06 September, 2008

Alone at Graduation Day?

Volunteering at an airport USO near one of the two USMC Recruit Depots, I see the before and after of boot camp, the tremendous changes that happen after just 13 weeks of rigor and discipline. The new Marines arrive at the USO on Friday after graduation with such a mixture of pride and nerves after having overcome the biggest challenge of their young lives. Backs are straight and communication is somewhat clipped, but the dichotomy of their feelings is written all over their faces in the grins they unsuccessfully try to hide: "I'm so proud to be a Marine!" and... "God, I hope I don't mess up!" That earnest pride is frankly charming, and you can spot their parents' joy a mile away.

But not all arrive at the USO with parents in tow on this proud and wondrous day. I'm sure the reasons vary, but without a doubt money is a factor for some families; when you're from Wisconsin or Hawaii or Massachussetts, the two recruit depots on opposite coasts are awfully far away. Imagine what it must be like to stand alone on graduation day as your fellow newly-minted Marines are joyously greeted by family and friends exclaiming how proud they are and how good their new Marine looks in uniform, amazed at the changes they see in bearing, address and confidence...

But today, thanks to famous author JoaAnn Ross (she's a Soldiers' Angel!), I found out about an organization that helps make sure each Marine has family to celebrate with: Marine Graduation Foundation. For each graduating boot camp class, they sponsor about a dozen or so families to attend their Marine's graduation. How cool is that?!

Their current goal is to sponsor sixteen families for the September 19 graduation. But they are behind and have only three days left to raise over $5,000. I can't imagine what it must be like to be 18 or 19 and not to have a hug and congratulations from a loved one on the proudest day of your life. It reminds me of this story.

I guess I'm going to be spending a bit less on the milblog conference than I thought...