Subject: from a mom
Thank you so much for your interesting site. My son
is thinking of joining the Marine Reserves. He is almost
22. He wanted to join right out of high school, but we
talked him out of it. He took some machine shop at a technical
college and has been working as a machinist in a forging company
since then. He recently broke up with a girlfriend of 3 years
and is feeling a great void in his life. He says he is
looking for something to do that is challenging and that will
contribute something to this world.
I don't mind telling you that as his mom I have great reservations
about his wanting to do this. He is very smart and creative
and I heard that the Marines don't want individualistic thinking.
I'm afraid of his losing his wonderful personality and becoming
just one of the 'jar-heads.' Excuse me, I don't mean to
sound demeaning. I know that there are many intelligent
people in the Marines. I am afraid of him experiencing
being 'broken' during boot camp...Full Metal Jacket scared me
He has a great work-ethic and caring attitude toward others.
He is not a tough guy, although he's in great physical shape.
I worry that because of his recent lost love that he is joining
up to get her off of his mind. My dad served in WWII,
but no one else has served in the military. We are getting
conflicting advice from many different friends, who've served
in the various armed forces.
He says he wants to be a Marine because he said he's heard
that they have the most intensive training available.
I worry that he'll turn into a killing machine mentality and
also of the active duty requirements as the Marines seem
to be first in and last to leave.
Thanks for listening to me ramble on and on. The way
you portray yourself on your web site, it did seem like you
would be willing to answer my concerns. Our son has agreed to
wait for one month before signing up. Even though it is
the reserves and not the regulars, we want him to really think
hard about this decision. It is really breaking us -my
husband and I up-thinking about him doing this.
I read all of your stories and printed them out for my husband
and son to read. I enjoyed them and your evident sense of humor.
I bought a number of books for him to read on the Marines, including
the 2 you listed.
Do the Marines still do blood-winging? That is appalling.
Thank you for listening.
Dear “From a Mom,”
First of all, I want to apologize for taking so long to
answer. I recently had surgery, got a new computer I had to
set up, and changed email carriers. I have been meaning to get
to you r letter and am glad to sit down and let you know what
I think about the concerns you have.
I have been a Marine for almost 12 years now. I went in
right after high school and served in the enlisted side for
five years before earning a commission. I was an avionics technician
and now serve as an adjutant for a tank battalion. So my experience
is across a wide spectrum across the Marine Corps. I am very
proud of what I have accomplished but that does not even compare
to being able to say what I started our this paragraph saying.
I take no offense at your statement, "I'm afraid of his
losing his wonderful personality and becoming just one of the
'jar-heads.'" You see, most people do not understand and are
unwilling to listen to what the Marine Corps is really about.
I run across many a lot of people who think of Marines as dumb
automatons who mindlessly follow harsh orders and kill at will.
Being a Marine is a mindset. We are instilled with one overriding
theme: excellence. I could give many examples but the thing
to understand about being a Marine is that we must strive to
do the very best that we can in everything we do, whether that
be winning a battle or pushing a mop. This code of excellence
pervades everything we do and even leaks over into our personal
lives. We look at life as a challenge to do every task, make
every decision, perform every duty better than everyone else.
The challenge is to what level of excellence we can achieve
even the most mundane tasks. We derive honor from this and therefore
in everything we do, we are either achieving a high state of
excellence, or failing ourselves because we could have done
The result is a confidence rarely seen in our generation.
Do we always achieve this? No. Do we have our problem children
who do not internalize this mindset? Absolutely! But the vast
majority of us strive for those higher levels. We believe in
the team concept and the only way to make the team stronger
is to improve each component. Therefore, we are taught that
self-improvement is team-improvement.
I crave knowledge and educate myself for two reasons. First,
to feed my thirst for knowledge for the sake of knowledge. Second,
is so that I will be that much more able to teach what I have
learned to my fellow Marine, whether that be a private or a
general. This is the attitude that has been "brainwashed" into
You wrote, "He is very smart and creative and I heard that
the Marines don't want individualistic thinking." Nothing could
be further from the truth and many people find that fact hard
to believe. You say that your son is smart and creative and
that is exactly what the Corps wants and needs. Some of the
greatest Marines I ever met were also the most individualistic
thinkers I have ever met. The Corps tries to use that creativity
and tries to steer that positive trait to help the group. That
is what a leader does, takes the strengths of his group and
uses them for the good of the whole. Marine Corps history is
replete with stories of characters that can be described no
other way than "anti-establishment." We do not need mindless
robots nor do we need wannabe murderers. When I worked in a
recruiting station, if a young man walked in and wanted to be
a Marine, we asked him why. If he said "To kill people!" then
we told him to get the Hell out of our office. We do not need
Rambo. He will just get himself and worse, Marines around him
get real dead, real fast.
"I am afraid of him experiencing being 'broken' during boot
camp...Full Metal Jacket scared me to death."
I once told my wife that if Alex, our son, ever goes to
boot camp, she would be a wreck for three months. Without skipping
a beat, she looked at me and said, "No, YOU would be a wreck
for three months." Thinking about that, she was right. I will
not lie to you and tell you that it is easy, for the recruit
or his family. Bootcamp is tough, as it should be. Almost without
fail, every parent I talk to before their son or daughter goes
to bootcamp, is against sending their children to the Marines.
