"Today you people are no longer maggots. Today you are Marines.
You're part of a brotherhood."
-Full Metal Jacket
August 7, 1998: Graduation Day
Throughout the three months you spend in Boot Camp, Graduation
Day is the one that you fantasize about the most. You plan what
you are going to do when you get home, you dream about sleeping
in past 6, you look forward to giving your body a rest, and
you curse your friends that went into the Navy, Army and Air
Force because they made it home before you did. When THE DAY
finally arrives, it's almost a shock.
The first part of the day is practice. You go through the
whole ceremony early in the morning just like you have the entire
week. It's a very tedious process, because they insist on going
through every little thing that you are going to do during the
ceremony. But once the practice is done with, you are sent back
to the squad bay to change over in your Deltas then marched
to the Chapel. We were left alone for about an hour in the chapel.
The adrenaline was flowing, we were excited in spite of how
boring this was because we knew that we were going home soon.
The ceremony began promptly at 11, which is one of the few
things I can think of in Boot Camp that began promptly. We marched
into position and waited through all the speeches. Foremost
in all of our minds was the mantra of It's almost over. We're
almost home. We were marched closer to the reviewing stand for
the retiring of the Guidon as well as more speeches.
Then came the one sentence that my Platoon had been waiting
for. Senior Drill Instructor Staff Sergeant Keeble looked at
us and barked:
We took one step back.
"AYE, AYE, SIR!!"
then did a perfect about face.
Once that was done, we raced towards the stands to meet
our families. As soon as we were reunited, we moved like hell
to get our seabags and garment bags in the waiting cars. I have
never loaded a car faster in my life.
On a side note, I did have a conversation with Drill Instructor
Sgt. Zane as we were heading towards the gear. The man was one
of the most merciless towards me in my three months at San Diego
and I finally had a chance to talk with him. I thanked him for
everything he had done and will never forget his response:
"You did it all on your own. All I did was point you in
the right direction." It was one of those moments that will
remain with me forever.