Seventeen years ago today I woke up to a new world. It was the first day I could put an EGA on my dress blues, which I did. Then I dressed in those blues, along with 90 other freshly minted Marines, and we hit the parade ground for our final review and graduation.
It was a pretty awesome day. I still remember marching past the grandstand, seeing from the corner of my eye my parents and relatives. I had dropped about seventy pounds in those thirteen weeks, so they didn't recognize me at first.
I remember my Drill Instructor telling me that this wasn't the end, but only the beginning.
I remember saying goodbye to the friends I had made, none of whom I have seen since.
I remember feeling very mature at twenty years old, ready and able to take on the world.
It was just the beginning of a whole new adventure. Never again would I be treated like a child. Never again would I shy away from a challenge. And I really was forever changed by the training I went through. Not brainwashed as some had feared, but enhanced. My folks did a great job of instilling who I was, the Marines just polished it up a bit. Oh, and taught me a dozen ways to kill with just my bare hands and a pencil.
Of the skills I learned in the Corps, I use the honor, courage, integrity and commitment the most. Everything else was gravy.
Seventeen years ago this morning, I became a Marine. And though I've been out for almost a decade now, I will always be a Marine.