I have a Marine

A little more than 13 years ago, we got this kid. She was small – only 5 years old. She didn’t speak English… hell, she could barely communicate at all, having come from a family of drug addicted losers. She didn’t know how to use utensils. She didn’t know how to brush her teeth. She had never met us before, and she didn’t understand why she wasn’t living with her mom and dad any longer.

The adoption proceedings had been completed by May, 2001, and Sarah was officially our kid.

She wasn’t without her issues. We had to teach her everything from rudimentary hygiene to speech. She had lice. She was malnourished. A few months after she arrived, I took her to her first dentist appointment, where we found out her teeth were so rotten from malnutrition, a few of them had to be extracted. Poor little one cried – she was so terrified!

When she began to communicate, we realized she didn’t know she was with us permanently. Her parents told her they were sick, and that as soon as they got well, she would come back to live with them. We had to inform her that she was not going back, and that her parents chose drugs over her. This was not an easy revelation, so we did it with the help of a family counselor.

The next years were a combination of pride, fear and downright terror. There were emotional ups and downs. There was rebellion. There were deceptions and betrayals. There was a divorce from her father and fights with her sister and the Redhead. But when she finally graduated Washington-Lee High School with an advanced diploma, Sarah knew what she wanted to do with her life.

She wanted to become a Marine.

She left for boot camp in mid-October, and after nearly three months of stress, bruises, exertion and hard work, Rob, the Redhead and I drove down to South Carolina to pick up our Marine.

sarah

It was not a short drive. We got under way on Wednesday afternoon at 1630 hours, and didn’t get to our hotel until 0230. I consistently drove more than 90 miles per hour just to make up for the time we lost in Northern Virginia traffic. The Redhead drove as well. He was behind the wheel through North Carolina, before I took over again. We finally fell asleep in our hotel room at 0300, and were up by 0900 for Family Day.

This was the first time in 3 months we saw our Marine. The pride on her face is unmistakeable, and she couldn’t stop talking (or eating, for that matter) the entire time we were together. I have to say the love between brother and sister was palpable that day. The Redhead had always been close with his sister, but I didn’t really realize how much he missed her until he ran to her, grabbed her and gave her the biggest hug I’d ever seen him give anyone!

The ginger kid and his Marine.

The ginger kid and his Marine.

(No, I will not publish photos of his face until he turns 18)

We had to return Sarah to the parade field at 1445 hours, after which we drove back to our hotel, and I took a much-needed 3-hour nap.

The next day was Graduation Day, and it was a disaster. I don’t mean that Sarah didn’t graduate. She did. But the morning can only be described as a class A clusterfuck!

We arrived a half an hour early and parked in the visitors’ lot. The weather was beautiful – warm and humid – after rain the previous night. I figured the ceremony would be held on the parade deck. Nope. After several back and forths, a woman directed us indoors. We went through a metal detector and were shuffled up the stairs to where family members were seated.

Remember, we were there a half an hour before the ceremony was to have taken place, so there was plenty of time to make an announcement that the women were graduating AT THE LYCEUM!

That’s right. We were directed inside. We were shown where to sit. And not one announcement was made about the fact that the women were graduating in a completely different venue.

None.

The ceremony began on time, and we began to realize that only men marched into the facility. I whispered to Rob that perhaps the women were graduating right behind the men?

The ceremony ended, and the families poured down the steps to congratulate their Marines. I approached a female Drill Instructor who was watching the ceremony and asked her if the women were graduating right after the men.

She looked at me confused, and then horrified, “OH NO! The women are at the Lyceum!”

“The WHAT?” I nearly shouted.

“I’m so, so, sorry!” She replied. “The women graduated in the Lyceum. It’s down the road. Wasn’t there an announcement?”

I looked at her, and I literally saw red. “NO! There wasn’t an announcement! How could this be?”

She turned around to a male NCO, who was standing next to her and asked him, “Was there an announcement about the women’s change of venue?”

He looked at me, then he looked at her and shrugged… SHRUGGED, like it wasn’t even important, “No.”

The female DI looked devastated. She was tiny and Hispanic, I think, and she looked flushed with embarrassment. “I’m so sorry. If you head over there now, you will at least see her and take some photos.”

Meanwhile, I was staring at the male NCO, who shrugged it off like it wasn’t a big deal, and I was seething. These women worked their asses off. They pulled together. They accomplished something the vast majority of women in this country couldn’t hope to accomplish in an environment dominated by men. They earned the title United States Marine, and he acted like their graduation didn’t even matter!

