07 March, 2007

USO Vignette: Who Raises a Marine?

The common phrase these days is, "Where do we get such men?"

A story I heard tonight at the USO awards banquet just may supply the answer...

About two weeks ago the director of my local airport USO (where I volunteer) looked up from his desk to see an older lady sitting quietly outside his office. As he described it, "She was obviously not a woman of means." She had told the receptionist that she was in town to see her grandson graduate from Boot Camp tomorrow, but had brushed aside the suggestions and guidance offered visitors regarding housing and transportation. He stepped out of his office, and in his inimitable former Command Master Chief way, soon had her entire story.

"I raised him and I'm the only family he's got. He should have someone who cares about him there when he graduates. So I came."

She had taken the bus from Oklahoma to the West Coast by herself, in order to attend the graduation because that was what she could afford. She had no hotel reservations and nothing of value with her but a return bus ticket and three dollars in cash.

He attempted to hide his amazement and asked, "What made you come to the USO? How did you know to come here?"

At this point in the telling of the story, the old chief's voice broke as he recounted her answer, "My grandson told me that if I had any problems I should go to the USO because when he got into town for boot camp, he'd come here and it was very nice and they'd fed him and taken care of him until the Drill Instructors picked him up that night."

Needless to say, the USO took care of her, too.

But back to my opening question... Where do we get men like these? From women like that, women of such devotion, loyalty and fearlessness that they'd do what she did just to be at her grandson's graduation from Boot Camp.

Somehow, I suspect he's going to make an excellent Marine...