By CINDI YORK WRYE
Standing on that parade deck at Parris Island, I couldn’t believe we were there. I never believed that morning would ever come to fruition, but it had. In a few short hours, our son would be officially given the title of United States Marine.
Only four months earlier he had called me and given me the news “Hey Mom, I just joined the Marines.” Up until that point, our son, in his 18 years, hadn’t made very many wise decisions for himself.
After pointing out all the possible dangers he would be faced with, even to the point of death, he said he was willing to accept everything that came along with it. I still worried about whether or not he was up for the challenge. He was privileged and always enjoyed playing far more than he did working. He never cared much about his studies in school and failed many classes from junior high to high school. He camenwithin only a few credits away from graduating with his senior class, which was a huge disappointment to me. As a mother, I felt cheated. I cried and cried over the fact that I never got to see him walk up on that stage with his graduating class and be presented with his high school diploma. Instead, he made up his credits at the adult high school and received his diploma in the mail. He had to get his high school diploma in order to join the Marines. Knowing he needed that diploma for the Marines is what drove him to finish. That was all well and good, but did he have what it took to be a Marine? I feared not. He had never been serious about anything in his life and even complained whenever he was asked to mow the lawn or take out the garbage.
As we were sending him off to boot camp, the recruiting officer said that a recruit doesn’t automatically become a Marine. You have to earn your way into the Marines. If our son didn’t earn his way through boot camp, then the Marines would bring him back and park him on our doorstep. A knot welled in my stomach.
During the three months he was at boot camp, every time the doorbell rang, I feared it was the Marines bringing him home. But they never brought him back. He stayed.
He wrote home a few weeks prior to graduation and said he was going to graduate and that we needed to begin making our travel plans. I couldn’t believe it! Well, I could sort of believe it. During boot camp, he began sending letters home. The boy writing those letters sounded more like a mature, responsible man.
Our son’s battalion came marching by on the parade deck and they went into formation and stood at attention. It was the pinning ceremony. They would be given their eagle, globe and anchor pin and given the title “United States Marine”. As the drill instructor approached our son, I quickly grabbed my binoculars and watched as he was given his pin. I stood there with baited breath as he pinned it to his cap. As he returned the cap to his head, I saw the most amazing thing. Tears welling up in his eyes!
First thing that popped into my head was “Thank you God!” Remember that high school graduation he cheated me out of? Who cares! Nothing compared to this. It could never compare to THIS graduation! Every sad tear I had cried before, every hope dashed, every dream shattered, he made it all up at that moment in time. We couldn’t have been prouder of our son that day.
As I brought the binoculars down, I looked over and saw a bus parked beside the parade deck. On the side of the bus was the title of the Marines manifesto, “Earned, Never Given”. My heart stirred. For once in my son’s life he had EARNED something, and not just anything. He had earned something of great significance.
Before we left for South Carolina a friend e-mailed me and wished me a good trip and a happy Easter. She was aware of the struggles my husband and I had endured over the years with our son. She knew the joy we were about to experience. She said “This will definitely be a GOOD FRIDAY for your family!” It hadn’t dawned on me. It was Easter weekend, and our son would be graduating on Good Friday. It made me think about the significance of Good Friday.
It was the day when Christ willingly, sacrificially laid down his life for the benefit of those he loved. How fitting that our son would graduate as a US Marine on this very same day. He, as well as the other men out there on that parade deck, willingly, voluntarily stepped up and were offering forth their lives for the love and protection of their country.
Good Friday, to me, represents love and passion and sacrifice and that is what I saw on display on that parade deck that beautiful spring morning.
My friend was right. It had definitely been a GOOD Friday indeed.