I finally grabbed my jacket, and ran out of the facility, with Rob and the Redhead behind me. I threw myself into the car, and looked up the Lyceum on my phone to get directions. We arrived just as everyone was leaving.

The females’ graduation was approximately 30 minutes long, if that, according to Sarah. The Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps didn’t attend their graduation, like he did the men’s. There was no pass in review. Nothing. After all that work to become US Marines, it didn’t even seem that the females mattered all that much, and a number of families apparently missed the graduation ceremony, because they were not informed about the change of venue.

Thanks for nothing, MCRD Parris Island. The only photos I have of the graduation right now are the ones I copied from the MCRD Facebook page.

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Sarah wasn’t upset that we missed her graduation, even though I was in tears. She insisted that the ceremony wasn’t a big deal, even though it was supposed to be, because her cycle was the first that was to have graduated Marine Corps boot camp having met the pull-up standard. She was devastated that the women in her platoon were not afforded the opportunity to perform the pull-ups on the physical fitness test. Apparently, because most female Marine recruits struggled with the pull-up requirement, the young women in Oscar Company were informed that despite their hard work, they were not going to graduate having met the standard. Sarah was more angry about this than she was about graduation. She explained that the majority of the women in this cycle were, indeed, ready to pass the pull-up requirement, but that they were told to stand down, because the women who graduated before them could not measure up. And instead of allowing these women to do the work, and perhaps even fail, but at least try to meet the standard, the Marine Corps chose to allow them to slide.

My daughter, at the very least, was furious!

Nonetheless, I have a Marine. I have a Marine who overcame emotional difficulties, who matured, who turned her life around and committed herself to the service of the nation she loves. She excelled at physical fitness and got 299/300 on her combat fitness test. She put exhaustion out of her mind and completed the Crucible.

And no one can take that away from her.

Me and my new United States Marine! Semper Fi!

Me and my new United States Marine!
Semper Fi!

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65 responses

  1. The U.S. is a better place.

    Congratulations to you both.

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    1. *smile* Thank you!

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  2. What an absolutely incredible story.
    I am glad for her and know her family must be soooo proud of her
    …but ticked off the way they were treated.

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    1. Yeah. I was literally screaming in the car. There will be a sternly worded letter to MCRD.

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      1. Nicki, they need to hear from more families. That just was not right. IF they are not treated like the others from the very beginning….it can roll on inside the ranks.

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        1. I agree. And I hope other families write as well. Sarah’s buddy’s mom said there weren’t a whole lot of families in the audience and everyone was confused about where to go. It was completely screwed up!

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        2. IF they get hurt, they bleed just like their male counterparts.
          This really makes me angry!

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        3. You and me both. And there was no reason not to have the ceremony on the parade deck! It was beautiful out.

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  3. A Salute! to you and your Marine.:)

    WTF is the Parris staff doing that this graduation was such a CF?!?!??!!!

    The NCO should have his ass in hack over this!!

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    1. Good question. I wish I knew. But I will be writing them to find out, be sure of that!

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  4. So happy that your daughter and my son being there together has brought us together. So proud of you and Sarah! David called today,he’s a PFC now, also, And I can’t wait to see him this Thursday for Family Day!

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  5. I am in tears here. Tears of joy and tears of frustration, but most of all, tears of gratitude that such a wonderful young woman is now taking a path that so few would ever dare. Thank you, and Semper Fi!!

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    1. She had/has a VERY Strong Soul; and all it took was to have LOVING PARENTS AROUND HER to show her the way.
      God Bless You, and God Bless Your Daughter.

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      1. She’s an amazing person. When I look back on her childhood, I’m amazed at how thoroughly she turned herself around and what she has become!

        Thank you for your kind words.:)

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        1. Nicki, that can happen only when a child can FEEL the love supporting her. God Sent Her to YOU to love her and heal her; and you did such a wonderful job You must be very special to God.

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    2. Hugs to you, lady!:) and thank you!

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      1. Right back at you…you must be very special. AND, so is your daughter.

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        1. Thank you so much. That’s very kind. I’m not special. I promise. I’m stubborn and I refuse to give up until there’s nothing left. That’s not special. It’s simple pig-headedness! LOL

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        2. Are we kin? LOL.
          When people used to accuse me of the same thing? I’d reply: “No, I am determined.”
          BIG DIFFERENCE.
          When YOUR WILL is in balance with “God’s Will”…you healed a child with Love.
          —-
          The huge errors I have made in my life was when it was “MY will” and NOT God’s Will.
          You were a miracle for that child…and it shows.

