Sunday, August 3, 2014

The family

A funny thing has happened since Robert became a Marine: I care a lot more about the Marine Corps, individual Marines, and the military in general.
"Look around you," the officers at Robert's boot camp graduation in San Diego said. "See all those people? They're all family members of Marines.
"Well, they're your family now, too."
I wondered how that would work. After all, I'm a short, fat, gray-haired white guy who teaches college - media! - in the Upper Midwest.

This doesn't exactly fit the stereotypical demographics of your typical U.S. Marine Corps recruit.
But that doesn't matter.
Long ago, the Corps made the decision that where a Marine came from didn't matter. It didn't matter who your grandmother was. It didn't matter where you grew up. It didn't matter how rich or poor your family is. You're a Marine, and that's all that matters.
I grew up in the Vietnam era. There was an attitude, largely unspoken but still there, that the only people who served in the military at that time were people who were too dumb to dodge the draft.
A lot of very bright baby boomers managed to not serve in the military, despite the fact that the Selective Service was determined to get as many young men into uniform as possible.
The military ended up troubled. It took more than a decade to fix that mess.
The Marines weren't immune to this. But along the way - and the First Gulf War and 9/11 had a lot to do with this - it became respectable to serve. "Thank you for your service," became something Americans said, and Americans actually meant it. 

The Corps now comprises nearly 180,000 enlisted Marines, along with nearly 22,000 officers. Each has a family. Obviously, I've never met most of them, and I won't.
But we've all got something in common. Someone we love is a Marine, and that makes us family.