Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Bootcamp Letters

Jumping from the Towers... My grandchildren will feel it.
At the listless age of 14, I was sent to a Marine Corps mini-bootcamp called Devilpups at Marine Corps Base, Camp Pendleton in Oceanside, California. Unlike a number of participants at the camp who were forced into participating, I had volunteered without realizing the degree of pain and humiliation I was to succumb. The reasons behind my decision laid in the belief that my late Father, a U.S. Army Korean War veteran, felt I could not endure several weeks of hell. 


Mother was hesitant to sign the waiver but after some persuasion by Dad, she signed the papers. On the day of departure, there were approximately one hundred teenagers from southern California at MCRD waiting to be picked up by rows of white buses marked with Semper Fi emblems.  We were told by staff to stand and wait for the sergeants inside the bus to exit and deliver their special welcome.   The first sergeant who came out of the white bus began hollering at the group, calling us ‘Nancy” and emphasizing how we were prohibited from looking into their eyes.

Just before I boarded the bus Dad looked at me with a dash of anticipation, as if waiting for a change of heart…  But I spit my pride and said to him, “I’ll see you in two weeks, alright.” He smiled and said “Hey, don’t drop the soap” in reference to a story he told me the day before of how Army recruits in bootcamp bathe in communal showers.
In my na├»ve thinking, it was a challenge I wanted to undertake mainly to impress my Dad and break a Father-Son Complex that I’d carried for years. After the first few days of bootcamp, the Drill Sergeants gave us the opportunity to write a letter to our parents. Well… twelve years later I opened this letter… this special letter brought on many, many tears.  In the letter I ramble to Dad with a foolish pride about how much I enjoyed bootcamp and how great I was being treated, I can chuckle now because those were some of the most eternal weeks of my life, LOL.

When you look back at your fleeting life, which moments will you vividly recall the most? The achievements, your contributions to society, or the little pieces of humanity you gathered along the way. The earliest memory of your beloved one. The desperation and glory of crossing a finish line or the moment when you first felt the seemingly empty satisfaction of altruism. The smell of Mom’s cooking… Bootcamp is one of mine.

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