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        3. I’m just glad I was able to save her. She deserved every chance in the world, and I’m proud to have given it to her! She’s a good kid. She will be a GREAT Marine. And I’m selfish enough to want that not just for her sake, but for mine too, because it makes me feel awesome!:)

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        4. Well, sure it does; and it should!
          God Blessed You….both of you….

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        5. Well, it’s appreciated.:)

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  6. Nicki
    Congrats to Sarah! And congrats to you for providing such a fine example. And thank you both!

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  7. Dear Sarah,

    Welcome to the big, loud, noisy dysfunctional family from one of your crazy uncles. As a U.S. Marine, you have earned a very special privilege that few people in this country ever hold and I hope that pride stays with you no matter how long your career lasts.

    Dear Nicki,

    Congratulations to you as well and I hope that you strip big meaty bites from the carcasses of those responsible for the CF you and your family went through.

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  8. Semper Fi INDEED! Your pride in this young woman must be ENORMOUS. Mine is, and I’ve never even met her!

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    1. I have to say, I’m pretty much busting with pride, although still PO’d about the CF that was graduation.😡

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  9. Поздравляю тебя мамочка

    Semper Fi Marine!

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    1. Спасибо большое!

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  10. Не за что!
    Матери Молодцы

    Bear with me my cyrillic is not waht it once was… and I left out her Dad,
    Please accept my apologies-

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    1. Her dad… Yeah… isn’t exactly in the picture, so don’t worry about it.:)

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  11. First off, congratulations to Sarah and to you, too! Y’all obviously did a fine job!

    I’m confused, however. Separate ceremonies for men and women?! They’re all Marines, aren’t they? What am I missing here?

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    1. I have no idea. I was pretty shocked by this too.

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    2. I was just at a graduation on December 20th and it was both male and females together and on the parade deck….the only thing I can think of is where the males graduated was not big enough to hold all of them…they had a ceremony the day before and they could barely fit the men in there…even when I graduated back in 1986 we graduated with the males……sorry about what you went through, congrats to your new Marine…..

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      1. Thanks, Kimberly! Despite the suck, I still have a Marine! And she’s awesome!

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  12. Congratulations to your Marine, and to your family! Semper Fi!

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  13. Good on her, indeed, and good on you. You did well with her and she’s a great kid. Can I still call her a kid?

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    1. She’s 18, so yeah! LOL

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  14. My daughter also had a trip through the military but her choice was the Navy. She worked on the roof of the “Special K” (USS Kearsarge, LHD3) wearing a yellow shirt. Even though she was an aircraft handler she was assigned a twin .50 mount for Port Watch – it seems she was rather good with it – good enough she could outshoot the gunner’s mates on her ship.

    Many congrats to Miss Sarah for completing what few can and, from what little of Sarah’s early history you’ve let slip out, especially to you Miss Nicki for giving her the room to grow and turn into the person she is.

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    1. Thanks, Frank! And many thanks to your daughter for her service as well!:)

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  15. Instead of writing MCRD, write to THE Commandant of the Marine Corps.

    Congrats and Semper Fi to your new Marine.

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    1. I’ve written to the commander of MCRD for now. He’s more connected to the issue.

      And thank you!

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  16. Out-freaking-standing! Congratulations to Miss Sarah and her proud family!

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    1. Thank you!:) From all of us.

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      1. I should add – the “out-freaking-standing” comment also is pointed in your direction. Good parenting and family life FTW.

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        1. I appreciate it. There were a LOT of rough spots, but we came out stronger in the end, so I’m happy. She’s a good kid. Stubborn as all hell too!

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        2. Stubborn – and a good kid? OK – so that officially answers the “Nature vs Nurture” question!😉

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  17. Congratulations, from the High Plains of Alberta!
    And very well done, to the new-minted Marine.
    :
    One of my fellow Seismic Surveyors, when he was very young, lied about his age, to join the Canadian Army, so he could go to Korea and kill Godless Communists. He discovered that they shot back, and were very good with light mortars… He came back, from the little walk east from the Reservoirs, with a lifelong respect for the USMC.
    I agree with the idea, write the letter to the Commanding General of the USMC.
    Go to the top. Then you can find out just where you really can chew on the person who created such an insult.

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    1. Thank you, sir!:)

      I emailed the MCRD commander what I thought was a very polite, comprehensive letter. I haven’t heard back yet, but I guess we’ll see.

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  18. Congratulations to one if the newest Lady Devil Dogs. She truly exemplifies “adapt, improvise and overcome” good job, Marine!

