in the world. To serve in the Marine Corps is to serve in an organization that demands and delivers excellence beyond all others. Service in the Marines leaves a lasting impression upon the innermost being of everyone who is privileged enough to serve. "Once a Marine, Always a Marine." To dispute this is to invite a brawl.
Well, after all the blood, sweat and tears these twenty-two years, I am proud to say that I am going to be the mom of a Marine! On July 29, 2011, Vernon Leland Fulmer II, will graduate from Marine boot camp in San Diego, CA. He did it!
Even though I know what possibilities lay ahead, I do not fear for him. I know that he will do what he has to do and will always give his best. I expect no less from him. He is now among the best because he is the best. I cannot take credit for God's work. He has a calling on his life and a destiny to fulfill.
As I watch his graduation, I will be filled with pride. Not for me, but for him, because he never quit. There was never a moment when he doubted he could do this, if given the chance. When I look upon that field on the 29th, I will see the other young men and women who reached their goal and I will know just how their parents feel. This is what parenting is all about. It is not to hang onto and cling to your children. It is to enable them to stand on their own and reach their full potential. To do anything less is to short-change them; to rob them of experiencing their life's destiny. So fly, my son; be free. God bless you. Semper Fi!
Eligibility and Enlistment Information
- U.S. Marine Corps
The Marine Corps makes these three commitments: We will make Marines. We will win our Nations battles. We will develop quality citizens. Learn more about The Few and The Proud.