Thursday was "Family Day" on the base. (The proper name is Marine Corps Recruit Depot a.k.a. M.C.R.D...in case anonymous is reading again!!!)
We arrived at MCRD bright and early, about 6:30am. To get on base we had to each show our ID and get out of the car while some brawny Marine searched the car. In case one was up to no good, there was a Marine standing off to the side with some sort of rocket launching weapon strapped to his chest. I considered taking a picture of him...but then decided it would be best not to jack with him.
We would not be able to physically get to our Marine until like 1:00. We arrived so early so we could eat breakfast and wander around. Not to mention it was crowded with 1,000's of family members there. I believe they graduated 350 or so recruits. Our recruit alone had 12 family members there to see him...so multiply that times 350!
We park the car and start walking to the restaurant when we notice they are practicing for graduation. Whoa! We see platoon 1002. That is our boy!!! Wait....they all look alike! I zoomed in with the video camera and found him. Our first sight of him in 3 months. I wanted to squeal and yell his name! I decided against it. I feared being body slammed by a DI. Normally that would not scare me, but with us being on vacation and all, eating too much and not working out all week...I was not on top of my game.
The Sergeant's orchestrating the whole thing had all of us silly parents hyped up and screaming and we had to yell "Yes Sir" when they asked us something. It was exhausting. So the first official view of him was during the "motivational run" which started at 10:00. They made 20,000 parents stand behind ropes waiting to see their boy. The Marine drew us a picture of where he would be standing so we knew exactly where to wait. Anyway, then we hear the platoons coming, running to a cadence lead by their DI. It made the hairs stand up on my arms! Here he comes!
They stopped and there was some hollering/grunting of orders and they turned around to face us. The place went nuts!
There was our Marine right smack dab in front of us! Look at those strapping young beefcakes. This would be the ideal hang out spot for girls in their early 20's! The Sergents told us to do whatever we could to try and make them smile. We were cheering and screaming and crying and whistling...but only the slightest flash of a twitch from the side of our Marine's mouth. He kept his "bearing" staring straight ahead and no smile.
Then they ran off. The parents were re-routed to another location, someone spoke to us, the Marines came back ending their run in front of us again. We screamed some more, the Marines ran off to shower, and the families went into an auditorium for more speeches, a movie and introduction of the DI's.
We left the auditorium and everyone scampered to the bleachers where Alpha Company would receive their liberty. The new Marines had from 1:00 to 6:00 to spend with their families.
We were all anxiously awaiting them......and by this time we had had just enough of the pomp and circumstance and wanted to hug our kid!!!
There was some more hoopla and then they were granted liberty..."SIR, YES SIR!"
Then there was a mass exodus from the stands as parents were biting, scratching and clawing their way to their kid!
Dad was first to reach the Marine and give him a bear hug. I was sniffling and taking pictures like the paparazzi on crack.
I do believe the Marine was glad to see us after spending 3 months with this scary character...
I just kept snapping pictures. I am sure had he not just endured 3 months of learning to be respectful at all times then he would have said "Mom STOP!"
But seriously, to see the formerly slouching, sloppy, hat cocked sideways teenager turned into......a man standing tall, clean cut, proud, dignified, polite and lean & mean was just downright shocking.
We spent the rest of the afternoon hearing all kind of great stories from his experience and just enjoying his company. It was weird to see him SOOO polite, saluting the brass and saying "good afternoon sir" to people. I went ahead and signed up the blonde rascal.
Of course as a mom, I had 2 questions for him: "Did you wear sunscreen and was it true when they told us the DIs could not physically touch you?" He did wear sunscreen (once) and I better not tell you the answer to the other question.
While walking around we got to see other newer platoons in the midst of their training. MCRD has graduations most every Friday, something like 42 a year. I never realized that many kids joined the military yearly. Anyway, as we saw some of the platoons still in training, I was hoping to see a DI in action ripping in to someone. Here comes a platoon now.......and yes right as they passed us some poor boy did something wrong and got a little piece of his ass chewed off! It was hilarious, but again I surmised that a photo at that moment might have been inappropriate.
So Friday morning we again arrived early, ate breakfast and then sat in the bleachers for a good hour waiting for graduation to begin. We were packed in like sardines.
There is our Marine's platoon waiting to receive their dismissal orders for 10 day leave. The orders came and the new Marines scattered!!!
Our Marine could NOT wait to get his bags and get the heck out of Dodge! The whole experience of being on the base was amazing. Being in the midst of the military who have sacrificed so much to serve their country was humbling. I am so proud to be an American. The pride, diligence, precision and love for country that those Marines displayed (as all branches do) was really awe inspiring. They deserve so much respect.
I joke about the DI's but really they have the most time consuming and difficult jobs. They are worthy of our respect because they relentlessly crank out polished Marines. We got to meet our Marine's DIs and we thanked them profusely for their dedication. AND thanked them for doing to our boy, in 3 months, what we couldn't do in 20 years!!!
We get in the car, drive off the base, ask the Marine what he wants for lunch...and he says McDonalds. To which we reply, we love you and everything but McDonald's is disgusting and we MUST introduce you to In-N-Out Burger!!!! Holy toledo that chain needs to expand! The west coast is hogging a gold mine!!! I had heard of it before because I read People...and celebrities love In-N-Out Burger. Paris Hilton drove drunk to In-N-Out Burger. I can't blame her. AND I believe it is also none other than Red Geranium Sharon who sings the praises of I-N-O B! Sharon is somewhat of a celebrity herself!!
Anyway, by all means if you ever come across I-N-O B while on the west coast, stop and eat! So we wolfed down a yummy burger and went back to the hotel so the Marine could get into civilian clothes for the 1st time in 3 months. He was so anxious to get off the base that we could not even take a graduation photo until we were back at the hotel.
He changed his clothes and got his hands on the one thing he had requested, in his letters, that we bring him. Can you guess what it was???
AGGGHHHHHH! The blasted cell phone! The teenager returns!
And there ends our San Diego adventure. Good bye beautiful San Diego!
It was a great place to visit, I would recommend adding it to your "to see" list! Whew, I am done forcing vacation photos on you. It will be much safer to come back tomorrow.