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  19. OOOOH-RAH !!!

    We’ll all sleep a tiny bit better tonight, knowing Marines like your daughter are standing their turn on the Ramparts, as we did, and our parents did before us. . .

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    1. Thanks! I know I !:)

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  20. It takes a lot of courage to endure the training alone that these women had to participate in. I for one, am proud to say that I would be proud and honored to have had served with a female marine who had that early courage. I wish Sarah all she desires for that courage. You go girl!!! Semper Fi!!!

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  21. Congratulations!

    But you wrote: “I have a Marine who overcame emotional difficulties, who matured, who turned her life around and committed herself to the service of the nation she loves. She excelled at physical fitness and got 299/300 on her combat fitness test. She put exhaustion out of her mind and completed the Crucible.”

    No, you have a Marine who succeeded because she has a positive role model and learned from you. She learned strength from you, the rebellion, deception and betrayal were how she shed her painful past and became the person she is today. You showed her how to do an about face and she quicktimed her way to success by following your lead.

    I know this because I was a foster child at age 9 and I know I’d have turned out very different without the complete strangers who opened their home and hearts to me.

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    1. You make me want to hug you. Sorry, emotional today.:)

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  22. Congrats from the USAF! (And, apparently, an introduction to the world of SNAFU. Sigh….)

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    1. Here’s some awesome news. The commander of MCRD actually called me, and we discussed the problems and what he intends to do about them in depth. He was very responsive and grateful that I took the time to contact him. That’s a first class leader!

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      1. That it is fantastic!!!!…I knew they would make it right….

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        1. I had no doubt! I just didn’t expect a phone call and the 20 minute conversation that ensued. We had a great talk. He’s going to work on fixing it, and I really like him!

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    2. Oh, and THANKS! She’s really proud!:)

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  23. To our newest Marine.

    Didnt think you’d make it, did you?

    I knew you would. I never doubted it.

    Young lady, you now have two families of whom you can be absolutely and utterly proud. Your own, especially your mother who has been, and I believe always will be, a source of strength and courage, and of that rarest of gifts, unquestioning, unstoppable, never ending love. Cherish her always, LISTEN to her..you have made one more journey, but that journey,. and others to come, will never be complete unless there are others that love you to witness and share that wonderful time.

    The other wears green. See that globe and anchor on your uniform? That is your badge of honour, and the hallmark of one who has become part of a tradition spanning hundreds of years. That banner, that standard is yours now.

    Carry it well.

    Carry it with pride.

    Carry it with honour.

    Know that what you have accomplished walks in the footsteps of great warriors. Semper Fidelis, always faithful..to your duty, to your brothers and sisters of the Corps, to YOURSELF more than any other, since it rests not with others, but with you alone, to carry that tradition forward with the dignity and respect that it is due.

    They are your family now, wherever you may go, from now until forever.

    I am proud of you, now and always.

    God bless and keep you…Marine.

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  24. Unbelievable…. well actually I can believe it. Regardless of how far we have come with equality in our nation, there is and always has been the male domination. I hate saying that but look at compensation in the workplace…just another example. Sorry you busted your ass without the recognition, but we are proud, San proud and congratulate you on a job well done.

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    1. Beth, thanks for your kind words. A couple of things to be fair…

      While it is true that on the average, males earn more than females, it’s not as prevalent or as horrifying as people make it out to be. There are, in fact, many more male Marines than females, and apparently (I spoke to the commander of MCRD on the phone yesterday), while there was enough room to graduate Oscar and Hotel companies together, there wouldn’t have been enough room for the families, and they did not want to turn anyone away.

      I wrote the Colonel an email explaining the situation and at the end of the email, I thanked him and the Marines for the incredible change in my daughter. To my surprise, instead of an email promising to look into it, he called me at the office yesterday. We had about a 20 minute conversation about what went wrong and how those issues can be avoided in the future. We discussed some concrete solutions that would help ensure that no family would miss their loved ones’ graduation, and at the end chatted about Sarah, work, military, etc. I am convinced he is a fantastic example of the dedicated, competent leadership in our military. I’m awed by his commitment to the troops, their families and service to the nation!

      So while I was disappointed and outraged last week, I’m gratified that steps are being taken to remedy the situation.

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  25. Wow reading this brought back memories of my graduation day from Army BCT (1996, Fort Jackson, SC). Just typing this brings a smile to my face:) The pride that you feel is well deserved! I hope your daughter has the opportunity to excel in her career, and know that she has a huge family of brothers and sisters in arms that she will forever be tied to!

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