My own mother was so upset she could not even talk to me. But
then an amazing thing happens. He comes home and through the
door walks a man where a boy left. He seems a little taller
because he is standing a little straighter. He has a self-confidence
and a pride that he never had before. He opens doors, pulls
chairs, answers ma'am and sir. He is polite without seeming
submissive. In fact he is on the verge of cockiness but always
respectful. He cleans up after himself and makes his bed when
he gets up early to take a morning run. He speaks proudly of
the experience that has changed his life. Is he brainwashed?
No. He has just been shown a few things such as what a good
life he has after being shown what lacking one is really like.
But at the same time he has been shown what he has inside, the
confidence to accomplish anything he can imagine. To endure
through hardships and to perform under stress and pressure applied
by experts. These are traits anyone would be proud to have.
Most mothers, including my own, end up with the most amazing
amount of pride that their son is a Marine. It becomes a bragging
point and for good reason.
Full Metal Jacket scared me to death, too. But to really
understand what was going on, you must face the reality of why
we need to instill these traits in Marines. The harsh truth
is that Marines must fight sometimes. We do not relish the fact
but we accept it because someone must be there when a threat
exists. Parents want to say "OK, but no my son." I ask, then
whose? Someone whose parents don't love them or are indifferent
to losing them to war? So we have two choices. Either disband
the Corps and hope that the world will no longer be a dangerous
place and that all the countries that want to take away the
high standard of living we enjoy will leave us alone. Or we
can train a high quality force that is so well-trained that
we not only make winning the only option, but do it with a very
small percentage of casualties. Further, we can instill into
thousands of young men and women the ethos of excellence and
honor so that when they decide to leave our ranks, they can
go out into society and carry that mindset to the civilian community.
Full Metal Jacket is a stark reminder that to create this
high-quality, low casualty situation, you must instill a spirit
and test the mettle of the warriors you must create. We have
about 11 weeks to take a person whose only exposure to the military
are movies and who conflict exposure ranges from silver-spooned
rich kids to street rules. Believe it or not, the drill instructor
probably cared about Pyle more than anyone because he know that
they were going to Vietnam right after they finished bootcamp.
If Pyle was not able to handle the stress and learn the harsh
lessons of war while in the "safe" environment of Parris Island,
he would be a dead man walking and most likely get many more
Marines killed along with him. The ending of the first half
is obviously not a success story but is Hollywood tragedy at
its best or worst. The vast (I would not even be able to calculate
the odds) majority do not blow their heads off as a result of
The bottom line is that we do not want to take your son
away and eat him alive, making him into a ravenous killing machine.
Who hates war more than those who have to fight it? But you
stated "He says he is looking for something to do that is challenging
and that will contribute something to this world." I would say
that the Marine Corps has been the most challenging thing I
have ever done and the challenge is only outdone by the pride
that it has given to me and my family. As far as a contribution,
I will tell you this.
I once saw a report where a group of Marines came into a
small Kuwaiti village after running the Iraqi force out of it.
When the Kuwaitis saw them coming, they fled into their houses
and hid until someone noticed that they were Marines. Suddenly,
the squad saw dozens of Kuwaiti women and children flood out
of the houses to the surprise of the startled Marines who were
initially shocked at the sudden influx of people around them.
The women were crying and the children clung to the legs of
the Marines. One woman told the interpreter that she was in
the midst of being raped when the Iraqis learned of the American
advancing squad. Once the lookout spotted that they were Marines,
they fled at once. The Iraqis were systematically raping the
women in front of their children and then killing all of them.
This might sound like a sappy movie plot but the terrible reality
is that it was true.
When I think of a contribution, I think of this story. I
had a part in giving these people their freedom back. They were
not rich oil tycoons or dirty little third world heathens. They
were people like you and me and that squad of American Marines
intervened in one of the most tragic situations imaginable.
If you think these kinds of situations only appear in movies,
you are wrong. We can either stick our heads in the sand and
thank God we are the lucky ones who enjoy security and prosperity,
or we can contribute, make a difference, and make an effort
to do what is right. I looked in the eyes of one of those children
and saw something. I saw that he was no different than my son
and that his parents loved him no less than I did my own. What
if we were invaded and did not have the might to repel the enemy?
How would we feel if foreigners came into our neighborhoods
and performed atrocities on us and our families. Think it can't
happen? Why not? Who will stop them? Hopefully, not too many
people will say "Fine, but not my son."
My advice is to talk to your son. If he is considering joining
the Marines to get away from his ex-girlfriend and the situation,
then by all means, talk some sense into him. But if he wants
to join the Marine Corps to serve and to better himself, then
let him make his first adult decision. Will he go through some
trials? You can bet on it. But is it worth it? The old adage
goes, "I would not go through bootcamp again for a million dollars.
But you could not pay me a million dollars to take back the
To let you know what kind of people will be leading him
on his journey, I will tell you that I look at my Marines in
this way; Parents have entrusted me with their most precious
gift they have ever received. I, Jason Donald Grose, am responsible
for this gift until I can return it better than when it was
given to me. I will use every means necessary to train, motivate,
educate, and instill the excellence mindset in him. I will praise,
compliment, reward, spoil, and brag about him. I will also bully,
embarrass, belittle, exhaust, deprive, and stress him when necessary
for one common goal. If I ever take him to battle with me, I
never want to arrive on your doorstep with hat in hand and tell
you that your son is dead because I did not train him well enough.
I will not compromise the trust the parents have given me. I
have made this implicit promise to the parents of the Marines
I lead and I will care for them to the same degree I care about
my own son and daughter. I would expect nothing less from the
officer that might be in charge of my son someday.
Jason D. Grose
United States Marine Corps