I am the son of a Marine.
Throughout my life I’ve been given glimpses into what it means to serve in the United States military and to see the bond of this mythical brotherhood. These memories not only changed me but forever changed how I see my Father.
I’m 11 years old and I’m watching my Father’s face as we approach the Vietnam Memorial. I’m there as part of a sight-seeing class trip to get a dose of history but I didn’t expect to discover a whole new side to my Father. His face grew still and with every step his eyes grew more puffy with tears. Normally my Dad would have noticed me looking at him but in this moment there was only Him and a wall of names. My father isn’t a stoic man but I’d never seen this side of him. I understand now that we were on holy ground and that wasn’t a wall of names from a history book but they were the brothers and sisters of my Marine father.
I’m 16 and after a cross country train trip I met up with my parents in California to see some long lost family. During our stay we we drove to San Diego to visit the Marine Corp Recruiting Depot (MCRD). Every Marine west of the Mississippi River has crossed these vast parade grounds. As we watched a new class of boot camp survivors join the brotherhood of the Marine Corps I realize I’m at the high temple of Jarheads. The precision click of their heels were Church bells ringing to celebrate my Father’s pilgrimage to the place that ushered him in to the Semper Fi fraternity.
I’ve seen Arlington Cemetery and her sea of white Crosses.
I’ve seen the reflecting pools at Normandy stand so still and so dark you’d thought they were pools of ink.
I still get teary when my Dad stands up during the Marine Hymn on the 4th of July.
All this is to say I stand in awe of the men and women of the United States Military. You served to protect our freedom and our way of life. You didn’t even know my name and you stood in the gap.
As a boy my best friend’s Father was also a Marine and in our eyes that made them superheroes. 20 years later I know I was right.
They are. You all are.