A Hillsborough Community College Student Publication since 1978.
~JOSEPH M. FOWDEN
Wake the fuck up, pigs!” Staff Sergeant Mlachek screamed in his frog like voice. “Get your shit and get outside.”
It was zero six hundred when the demon that we had all learned to hate over the last three months stormed into our hut and woke us up. I shot up like I always have, ready to go. I began to dress myself and realized that I didn’t own one dry article of clothing. Hurricane Ophelia had taken all of my belongings besides my sleeping bag and turned them into a bog for me to dress my body in. As I dressed myself, I realized my feet hurt. It felt like I was walking on glass everywhere I went. I looked at my feet and they were shriveled from wearing wet boots for three straight days. There were no cuts on the bottom of my feet, Just pain for no apparent reason. I began wondering how I was going to make it through the hike that we were beginning within the hour. I then packed my belongings as quickly as I could, hobbling back and forth from my pack, to my belongings, and back again.
After packing my things, I put on my 70-pound pack. Limping outside, I tried to hide my pain from my drill instructor. There was water everywhere. Puddles almost a foot deep. The hurricane had really taken its toll on the dense forest. I staged my pack in perfect line with the others. I then stood at a perfect position of attention in front of my pack. I had done this many times before as this wasn’t my first hike, but this one was different though.
I had something to keep me motivated enough to walk the next nine miles. It didn’t matter what got in my way, my feet hurting, the hurricane, hell, a fucking bear couldn’t stop me today.
This was it. This was the last milestone in my journey to becoming a United States Marine. The path to come would the most difficult set of miles I had ever walked.
Every step I took felt like I was stepping on glass. It didn’t get any easier. Parris Island isn’t even nine miles in diameter. We walked in circles a few times, marching in complete silence. I saw the same trees, bushes, dirt, and rock at least twice. This, however, did not discourage me. Nothing was going to get in my way. Once they were done walking us in circles, we began to see houses. I knew, at this point, we were almost there. The many drill instructors, from different platoons, all began to sing their own cadences. This raised moral significantly. Not once in the last three months had any of the drill instructors ever sang to us.
There was no creativity allowed on the island, just discipline and pain. Half way through one of the loudly resonating songs, I saw it. It was the Iwo Jima monument, four bronze Marines forever lifting our colors to the top of Mount Suribachi.
We marched up to the monument and came to a stop in front of it, dropping our packs in place. I had made it despite all of the pain I was experiencing.
“Fall in!” screamed staff sergeant Versachge.
Broken, beaten, and bruised, we all ran to fall into the formation. It was zero eight hundred. We saluted as the sound system played the National Anthem. Once the song was over, we had been ordered to cut our salute. Still standing at the position of attention, the Marine Corps hymn played. We were called to parade rest after the songs, a position more resting than that of attention, with hands placed behind the back and feet shoulder width apart. This was it. I had forgotten the pain in my feet at this point.
We were called to attention one more time. The drill instructors began handing us our eagle, globe, and anchors, a small pin representing the Marine Corps. After about five minutes, Staff Sergeant Versachge stepped in front of me and extended both hands. In my left hand he placed the eagle, globe, and anchor. He took my right hand and shook it firmly. He looked at me with his cold, very light blue, almost grey eyes, and said “Congratulations, Marine.” A small tear rolled down my cheek, and I said nothing in return. It was at this moment that I realized that I could accomplish anything in life. It doesn’t matter what it is. If I put my mind to it, I will get it done.