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I took on Parris Island

By Joe Joe Wright

I lost !!! My four days as recruit as part of the teacher’s workshop was well-eye opening is the word!

Going back to my youth, I had always wanted to be in the military. I set my sights on it and pursued it with vigor. I was offered and accepted a ROTC scholarship in 1983. On February 16, 1983, I went to Martin Army Hospital at Fort Benning, where I was given a very long and detailed physical. I passed it with flying colors. The next morning, I had a mountaineering class, which was a Military Science III class at Georgia Southwestern. As a result of improper rigging by Army personnel, I fell 40 feet and broke my back in five places. That evening at 5:00 p.m. was to be my swearing in ceremony. My mom and Dad were going to trek over from Cordele and witness this event. Instead at 5:00 p.m. on February 17, I was laying in Sumter Regional Hospital with a broken 19-year-old back and my entire future; all that I had ever wanted to do was smashed. I am an optimistic person, so I tried to make the best of it and often told jokes to family and friends as they came to see me.  At least I wasn’t paralyzed or dead, as the fall could have easily have done that as well.

“When life gives you lemons make lemonade”.

I am not here to tell my life story, but this moment in time is essential in understanding what my trip to Parris Island was like to me on a personnel note.

As Americans, we all should take great pride in our military and in the men and women who make up our military. When it comes to recruit training there is no place on earth equal to Parris Island, South Carolina.

Actually, the U.S. Marine Corps pre-dates the United States. Founded on the 10th of November 1775, it was a part of the Continental Marines whose job would be ship-to-ship fighting, security, and landing forces.  The U.S. Marines have many nicknames, devil-dogs or (Teufelhunden), given to them by the Germans in WWI. Leathernecks, jarheads, but never ever call them soldiers – that’s Army – they are Marines.

The transformation from civilian to recruit to United States Marine is a journey we are about to embark on. Tradition and ceremony are bedrock components of the Marine Corps. Honor, Courage Commitment are the core values of the Marine Corps and you will hear that constantly while on the Island. It is however, more than just a punch line it is a way of life for Marines. Starting with everything a person must go through just to become a Marine today. Pre-evaluations are at the minimum staggering.

First of all, only a small percentage of the population can pre-qualify for Marine Corps service. With 320 million people in America and roughly 190,000 Marines on active duty today, that is less than 1% of 1% of the population.  Every year about 20,000 people make it through the intense training and become United States Marines at Parris Island and an equal number on the West Coast at Camp Pendleton. The Marines are home to countless stories of heroism more so than any other unit in the U.S. arsenal.

At Parris Island, their motto is “We Make Marines.” It’s what they do and they do it very well.  Established in 1915 as a Marine Corp training installation, the stories that come out of Parris Island are really hair-raising.  The sand fleas biting you morning, noon, and night is true.  They are a constant nuisance.  In the summer it is very hot,  and the winter brings cold weather off the water that is bone chilling.

The first four weeks, the recruits are there are nothing short of total chaos. It is designed to completely break them down and for  them to lose all sense of ones self. Any and everything that has to do with individuality is completely removed from all recruits. They are in the beginning phase and learning how to think of others before self.  You see at the end of recruit training is a thing called the crucible.  This final test moves them from recruit to Marine and cannot be done by one self. It takes a team to accomplish from the moment these young men and women step off the bus and put their feet on top of the traditional yellow footprints.

To the indoctrination process, to the call home for 10 seconds to say you have arrived to when they finally get to go to bed after being up 54 hours, the young people are being programmed. It is a good program – the kind everyone one should learn. Think of others first! The constant yelling by three or four drill instructors is strictly designed to cause mass confusion and disarray. These young people are learning a whole new reality, but first you have to get rid of all the junk stuck in their heads. Basically in these first four weeks, most kids will not do anything right, even if they are right. You get it? Phase one is designed specifically to tear down. The other phases are designed to build them back up. Physical fitness, mental, emotional, re-indoctrination, and stamina are tested and retested for four weeks. No one leaves Parris Island the same as when they got there.  Nope, no way! So in phase one of training, we see what the DI’s are up to, and I got to experience it first hand.  It was awesome!

Next up – Phase Two, which is teaching and more yelling. I am laughing because that part never stops. “Semper Fi”