I don't even rate to wear my little blue ribbon yet. You know, the one you get after being in the fleet for 60 days. I haven't even reached the end of my first enlisted year.
According to my friends, I was just recently promoted from shower shoe to go-faster.
I like being considered overly motivated and perky. I enjoy 'oorahs' and 'devil dogs.' I still smile at recruits and return their greeting of the day because I remember what it was like to be there "just a few weeks ago."
My friends around the barracks pick on me when we go out to eat, offering to take me places like Chuck E Cheese's or McDonald's so I can play on the little kids toys while they finish their meals.
Being new to the Marine Corps is like being new to the world, fresh out of the womb. You have so much potential and so many opportunities available.
But don't worry. The wonder and awe of it all fades away quickly. And then you are just another Marine doing your job in the same outfit as everybody else.
But you are still the new guy. As the new guy, you get picked on a bunch. You get sent on gag office supply runs or get stuck taking out the trash every night. You usually get tasked to do the job nobody else wants to do and you are expected to do it with a smile.
It's the life of the new guy, the green blooded, the boot. It's not all bad though.
Earning the title Marine is a big accomplishment that hardly goes unnoticed. Despite getting stuck with the dirty work, there is a bond between Marines that can never be broken. You've proven yourself loyal to the same cause that millions of other people have turned up their nose at or don't have enough discipline to pursue.
Not only have you taken the challenge to better yourself, you have overcome all the obstacles and proven yourself dedicated to the protection of your country, Corps and friends.
I came to this realization when I had the opportunity to visit with many Vietnam veterans at a dinner banquet after I had only served a few weeks in the fleet. They served their country and defended the rights of the constitution so I could live my life with the freedoms our forefathers intended. I considered it a great honor to be invited to such an event.
The retirees and veterans, however, expressed to me what an honor it was for them to be in my company. They knew what it took for me to join the Marine Corps. They understood what a compromise it was for me to leave home for the adventures and challenges of the military.
My lack of experience in the military was of no consequence to them. They held me in the highest regard because I joined knowing that sometime soon I could be returning fire in a giant sand box on the other side of the world.
They expressed remorse in the fact that they could not take my place at the battlefields. Some wanted to return to the heat of the battle, and some wanted to protect the young lady standing in front of them from the horrors they couldn't bear to speak of.
I went to the banquet intending to honor the ladies and gentlemen who had served in a war with my grandfather, a retired Army colonel. Instead, I was honored for being courageous enough to follow in his footsteps.
Being the new guy isn't all that bad. The trash doesn't take itself out, that's for sure. But wearing the uniform of a United States Marine is reward enough, even if it is a little too constricting to climb the rope wall in McDonald's ball pen.