I can remember it happening, not that it hadn’t happended before but this time I wasn’t quite so sure of the outcome. In March of 1995 I had accepted a challenge that only 10% of all American’s ever complete. The challege of becoming a United States Marine. Every so often I open my big mouth and respond to any challenge “Of course I can do that!” Then that overwhelming feeling of fear and mild confusion sink in as you begin to think “Now what have I gotten into?” Overcoming a challenge can ultimately mean great success and of course the result could mean failure as well. For me failure has never been an option, that is the basis for my decision to join the Marine Corps “I want to be the best!” I proclaimed.
“Now don’t you go and get one of those crazy tatoos” my mother weeped as I was loading myslef into the goverment vehicle. As we dove off, I recall a lasting mental photograph of my stern father so very proud, my sobbing mother, my 13 year old brother heart broken to be losing his big brother, and my three year old sister absolutely confused as to why everyone was so sad. As I looked around the vehicle, only two of the faces mimicked my own apprehension. Nate Juarez was a guy I had played baseball against growing up. He looked every bit the athlete I remember him to be. He was tall and lean, with broad shoulders and a slim waist. Orlando Chavez was a short, chubby young man who always wore a grin on his face, except for this day. Sergeant Wilson, our recruiter, was obviously the only one who seemed to have it under control. He appeared as confident this day as he had been the day he had convinced us to sign on the dotted line.
In life we sometimes associate silence with akwardness; the first 15 minutes of our ride to Denver were the epitomy of this silence. Eventually we all lightened up to our usual selves and the comraderie between Juarez, Chavez and myself began as we ventured off together. Sergeant Wilson dropped us off at the military processing center in downtown Denver for some final paperwork and to officially swear us in. After a short bus ride to DIA my emotions began to run wild. I was excited to be flying out of the new Denver International Aiport and I was leaving home for the very first time! The airplane lifted with it’s envigorating burst of power and we were off. As I flew West I waved good bye to Boulder and hello adventure. After a breif stop in Salt Lake City to pick up a handful of recruits we were off to San Diego, America’s Finest City!
As the landing gear began to lower on our final approach, a lightning quick flash of questions whizzed through my mind. What if I wanted to go home? What if I wanted too chill in San Diego? Maybe I wanted a tatoo? I was terrified, I couldn’t stop thinking “What if ?” I was now so nervous that I had chills up and down my spine.All my fear was diverted as soon as I caught my first glimpse of a Drill Instructor. There they were waiting for us at the end of the airport corridor. Now that I recall, Drill Insrtuctors only come in two different breeds; Little and Mean as well as Big and Mean! They quickly set there sights on us and made their approach. After confirming we were recruits they snatched our paperwork from our hands and headed us towards a designated area of the San Diego Airport where there were several rows of young men who were going to begin training. After the drill instructors had accounted for all recruits, we were shuffled into school busses. Little did anyone know that the San Diego Airport was their last glimpse of civilian life.
As we arrived there was a silence. In a single heartbeat the bus doors exploded open and Drill Instructors stormed through like a hurricane. In fact my heart might have skipped a beat when they started yelling, “GET YOUR NASTY LITTLE BODIES OUT OF MY BUS!” “MOVE, MOVE, MOVE!” Everything became so chaotic I could hardly decipher left from right. As we exited the bus there were the infamous yellow footprints. It was as if they were solid gold, and so neatly “covered and aligned” making perfect rows. As I filled in my set of prints the entire spectrum of emotions filled my body and I thought to myself “Now what have I gotten into?” In retrospect, only one thing is for certain; I will NEVER sign a contract without reading every single detail. But honestly, my first day of boot camp has actually become a defining moment in my life in which I can draw strength from and I am able to face whatever challenge is presented to me with confidence to succeed.