I was reminded by Ryan tonight that 20 years ago yesterday you were picked up, along with him and Duane, to be taken to the Twin Cities in preparation to be sent off to boot camp as you had enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. I remember that day so clearly. A pair of Marines in full dress came to pick you up at our house and we said our painful goodbyes to you. The three of you stayed in the same hotel room that night and the following day was your final physical and interviews before flying out to boot camp. However, you’d never get on that plane… you were sent back home.
I will never forget how horribly devastated you were. It hurt you terribly to lose something which you had felt so passionate and excited about and truly felt called to do. I will admit that, selfishly, despite your obvious disappointment I was so glad to have you back home where you were safe.
What happened at the physical and interview was so heartbreaking and confusing to you. While sitting in the exam room you were surrounded by posters and pictures and signs reinforcing the qualities they seek in all Marines– a few of which are honor, courage and commitment. There were signs stressing the absolute importance of being 100% honest in your interview and physical. Being honest was of great importance to you anyway because that’s just the kind of person you were. Furthermore, the signs also indicated there could be dire consequences for being less than truthful and dishonesty would absolutely not be tolerated. That being said, you told them you needed to wear special inserts in your shoes as a result of having been born with clubfoot– your feet were turned in and you required medical treatment. As an infant you spent the first year of your life in casts which were changed every single week (because of how quickly you were growing) and once the casts were no longer needed you had to sleep in special shoes attached to a brace which uncomfortably forced your feet up and apart. As of age 18, at that Marine Corps physical, you were more than capable of handling all the physical demands which would have been asked of you. You’d been training so hard– easily running 10-13 miles at least 3-4 times a week, weight training, etc. You could easily do all that was asked of you and more… the only caveat being you needed those inserts in your shoes. However, that was reason to disqualify you… so they did.
I remember you telling me how those same two Marines who had picked you up then had the duty of bringing you back home and they were angry at you for telling the doctor you needed those inserts in your shoes to do the running and hiking. They said to you, “Why didn’t you just lie? It’s not a big deal.” That made you feel so terrible! You wanted to badly to join the Corps but you certainly didn’t want to lie to do so… and here were two Marines telling you that you should have. It also upset you because the reason you chose the Marines over the other branches of the military was the core values they represented:
Honor: Honor requires each Marine to exemplify the ultimate standard in ethical and moral conduct. Honor is many things; honor requires many things. A U.S. Marine must never lie, never cheat, never steal, but that is not enough. Much more is required. Each Marine must cling to an uncompromising code of personal integrity, accountable for his actions and holding others accountable for theirs. And, above all, honor mandates that a Marine never sully the reputation of his Corps.
Courage: Simply stated, courage is honor in action — and more. Courage is moral strength, the will to heed the inner voice of conscience, the will to do what is right regardless of the conduct of others. It is mental discipline, an adherence to a higher standard. Courage means willingness to take a stand for what is right in spite of adverse consequences. This courage, throughout the history of the Corps, has sustained Marines during the chaos, perils, and hardships of combat. And each day, it enables each Marine to look in the mirror — and smile.
Though I know you battled depression for your entire life, that was the first time I remember seeing you so very visibly depressed. You were so lost… you hadn’t applied to any colleges as you hadn’t planned on doing that until after your time in the Marines was complete. It was so hard to see you suffering like that. Obviously you did end up going to college that fall and did very well– but I know there was always a small piece of you missing from that day you were sent back.
That wasn’t the first time, nor was it the last time, that you were ridiculed for being honest. I still say that is a wonderful, trustworthy quality to have and I’m glad you didn’t let that experience change that about you.
I’ve always thought the Marines missed out on an incredible person who would have served them well.
Semper Fi, dude!