Saturday, August 9, 2008

Commissioning as Officers of Marines

There are events at the museum where it is difficult to be a neutral observer and I have to swallow my own emotions. Today was one of those events, the commissioning of new Lieutenants in the United States Marine Corps.

At 1300, the future leadership of the Marine Corps filed in and took their seats.


I was able to fit through the small space of the railing around the base of the mast to be dead center for the ceremony.


I will admit, I thought there would be more pomp and circumstance as they filed in.

To my left, a woman with four little girls in matching dresses said, "There's daddy!" as she pointed to a Marine 3 rows in front of me. The Marine waved back at his little girls. The woman lifted up each of her daughters so they could see their dad.

The youngest said in her little munchkin 3-year-oldish voice "I don't see daddy."

"He's right there." her mom pointed.

The little girl was looking at me (I was trying to take a picture). So I lowered my camera and pointed to her dad who was waving. She lit-up like a little fire cracker, "I see him! HI DADDY!" All of the future Lieutenants smiled at the exchange.

The event opened with the benediction - - I'm so glad they haven't taken God out of this. I sure hope no one files some civil liberties suit to eliminate it. But that is a subject for another blog.


Benediction was followed by the national anthem. I have no idea why I get all choked up when the Star Spangled Banner is played. I tried to get a shot of the American flag framed by the Marines standing at attention. I couldn't quite get it.


The General who spoke had a son who was part of the class. His father joked that he knew they were trying to keep that under wraps but the Colonel in charge of Officers Candidate School (OCS) had "outed" him. The General spoke to the parents, as a parent. He had gotten the same form letter they all got letting them know their candidate was safe and the Drill Instructors really liked them. He said he laughed because he knew what his son was going through because he had once been the Commanding Officer (CO) of OCS.


As he looked out over the sea of future Lieutenants, he said, "Relax. You all look way too serious. You should be happy, you made it. Lets see some smiles!"

Immediately all of the future Lieutenants leaned forward or relaxed their shoulders from their previous ram-rod straight postures. I swear I heard a collective sigh of relief.

The General noted that Marines Had graduated from Basic Training on Friday and that the lives of those men and women sitting there would surely intersect with these new enlisted Marines. The Lieutenants could expect to be leaders of these new Marines, some may even lead them into battle.

That was sobering. These man and women had joined the Marine Corps while we are at war. They are certain to see combat in the next year or so. Some of them have already seen action as prior enlisted. You can tell who these Marines are by the number of ribbons they were wearing. Its a sobering thought to realize that the future for some of these Marines may include being wounded in battle or that they may give the ultimate sacrifice for their country. But for now, it was a happy occasion.

As the Marines stood to take their oath, the General reminded them that they were taking the same oath that the President of the United States took as well as other government officials. The General pointed out that they were not swearing allegiance to a political party, a military branch or even to the President. They were taking an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States.

For some reason, the gravity of that really hit me. We swear to uphold, protect and defend a set of ideals. A set of ideals that were once so radical, yet to us, now, seem so common. It just amazes me that this 'code' has remained relevant for so long.


So after the oath there was a closing prayer and the new officers and their families were 'set loose' to find a spot to pin on their bars.

Which leads me to some of the emotional moments of the day.

The first family that I approached about photos gave me the "brush off". However the mother asked me for advise on how to take a good picture in the harsh light. I suggested they use a fill flash but suggested they do the pinning in a different location, Semper Fi memorial park in front of the "Once a Marine Always a Marine". The Lieutenant agreed. I also told them my photography services were free.

Here is what I think is "The shot". It could use a little cropping.


I also like this one of his mom kissing him. You can be the toughest Marine in the world but you will always be your mom's baby.


Now it is also tradition that the first person to salute you is to receive a silver dollar. Here, his dad is giving him his first salute.


I left them and made my way to another family by the General LeJeune statue pinning the bars on their new Lieutenant. In my opinion, the is "The shot". This is his younger brother pinning the bar on his shoulder.


Here is the happy family.


His brother gave him his first salute. All the women in the family were sniffling behind me.


The Lieutenant presented his brother with the silver dollar and they embraced.



Grown men do cry.

Of course all the ladies were really sniffling. I couldn't look at them because I was swallowing a huge lump myself.


This whole process repeated 2 hours latter with the second half of the class. The OCS class this summer was the largest since the Vietnam War. The museum can not accommodate all of the families, the candidates plus the regular guests at the same time. In fact, today, parking reached capacity, as did the museum. The Marines on duty as well as security had to stand outside the doors to prevent new visitors from entering. Seven out of 10 candidates in this class made it through and were commissioned.

1 comment:

Miss Em said...

I have been back several times over the last few days just to sit and stare at all the fine young men/women who have decided to invest their time and life to become officers in the Marines.

Each time I can only say one thing>>>

Thank-You and YOU ARE AWESOME.