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May 07, 2004

My son wants to join the Marines - what do I do?

When your child comes home and tells you that they are considering the USMC as a career choice, what is the correct response? My initial reaction was a deer-in-the-headlights look, followed by "Why don't we go out for lunch and talk about this?" This was just after 9/11/01 and I knew that our troops would be called upon to serve. Of course I was worried about his safety. I asked him to consider going to college and then, if he still wanted to join, to go in as an officer. But he and I had sat glued to the TV screen a few weeks earlier as our country was attacked. His response was that he could be sitting, working in an office building, and be just as dead. If he was going to die, he wanted to die serving his country and not himself.

His reasons were well thought out and logical from his perspective. He had always wanted to serve his country. He had talked with all branches of the service and was impressed with the bearing and character of the USMC recruiters. The Army promised him college. The Navy talked about the places he'd go. The Air Force didn't keep a scheduled appointment. The Marine recruiter challenged him, "What can you do for the USMC?". They told him that it would be difficult. They didn't sugar-coat anything. And they also told him that when he earned the title of United States Marine, that he would be part of an elite fighting force, a band of brothers that is going on 229 years. This is truly a force where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

My experience wasn't unique - parents go through this experience every day. Here's an e-mail that I just received from a worried mom.

I am writing due to the fact that my son is 18 and will be a senior in high school nexy year.He is saying that he wants to join the Marines in fact we went to talk to the recruting officer last night and recieved a lot of information. Of course its not what I want for my son but as I told him I will stand by his decision . The thing is he wants to go ahead and sign this summer and I dont know what to tell him. If I agree then if something happenes to him I wil never forgive myself. I have told (him) to pray and ask God to help him make the right decision. Yes he is the baby and that makes it worse. Please help me with some words of encouragment.

I tried responding in e-mail but it bounced back, so I'm posting my response here hoping that this mom will return and see it.

First, let me congratulate you for raising a strong and courageous young man who is willing to look beyond his own self-interests and give back to his country. Next, I understand completely how you feel. I can remember sitting with my own son, feeling panicked as he explained that he had looked at all branches of the service and chosen to be one of the few and the proud. He was determined to serve. If that had to be, I wanted him to join the Navy (better food) or Air Force (better living conditions), or (my choice) go to college and then go in as an officer. That wasn't his idea and he spent his senior year of high school in the Delayed Entry Program (DEP). The local recruiters worked with him for that year to give him an accurate and realistic picture of what being a U.S. Marine entailed. They ran physical conditioning sessions each Wednesday night. They reviewed his report cards. They connected with him in a different way than I, as his mom, was able to do. They helped him to reach an informed decision and he was well prepared for the rigors of boot camp.

Shane shipped to MCRD-San Diego in September 2002. He was a good kid when he went in. His boot camp experience was tough but fair. I have some wonderful letters from him, written under covers in the wee hours of the morning, that express his commitment to his career choice. His drill instructors brought out the best that he had to offer and I can remember watching as my son was awarded his Eagle, Globe, and Anchor and watching the pride and confidence on his face. After 20 months, I can tell you that he made an excellent choice and I am so proud of what he has accomplished.

If your son enters the DEP, you'll be a partner with his recruiter - but the recruiter will work with your Marine and not necessarily with you unless you make it clear that you are in this too. For that reason, I encourage you to build a relationship with him or her. I popped in with cookies and questions (my son says my questions have made me legendary in the local office) since they will be able to get information about your recruit if necessary. For example, when my son shipped to boot camp, I hadn't heard from him two weeks later. I asked our recruiter about it, he checked and found that Shane had been reassigned to a different platoon. With that address, I was able to send mail to him.

Now, I am my sons's biggest cheerleader. I continue to remain in close contact with our local recruiters and am available for parents of DEP and new recruits. I encourage you to join Marine Moms Online - a great discussion board where there are many other Marine parents. It has been very helpful for me. Also, if there is a local support organization, get involved! I have contacts for groups all over the U.S. and will be happy to share with you. E-mail is fine but there is no substitute for a real hug from someone who knows exactly what you're going through. We're just getting the www.marinecorpsmoms.com site launched - couldn't wait to get the first page going, but eventually we'll have comprehensive content from a parental perspective on what to expect at all stages of your Marine's career.

