An ongoing Series on Tomorrow’s Heroes:
Honoring Marine Recruits who Said: “Send Me”
By: Tom Duggan – December, 2010
As a strong supporter of the military, I was honored when the local recruiter from my area, Sgt. Natasha Young asked if I would be interested in going to Parris Island, South Carolina and witness the Marines’ boot camp as part of the “educator’s workshop.”
Parris Island in Beaufort, South Carolina is where male Marines on the east coast and all U.S. female Marine recruits receive an extremely rigorous 12 weeks training course before becoming a United States Marine. There, recruits learn what it takes to become a Marine and they learn about honor, courage and commitment. They go through the toughest physical and mental conditioning during this 12 weeks training and when they graduate, they can call themselves “Marines”.
The educator’s workshop is a program that invites educators and the media to go down to Parris Island to understand what the U.S. Marines do, the training they receive, and bring this information back to their schools administration, the community and students who may be interested in joining the military.
Arriving on the base that first day, I had no idea how emotional and proud I would be while watching the training of these future hero Marines. Watching these young recruits (many only 18 years old) support each other during training exercises, hearing them talk about representing America in a time of war, and wanting to go overseas to protect and defend our freedoms here at home. I was so honored to be with these men and women who would soon be on the front lines of war to ensure my freedom, fight against Muslim terrorism and Islamic extremists who want to destroy America.
And I was surrounded by Marines who had many stories of their own some had already served one, two and sometimes three tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The hero Marine (a Vietnam Veteran) who works at the Marine Museum talked to me about his tour in Vietnam, where he and another Marine were the only survivors in a platoon of 35 men. The humbling war stories from each Marine I spoke with was more heart warming and yet, heart wrenching at the same time. Many were married with families and yet they were committed to being a Marine and defending freedom even though it took them away from the people they love so much, for such long periods of time.
I had the opportunity to interview a new female recruit, who just turned 19 years old in November and had only been a recruit for four weeks.
Recruit Gallo hails from Pembroke, MA and is a graduate of Pembroke High School. She is a member of the 4th Battalion and serves with 59 other women. Her maternal grandfather was a Marine in WWII and her paternal grandfather was a Master Gunnery Sergeant in the U.S. Army. She says that when she told her parents that she was planning on becoming a Marine they were “shocked” and admitted that they were not very happy with her decision. She says that even though their initial reaction was negative, now they are extremely supportive of what she chose to do.
She says her friends were also “shocked” when she told them. Most of them are in college now. She signed up through the local recruiter and when her guidance councilor asked her why she chose to be a Marine she said that it was because “she wanted a challenge.”
And a challenge is exactly what she got. Gallo says that the first week was the hardest, mostly because she didn’t know what to expect.
“For anyone interested in the Marines,” she says “don’t give up on your dreams and don’t second guess yourself.”
Recruit Gallo said she’s looking forward to traveling and someday hopes to become a Massachusetts State Trooper.
She says proudly that she has no regrets about her life altering decision to become a U.S. Marine and has met so many dedicated and patriotic people in her four weeks on base that her decision to join has been reaffirmed every single day of her training.
Recruit Gallo says she no longer has any use for electronic equipment: such as cell phones, computers or Ipods . Her only communication with friends and family is by sending letters via U.S. Mail.
There are no clocks anywhere on the base, except in the mess hall so most of the day Recruit Gallo has no idea what time it is. She told me that she liked school and was a good student with B’s and C’s.
During the workshop, I had the opportunity to fire an M16-A2 machine gun, go through some of the obstacle course training, tour the pool facility, housing, the air base and so much more.
Recruit Gallo, as well as the Drill Sergeants and Officers on the base are setting the bar so high in representing this country with honor, courage and commitment that it was an incredible privilege to interview her and witness the heroism of all the other Marines during the educator’s workshop.
I thank all of the hero U.S. Marines and especially Sgt. Natasha Young for this amazing opportunity.