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Modern Marine Corps

A Portland Boomer’s Son Comes Back From Boot Camp

Dress Blues

Dress Blues

The typical youth sports coach volunteers their time and moves on after the season.

It’s a ‘been there, done that, got a t-shirt’ deal.

But the whole exercise is ruined if the coach doesn’t keep up with his former players.

They need to stay in touch if they want to take credit for all the good things to come.

For some athletes, youth sports is the pinnacle of achievement, and the coach can take some measure of pride.

For others, it’s just the beginning. This is one of those stories.

Kids go through their development stages at their own pace. You’ve all seen an outstanding basketball player in fourth grade who stops growing and doesn’t adapt their game.

Nate Robinson adapted his game and he’s still giving the NBA a run for the money. He goes up and blocks LeBron.

One boy signed up for a team and arrived in shoes that looked too big, shorts that didn’t fit, and a pair of what looked like swim goggles.

He fell down a lot, or looked like he was about to, with each step. The difference between him and a similar kid was this one spoke like he expected you to listen. His steady gaze was hard to avoid.

As he grew and matured he ditched the goggles for wrestling head gear and hit the mats. Cross country was a natural for him before wrestling season began. He was still skinny, but surprisingly strong and flexible. And smart, Eagle Scout smart.

From high school graduation to college graduation the boy rounded into man-shape at 6′ 1″ and 190 pounds. But something was missing.

He wanted challenges and discipline. He found the Marine Corps. After missing the cut for Officer Candidate School by a narrow margin he had two choices: either wait a year and reapply, or join as a trainee. He joined The Few, The Proud, and his sports background kicked in the way you’d hope.

For his platoon’s first three mile run the Drill Instructors arranged the field by moving who they thought was slow and in the way to the back of the pack. They moved the Eagle Scout to the back.

At the first check-point he was 200 yards ahead of second place. By the end, he was first in under eighteen minutes. He finished the thirteen week training cycle as the fastest runner in his company.

The Drill Instructors saw something in this Marine and made him a squad leader. He met the challenges and discipline the way he met his wrestling opponents. If his squad didn’t know what they were there for, they found out.

What does a Marine do after boot camp? They take some leave and relax, or they head home and hit the gym. This new Marine went to the local gym and met baby boomer Marines who’ve been through the wringer. He addressed them with the same sort of assurance he did his youth sports coach, but with even more confidence.

When asked how he got through the tough parts of boot camp, he said, “My Pops’ letters. He wrote me every day. They were my secret reserve to pull through.”

The match of athletics and the military is easy to see, but the bond of wrestler and Marine Corps is even tighter. Competition in both are harder than the rest. This man joined the Corps instead of the “Chair Force” because he wants to fight. No Army for him because he doesn’t want occupation duty. Why not the Navy? Because the Navy only exists to deliver Marines to battle.

It’s a Marine’s view of the service.

The basketball kid in goggles is now a straight-backed Marine who’s learning how his arm of the military regards the rest. The slinky high school wrestler is now a twenty-three year old Jarhead prepping for the next phase of training where he’ll learn how to use weapons in the field.

What is his choice of Marine job? Machine gunner.

Lock and load, young man, and remain Always Faithful.

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About David Gillaspie
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