Your final comment, "If I agree then if something happenes to him I wil never forgive myself." is exactly how I felt too. I can tell you that if your son earns the title of U.S. Marine that he will receive excellent training. He will be given the opportunity to excel. And he will become part of a band of brothers that is legendary. Once a Marine, always a Marine - it's not just a slogan. It's a way of life. Honor, courage and commitment - those Corps values are instilled every day. There are many career decisions that your son could make. This is one of them. Yes, there is a certain amount of danger. But I can tell you from personal experience that when I run into a mom of one of my son's high school friends and they tell me what their child is doing now (taking college classes, working at a gas station, promoted to assistant manager of a fast food restaurant, etc.) that it gives me a thrill to be able to tell them that my son is an expeditionary warrior, helping to free the people of Iraq from generations of bondage. Listening to him tell stories of his experience in Iraq last year and knowing that he is training hard to return later this year is very rewarding. Knowing that my son is self-confident, assured, and confident that he is doing the right thing has always been my goal and I'm very proud of him.

Will it be an easy life for your son? For the most part, no - the Marines train hard and work harder. If he want easy, he should go to college or find another line of work. But he has an opportunity to make a significant difference and I applaud him for that. Again, he would not be considering this decision if you had not raised him with the values that make joining the USMC a preferable choice.

Does this help? If you have specific questions, let me know. I'll do my best to get information for you.

Posted by Deb at May 7, 2004 12:12 PM


It is 2:15am. My son just left for boot camp yesterday, Mothers Day. I just got the call from Parris Island..it was so strange. "I have arrived safely on Parris Island...do not send....."
You know the call.

I have such conflicting emotions. I am proud and fearful...normal I guess. He graduated from college last year but has been thinking of, and looking into the Marines for the past 5-6 years. I truly think he is where he is suppose to be and just pray he makes it through boot camp because I know he really wants this. No officer school for him...they said his grades were not high enough...too much competition. Still he joined.

How the heck do you do this?I am having a hard time thinking of 12 weeks without talking, never mind what is coming after.

I admire you all and pray that I get the courage you have...I am praying for all of your children too...

Posted by: Theresa at May 10, 2004 10:21 PM

I'm lifing in Poland and i wanna become a U. S. M. C. soldier. What I must do to Join U. S. M. C.? Are there any chances to do that?

Posted by: Tom Msciwojewski at November 10, 2004 02:00 PM

My son is 20 years old. He was in college when he decided to join the Marines. My son and the recruiter visited with me at my home yesterday, Monday, November 22, 2004. I was totally shocked! He is my only child and his father had passed away a few years ago. He said he will be leaving for Paris Island, SC. the first week of December. My heart fell. I cannot imagine not talking with him or seeing him. My heart is hurting! I know his father would be proud, but as a mother....I don't know how I will deal with him joining the Marines. My prayers go out to all the Mom's of sons who know this heart ache. God Bless All Of You!
Hurting Mom

Posted by: Cindy Huckaby at November 23, 2004 11:01 AM

My son has wanted to be in the military since he was 3. I have hoped and prayed that life would take him in another direction, but now he is a senior in high school and will soon turn 18. I know that he will enlist as soon as school is out and my heart is breaking. For 18 years I have tried to keep him out of harm's way and now he chooses to put himself in the middle of it. I am so very proud of him for following his dreams, but I have an awful feeling that I will lose him forever. I pray I am wrong and this will be the best life path for him. It's just hard letting go of the hand I have held so long.

Posted by: JoAnn at February 7, 2005 06:44 AM

My Son has wanted to Join the USMC since he was in his early teens. though I was realy fearful I knew this was what he wanted so we souported him. Two Weeks before his graduation He found out that they would not take him because he went to an independent study high school. He tried everything but they would not take him. He is now 21 and was told by a recruter that came by where he was working that he may be able to get him in. I am so scared about him going and also wonder if they changed their polices about who can Join.Do you know anything about this?

Posted by: Kathy at May 18, 2005 06:47 PM

Well, I have joined the "Few, Proud, and the Terrified" Marine Mom's club...my son joined the DEP this past week and goes to Parris Island, SC in Oct. I too, along with my husband, are terrified. I went to this website today and started reading stories of Moms just like me and what they are feeling and now I don't feel so stupid. I have a brand new feeling....PROUD. I was proud of him already, but NOW I really am. I have never seen a young man (he will be 20 in Sept, 2005)so determined to "do this Marine thing". He is a Christian and I know God will protect him and I know he will get me, my husband, and his older brother through this. I praise God daily for giving us two wonderful sons. One is a musician and carries a trumpet and now the other will be a Marine and carry a gun. Please remember us in your prayers as we start our new adventure. It will be hard, it will be fun, and yes, we are very, very proud.

Posted by: Marie at May 19, 2005 06:49 AM