I can remember it happening, not that it hadn’t happended before butthis time I wasn’t quite so sure of the outcome. In March of 1995 I hadaccepted a challenge that only 10% of all American’s ever complete. Thechallege of becoming a United States Marine. Every so often I open my bigmouth and respond to any challenge “Of course I can do that!” Then thatoverwhelming feeling of fear and mild confusion sink in as you begin tothink “Now what have I gotten into?” Overcoming a challenge can ultimatelymean 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 decisionto 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 weepedas I was loading myslef into the goverment vehicle. As we dove off, Irecall a lasting mental photograph of my stern father so very proud, mysobbing mother, my 13 year old brother heart broken to be losing his bigbrother, and my three year old sister absolutely confused as to whyeveryone was so sad. As I looked around the vehicle, only two of the facesmimicked my own apprehension. Nate Juarez was a guy I had played baseballagainst 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. OrlandoChavez was a short, chubby young man who always wore a grin on his face,except for this day. Sergeant Wilson, our recruiter, was obviously theonly one who seemed to have it under control. He appeared as confidentthis day as he had been the day he had convinced us to sign on the dottedline.
In life we sometimes associate silence with akwardness; the first 15minutes of our ride to Denver were the epitomy of this silence. Eventuallywe all lightened up to our usual selves and the comraderie between Juarez,Chavez and myself began as we ventured off together. Sergeant Wilsondropped us off at the military processing center in downtown Denver forsome final paperwork and to officially swear us in. After a short bus rideto DIA my emotions began to run wild. I was excited to be flying out ofthe new Denver International Aiport and I was leaving home for the veryfirst time! The airplane lifted with it’s envigorating burst of power andwe were off. As I flew West I waved good bye to Boulder and helloadventure. After a breif stop in Salt Lake City to pick up a handful ofrecruits we were off to San Diego, America’s Finest City!As the landing gear began to lower on our final approach, a lightningquick flash of questions whizzed through my mind. What if I wanted to gohome? What if I wanted too chill in San Diego? Maybe I wanted a tatoo? Iwas terrified, I couldn’t stop thinking “What if ?” I was now so nervousthat I had chills up and down my spine.All my fear was diverted as soon asI caught my first glimpse of a Drill Instructor. There they were waitingfor us at the end of the airport corridor. Now that I recall, DrillInsrtuctors only come in two different breeds; Little and Mean as well asBig and Mean! They quickly set there sights on us and made their approach.
After confirming we were recruits they snatched our paperwork from ourhands and headed us towards a designated area of the San Diego Airportwhere there were several rows of young men who were going to begintraining. After the drill instructors had accounted for all recruits, wewere shuffled into school busses. Little did anyone know that the SanDiego Airport was their last glimpse of civilian life.
As we arrived there was a silence. In a single heartbeat the busdoors exploded open and Drill Instructors stormed through like a hurricane.
In fact my heart might have skipped a beat when they started yelling, “GETYOUR NASTY LITTLE BODIES OUT OF MY BUS!” “MOVE, MOVE, MOVE!” Everythingbecame so chaotic I could hardly decipher left from right. As we exitedthe bus there were the infamous yellow footprints. It was as if they weresolid gold, and so neatly “covered and aligned” making perfect rows. As Ifilled in my set of prints the entire spectrum of emotions filled my bodyand I thought to myself “Now what have I gotten into?” In retrospect, onlyone thing is for certain; I will NEVER sign a contract without readingevery single detail. But honestly, my first day of boot camp has actuallybecome a defining moment in my life in which I can draw strength from and Iam able to face whatever challenge is presented to me with confidence tosucceed.