He was back and gone again. Our son who embarked on a cold rainy day in mid-March to San Diego for United States Marine Corps basic training is now Private First Class Robert E. Eubank.
Husband Tom, Robert's friend Emily and I flew out to San Diego to see the transformation of this tall lanky young man into a hard body U.S. Marine. Early Thursday morning we watch a rehearsal of the next day's graduation ceremony. We knew he is a member of Platoon 1002, but from a distance and in their woodland camouflage uniforms, they all look alike. Our first glimpse of Robert comes later in the morning during the four-mile morning run. It is a couple hours later before we get to hug him and get caught up. For the first time we see our son in his seasonal service uniform of khaki short-sleeve shirt and drab green pants and service cover. The hours fly and too soon Robert must return to the barracks for the final night.
Graduation Day-Friday, June 7 dawns and the weather is another "June Gloom" day at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot. This day marks the culmination of difficult physical and mental hardship. The names and faces of their 24/7 drill instructors are forever burned into their memory. The week prior to graduation the platoons undergo The Crucible where over a 54-hour period they must work as a team day and night to complete a series of tasks that challenge them physically, mentally and morally. It is a rite of passage which upon completion, they are no longer a recruit but a Marine. The Crucible concludes with the recruits marching up a steep hill known as "The Reaper" with eighty pound packs on their backs.
Upon completion the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor ceremony is held where the recruits receive their eponymous emblem, signifying their change in status from recruit to Marine. The emblem is worn on the left side of his service cover.
From the bleachers I spot my son in a seasonal dress uniform with khaki shirt and blue pants. His cover is a white barracks peaked cap that is recognized around the world. Having completed two years of college, Robert is a private first class marked by the green/khaki chevrons on the left and right sleeves. Over the right pocket is a shooting badge signifying his rank as a sharp shooter. All Marines regardless of what occupational specialty they perform are first and foremost warriors ready to fight for their country. Not a bad achievement for a young man who never handled a weapon before.
The ceremony is full of tradition as one might expect from the military. Patriotic songs are played by the Marine Corp Band stationed at MCRD and speeches address the willingness to sacrifice that these young men have sworn to do to protect our freedom. After the ceremony we all enjoy the rest of the day before departing for home.
The next ten days quickly pass: seeing friends, running, and checking in with his recruiter Sgt. Bryan Burrell. Too soon Robert takes flight back to San Diego for more weapon training. Until I see him again I know he will persevere to serve his county honorably to the best of his ability. As a Marine Mom I don't worry because worry accomplishes nothing. Robert knows he is in the hearts and prayers of the many family members and friends he leaves behind.
Lois Eubank is the owner of Born Again Quilts studio where she restores quilts and sells vintage textiles and sewing accessories. For more information go to www.bornagainquilts.com.