Like most teenagers I left for Boot Camp after high school graduation.
The bus ride was long and I was bursting with anticipation of what lay ahead. I had been dreaming of becoming a United States Marine since I was 14 years old, now finally I was on that bus ride to Parris Island. My entire world was about to change in ways i couldn’t imagine, with effects that would stay with me until today.
We drove pass the front gate and rolled down the causeway onto the base, the time was way past mid-night, the date was July 29th 1979.
As we stepped off the bus amidst the shouting of the receiving Drill Instructors we were all blasted by the heat of South Carolina. The first thing that caught my eye was how immaculately perfect this place was, spotless, clean, without blemish, well kept, well maintained, all the buildings were dated like something out of a 50’s military movie. There were many more sensations that came along with that blast of heat. There was the smell of grass mixed with the sweetness of the Spanish moss trees, the smell of the warm pavement, mixed with the smell of the old wooden buildings and the smell of the surrounding marsh lands. Amidst the din of all these sights and smells the Island was absent of sound, no cars, no trucks, no people, all you could hear were the crickets in the background and voices of the receiving DI’s while we stood on the yellow footprints. . . . . Welcome to Parris Island.
Inside the receiving barracks we were bombarded with an overwhelming assortment of immediate tasks to perform, late night paperwork, late night phone calls, the surrender of possessions, as well as early morning haircuts. After being awake for well over 24 hours we were filed down a hallway and assembled inside a room where they handed us everything we needed for the next 12 weeks. Everything from Hats to toothbrushes to underwear, they gave us everything.
After we filled our sea-bags with our Marine Corps issue, they herded us into a grab assed formation and marched us over to the chow hall. We marched like a gaggle of civilian trash, we were that coffee stain on your white shirt or the drunk Uncle that comes to the family barbecue, we were just sad to look at and out of place. We left our sea-bags outside to mark our formation and marched single file into the chow hall. As we passed through the front door (bulkhead) To the right were the food trays we all grabbed one, these stainless steel trays that were divided into sections so you knew were your potatoes were supposed to go and were your meat should end up, no guess work here everything was laid out plane and simple. The Marine at the head of the line kept shouting “Keep the line moving Prive” while the servers slapped spoon full’s of food into the sectioned parts of our tray. With our trays loaded and in single file, we made our way to the designated seating area and began to eat heads down focused and as fast as we could…..Believe it or not folks, this was a pivotal moment for all of us, this was our first Marine Corps Breakfast…. and it was good.
After eating we immediately stood up and filed into the street to recapture our positions along side our sea bags. As we waited for our receiving Instructors, the sun began to rise over the trees and fill the sky revealing all the surrounding structures. Our first day on Parris Island had arrived and it was daunting.
As we stood in formation, I could hear the sound of a cadence being called to my left followed by the sound of a dull thud. I couldn’t make out what the thud was at first but as the cadence of the Drill Instructor became louder so did that sound. The Drill Instructors voice was dedicated in purpose and rhythmic in sound, within seconds the cadence got louder that thuds began to echo off the buildings. in an instant I understood what that pounding was, it was the sound of Boots hitting the pavement…. a lot of boots.
As the Drill Instructors voice came closer so did the sound of this rhythmic thunder, I swear the ground began to shake as each and every thud got closer. I wasn’t the only one to feel it, we all did. and in series we all turned our heads left and saw the most amazing sight imaginable. it was a platoon of 3rd phase recruits marching towards us.
This was the most impressive and awe inspiring sight I had ever seen.
I am getting chills just writing about it. This Platoon shined as they marched down the street, no swaying back and forth or bobbing up and down they Glided down the street. Their faces were chiseled and hard with a concentration that couldn’t be broken. Their movements were short and exact, their arms swung at the exact same distance, their boots all hit the ground at the same exact time it was deafening.
These weren’t new arrivals or even second phase recruits, this was a Third Phase Platoon, boots bloused and polished, covers crisp and starched, 40 inches back to chest Guide On out in front…
Damn these were United States Marines.
My heart was pounding in my chest, I was happy, scared, and sad all at the same time I couldn’t explain all the feelings that rushed through me at that moment …. I was completely floored.
I thought to myself that this is it! this is what I wanted to become, standing there in that line with my new platoon, I didn’t know if I/ WE could do it, but I was damn sure going to give it a everything I had.
Three months later WE made it . . we took everything Parris Island threw at us and thrived to become United States Marines.
Here is my platoon marching on the Parade Deck, I am on the right the last one in the image: (Platoon 2059)