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January 05, 2006



Finding Gold at Parris Island

Last September, Ashley Edwardson attended a USMC graduation ceremony at Parris Island, South Carolina. Via Jarhead Dad, here is the letter he wrote to the Gainesville Sun, chronicling his experience:
To the editor:

I recently had the privilege of attending a graduation ceremony at Parris Island, South Carolina. Little did I know that this would be one of those rare defining moments in my life. One of those moments which forever change the way you see yourself and the rest of the world. Since I left there, I have been sifting through my thoughts and feelings, like a miner trying to glean the nuggets from the sand. Hopefully, I will leave my Parris Island gold with you.

My trip to Parris Island was a study in contrasts. The contrasts between the Marine world and the world I live in. When you pass through the entrance and converse with the sentry, you are convinced in about five seconds max that Parris Island is a place where they say what they mean and mean what they say. You note the posted speed limit is 25 MPH and you are not tempted to try 26. You instinctively know that the rules there are not meant to be broken, bent, or circumvented. Parris Island is utterly devoid of any trash, even the size of a postage stamp. Every square inch of sidewalks and roadways are edged, mowed, and manicured to exceed Disney World standards. In stark contrast to my world, there were no drive-by shootings. There were no blaring stereo speakers blasting profane garbage that disgraced the maker and disrespected the listener. There were no hats on backwards and no exposed posterior crevasses. There was no graffiti. They use the words "ma’am" and "sir". Two separate invocations were held during the ceremonies. No one was offended and no ACLU lawyers showed up to save us and file lawsuits. The flag was flown and the national anthem was played and no federal judges declared it unconstitutional. I felt safe without my Glock. It is the only place I've ever been that I saw my tax dollars were well spent and hard at work.

Those rare defining moments that I write of have been few for me. I used to have them when my daughters passed milestones in their lives and achieved goals. I cannot take much credit for those successes. Each of my daughters has always been her own person, but in a small way, when they succeeded, I did too. Those are the moments I treasure and that I hope define me as a parent. Being a Deputy Sheriff for then years put me in the company of so many outstanding officers, not surprisingly, many of whom were ex-Marines. I treasure those days as well. So too, when I attended Recruit Dustin T. Ryan's graduation, I felt fate had made me part of something so much better than myself and I came away a better and wiser person.

Before Parris Island (BPI), I spent hours and days watching the events unfold in New Orleans on TV. I was both angry and depressed. The scenes reminded me of a really bad reality TV survival show. I was embarrassed for the world to see some of my fellow countrymen at their worst. I was sure that our country could not survive if the best we could do, during bad times, was loot, shoot at our rescuers, and throw food on the ground – the same food that our soldiers in Iraq eat every day. During this same time period, the recruits on Parris Island were going through the Crucible (a 72 hour, 30 mile obstacle course, where they are allowed three meals - total - and four hours of sleep a night). They would not graduate without passing this course. They would not pass the course without working together to achieve goals and survive. Now, (AP), I know what separated these two groups of people - training, self reliance, the will to survive, and most importantly - leadership. I'm pretty sure the recruits weren't allowed to give up and wait for FEMA to do it for them.

Here then, is the gold I found at Parris Island. At graduation, I saw Dustin T. Ryan and 481 other graduates stripped of some twenty years worth of wrong thinking. The thinking produced by a society that highly values freedom, but hardly values character. A society which lives for today and never gives a thought about tomorrow. Much of American society has lost what can be found in abundance at Parris Island. API, I'm still not sure that our country will survive, but I am sure of this one thing. If one Marine is left anywhere, honor, courage, commitment, and leadership will carry on. Self reliance and self sacrifice will survive. The qualities and character that made America and her citizens great before are still alive and well on Parris Island. Even Mac, the Parris Island bull dog, was a model of canine obedience. His house was cleaner than most hospitals I've been in. The Marine Band which is small in number but big in sound was a model of what I saw everywhere. Doing more with less. Doing it better and faster. Doing it precisely on time and with perfection. If only the rest of America could grasp what Col. Steven D. Hogg and the United States Marine Corps have figured out. My hat is off to Dustin T. Ryan and the other recruits who graduated from H company. As they say in today's vernacular, you guys rule.

Ashley Edwardson Alachua, FL
It's a continual source of amazement to me that in 13 weeks, the Marine Corps accomplishes what 18 years of parental nagging cannot - turning a typical teen into a squared away Marine. Oohrah.

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