Recruit Training Graduation - A Brother's Story
Posted By: Kim Clark 11-19-11
Two brothers, 14 months apart, the best of friends. For 17 years, life for them has always been the same; never apart and experiencing everything together that life has to offer. Playing together, growing together, school, friends, sports. At ages 13 and 14 they joined the USNSCC (United States Naval Sea Cadet Corp.) They trained together, got promoted together, taught trainings together, achieved the rank of Chief Petty Officer together. Life, for them, was always together.
They both have the same goal of joining the Marines, and when the oldest was 17, he joined the DEP, was sworn in, and suddenly found himself taking his first step into life as an adult, alone, without his brother. It was ok, though. He had a year to prepare for his future, and they were able to forget what that next step was going to lead to. Time went by, and life was normal. Graduation day came, and the oldest turned 18 shortly after. He found out his RT date (end of July), so we knew we had the entire summer to accept that he was leaving.
June holds lots of birthday's in our family, so we were happily distracted from that up and coming date. He was working until his leave time, and everything seemed good...until June 28.
Mid-morning, I get a call from him. He says, "Mom, my recruiter just called and wants to know if I can leave for RT tomorrow." Can you imagine my heart at that news? I wanted to tell him NO WAY! I'M NOT READY! But he already knew that, and said that he would pass and tell them no if I wanted him to, for me. When he said that, I knew I couldn't say no. He was ready. "JJ, it's your life, and if you're ready, I support you 100%. No, I'm not ready, but you tell them yes, if that's what you want to do." Ok, so maybe I wasn't quite that eloquent, and was probably a little more emotional, but the meaning was the same. :)
I start making calls to get all the things in line that needed taken care of before he left. A few minutes later, I get another call. "Mom, my recruiter made a mistake." I'm thinking woohoo! He isn't leaving yet! "Mom, he meant today, not tomorrow. I would have to be there in four hours." FOUR HOURS?? How did we go from a month to four hours? I was definitely not ready for that!
Imagine trying to get a month's worth of stuff done in four hours. It was crazy! I started calling all of our family, first shocking them with the news, and then asking them to drop everything and meet us at the hotel for an impromptu going away party.
A few hours later, at the hotel, everyone has made it, and everyone is wearing the same blank look, trying to hold it together for JJ's last eve home. As the night winds down, people start leaving, until eventually it's just us and him. We stay the night and meet him at 4:30 a.m. for his departure. Everyone cries, holding him as long as they can when it's their turn to hug. He needs to leave, so we give our last congrats, good-bye's, I love you's, and let him go. I watch him walk away, and I can see his smile getting bigger through his tears, and a bounce coming to his step, because he is ready for his future, ready to be a Marine. We all go home, still in shock from the whirlwind of a day, not able to process that he is actually gone, and not coming back to stay anymore.
13 weeks...that's how long RT is in the Marines. 3 brief phone calls, incredibly intense, and a few letters. That's all we’ve had of him for 13 weeks. It was hard for us all, but especially his brother. He says he's doing ok. He misses him but he's accepting it. (Yeah, whatever!)
Family Day finally comes, and we are all there for him. They do the motivational run, and we see him for the first time, but can't talk to him yet. I sob, but his brother is doing pretty well. They get released for the day, and we go out behind the stands to meet him...and it happens.
His brother goes to give him a hug...and that's when they both realize just how much they have missed each other, how hard this time has been for them both, and how unprepared they were for this step into the future without each other to lean on. They hug long and hard, and they cry. Are they ready for this time in life? Yes, they are, but it doesn't make it hurt any less.
Seventeen years together, a bond of brother's, strong enough to last over the miles and years to come, close enough to accept anything life will throw at them, and still make it through...together.
People have asked me how I could allow them to train from such a young age to kill, and how I could let them join the military. I always just say that being in the USNSCC (www.iowacadets.org) was something they enjoyed and gave them the ability to experience things that most kids their ages don’t get to do, and that I am proud that they want to join the Marines. (The middle boy is currently in the DEP for the USMC.) What I want to say is, “MY sons don’t train to kill. They train to serve, and to protect their country and the people that live here. MY sons will be the ones risking their lives to make sure people like you get to keep that freedom to condemn me for the way I raised them. Am I ashamed? Heck no. I am, and always will be, a proud mother of MARINES.”
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