A couple weeks ago, we had the extreme joy of going to the graduation of a dear young man from Basic Training at Parris Island. Ooorah!
It was also a time of reflection for us as a family.
You see, Keith graduated from Parris Island 35 years ago this May.
We are a Marine family…yet the boys know only bits and pieces of that life, especially the little ones, since Keith retired when I was pregnant with the oldest. Oh, they have been on base, seen the pageantry at Memorial Day (Keith is buried at Quantico and we are there for the celebration every year), and know quite a few service members, active duty and retired, from church…but they did not live the life. Neither did I for that long, since we married near the end of Keith’s military career.
But I want them to know.
Patriotism is, to many, an old-fashioned value. Not so in this family. Keith proudly served his country, and talked about at least one of the boys following him some day…becoming a third generation Marine. Maybe after seeing the obstacles, the hardship, and also the honor, courage, and commitment, one of my boys will choose to follow in his footsteps…and step on the yellow footprints.
As we walked around the base, listening to this dear young man’s story of his experience, Keith was constantly in our thoughts. I had been on Parris Island once with Keith and heard his recounting of the island and the training. Even nearly 20 years later, he had very strong feelings and memories. I shared with the boys what I could remember that their dad had said. I pulled out his boot camp pictures and let them laugh at his bald head and serious expression. I shared the memory book Keith and I had made together as he neared the end of his military career, recounting the stories and awards.
As we walked through the museum on base, we saw pictures of Marines through time and what they did while at basic, and in their careers. And I recalled my Marine Corps birthday balls, Keith in his blues, Keith is his Alphas, and in the utilities he wore each day for 20 years.
And when they played the National Anthem and the Marine Corps Hymn, I cried…as I do every time. Freedom isn’t free, and my husband knew that, respected that, and did something about it.
The last stanza of the Marine Corps Hymn reads:
Here’s health to you and to our Corps
Which we are proud to serve
In many a strife we’ve fought for life
And never lost our nerve;
If the Army and the Navy
Ever look on Heaven’s scenes;
They will find the streets are guarded
By United States Marines.
My Marine is now guarding the streets of glory. I miss him every day, sometimes every minute. I am sure that 20 years down the road, no matter what happens, I will miss him.
But, thanks to wonderful experiences like the one we had with our dear friends, my boys will have an understanding of who their dad was, what he did, what was important to him.
And so will I.
And for that I am very, very thankful.
Sing to God, sing in praise of his name,
extol him who rides on the clouds;
rejoice before him—his name is the Lord.
A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows,
is God in his holy dwelling.
God sets the lonely in families,
he leads out the prisoners with singing;
but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.
– Psalm 68:4-6