There's a saying in the Marine Corps. There are no ex-Marines only those who have passed the torch.
It's a torch that our Tri-State Marines now carry.
January 10, 2013
MCRD - Parris Island, SC
Training Day 69
We measure time in hours, minutes and seconds but we remember the moments.
"I want to tell you moms especially, you have not lost a son," said Brigadier General Lori Reynolds. "You have gained this huge family."
Brigadier General Reynolds is the matriarch of that family. As Parris Island's commanding general, she has a kaleidoscope of ribbons and medals. But you won't see them on this day -- the day before graduation.
Speaking in front of parents, she brings a moment of candor.
"There's a lot of people who don't get it," said Gen. Reynolds. "They don't understand. It's not their fault. They forgot we're a nation at war. They don't know anyone in the military. They've never been on a military installation. We're a spoiled country, ladies and gentlemen. We're spoiled."
Her presence is commanding, intimidating even. Gen. Reynolds is as tough as a soldier and as tender as a mom.
"If I don't get to talk to you tomorrow, I'll say this," said Gen. Reynolds. "When you get back in that vehicle, at some point with that Marine in the back, you drive carefully. Ok? That's precious cargo."
January 11th, 2013
MCRD - Parris Island, SC
Training Day 70
Every Friday at 0800, Parris Island has a moment of silence and a moment to marvel at how the banner yet waves.
The USMC is steeped in tradition. From the scarred mountainside of Iwo Jima, the stalemate at the 38th Parallel to Khe Sanh to Falluja to Kandahar, every song, every step and every salute has purpose.
History remembers the Marines who gave. Time remembers the Marines who continue to give.
"They are the best our nation has to offer," said Gen. Reynolds. "We don't just allow anyone to wear the colors of the USMC."
Men graduate from Parris Island every week and women graduate every two weeks.
But every moment is unique.
The 400 marines of 3rd Battalion's Lima Company don't know where they're going. But they do know why.
More than one million marines have passed through Parris Island, leaving footprints behind. Their impressions eventually lead to Petross Parade Deck.
Ask any Marine and they'll tell you it's not about them. But on training day 70 it is.
"It's gonna be emotional, standing where thousands of other Marines have stood," said Pvt. Justin Peter. "I mean, tears everywhere. Mentally, physically, I've changed."
"Words can't explain it, sir," said Pvt. Matthew Duckworth. "Finally being able to see your family and spend some time with them before you report to your next duty station. First amount of real amount of freedom you've had in three months. It'll be great sir."
Training makes their marches crisp. Heavy starch makes their uniforms even crisper.
Patiently and intently looking on is the company of proud parents and grandparents. They too have uniforms.
Navy in color, Sarah Reid's shirt has big block letters written with pride. Her son, Pvt. Justin Peter, began training October 20th.
She hasn't seen him since.
"I just have some many questions to ask him," said Reid. "How was everything? How did it go? I can't wait to show him off to friends and family."
From boys to men and men to Marines, this moment is theirs and theirs alone. But this moment is worth sharing.
The final dismissal orders sparks an eruption of elation from the fresh Marines and their parents. Some walked, some ran to their loved ones out on the parade deck. It truly was a moment of elation.
"I missed him a lot," said Reid. "But knowing what we has going through, if he could get through everything, I could too."
"It was emotional," said Pvt. Peter. "Time has flown by some days and some days you want your family."
Through a sea of happy marines, Private Justin peter wants to find just one, Private Matthew Duckworth. They met as poolees in Evansville but were separated into different platoons at Parris Island.
Despite the distance, they became Marines together.
"The friends I made, the brotherhood and all that, all the holidays we stayed here, we were all here for the same reason," said Pvt. Peter. "We all missed our family so that's what made us closer."
We measure time in moments and there were hundreds of moments on the parade deck that day. Every single one of those moments is worth remembering.
Right after graduation, Peter and Duckworth had 17 days off before they reported to their next duty stations. Both Marines will attend different Schools of Infantry or SOIs. Peter went to Camp Lejune in North Carolina. Duckworth reported to Camp Pendleton in California.
The final, heartwarming installment of Men to Marines airs Thursday night at 10.
To see any of the previous stories, click here.
Part 1 - Footprints
Part 2 - Shared Sacrifice