Skip to comments.Semper Fi: Always Faithful (Early Memorial Day Vanity)
Posted on 05/15/2012 8:53:49 AM PDT by RWB Patriot
Disclaimer: Except for me, all of the characters in this story do not exist to my knowledge. The Marine's Hymn and American Soldier are the property of The US Marine Corps and Toby Keith respectively and I claim no ownership of either. The title is also the property of the Marine Corps; I only chose it because I felt it was appropriate.
It was late as I drove home. It was dark, raining, and the road ahead of me was just barely illuminated by my headlights. I had just left the Marine Recruiting office to get a final good-bye from Staff Sergeant Nixon, the man who had helped me take the steps to becoming a Marine. The next day, I would be shipping out for boot camp at the Recruit Training Depot in San Diego, California.
I had been looking forward to the day ever since I signed up for the Marines back in June of 2005, but I was still in doubt. Boot camp, especially the Marine version, was hard. I had been working out every chance I got since I signed up, but I was still uneasy.
'What if I can't do it? What if I'm not as good as I think I am?' I thought as I drove down the road, letting out a soft sigh. After several seconds of running this thought in my head, I growled and shook it, trying to shake away my nervousness.
"I need to look forward to the end. I need to look at the benefits, not the pains," I told myself. Hoping to ease my tension, I turned on the radio and tuned in to KSSN 96, my favorite radio station, as it always played the latest country songs.
"That was Alan Jackson with "It's Five O'clock Somewhere." Next we have one for the troops over in Iraq and Afghanistan. Here's Toby Keith with "American Soldier," the announcer declared, a small smile tugging at my lips. Toby Keith was my favorite singer and his "American Soldier" had a special place in my heart.
I'm just trying to be a father
Raise a daughter and a son
Be a lover to their mother
Everything to everyone
Up and at 'em, bright and early
I'm all business in my suit
Yeah, I'm dressed up for success, from my head down to my boots
I don't do it for money, there's bills that I can't pay
I don't do it for the glory, I just do it anyway
Providing for our future's my responsibility
I listened intently as the song continued, jaw tightening a little as the familiar emotions flowed within me. The song had been one of many things that had inspired me to sign up for the Marines and as such, it always stirred a lot of emotion in me. The song continued as I drove on.
Yeah I'm real good under pressure, being all that I can be
And I can't call in sick on Mondays when the weekend's been too strong
I just work straight through the holidays
And sometimes all night long
You can bet that I stand ready when the wolf growls at the door
Hey, I'm solid, hey I'm steady, hey I'm true down to the core
As the song picked up, I felt my eyes begin to water and my chest swelled with pride. I had heard this song many times before, but for some reason this time was different. Tears began to run down my cheeks as the song grew stronger.
And I will always do my duty no matter what the price
I've counted up the cost, I know the sacrifice
Oh,and I don't want to die for you
But if dyin's asked of me
I'll bear that cross with honor
'Cause freedom don't come free
"Amen," I said softly, beginning to sob. Freedom wasn't free and soldiers weren't anxious to die. They were just ordinary men and women doing extraordinary deeds. The song grew in strength and meaning as I drove on.
I'm an American soldier, an American
Beside my brothers and my sisters I will proudly take a stand
When liberty's in jeopardy I will always do what's right
I'm out here on the front lines, sleep in peace tonight
American soldier, I'm an American soldier
Tears were now cascading down my face as the song hit its highest note. I sobbed and wiped my eyes as I began to see images, scenes from the song's music video. Civil War soldiers, both blue and grey, locked in vicious hand-to-hand combat; a Yank in World War I, kissing a golden Cross around his neck before charging out of his trench; and finally, Vietnam warriors helping a wounded man through an artillery barrage.
As the images flashed through my head, my emotional dam broke and the tears flowed out of my eyes like a waterfall. The tears weren't just because of the song; they were also tears of shame. Here I was moping and feeling sorry for myself, and there were men and women over in a war zone who were facing their challenge with pride and strength. It was shameful for me to feel so uneasy over something as small as training while there were soldiers facing something ten times worse.
"That's it," I said with determination "Tomorrow, I'm going to face boot camp with pride. What right do I have to complain when there are other people going through worse? That's not what a Marine does." I gripped the steering wheel harder now, determination flowing through me. Meanwhile the song was almost over.
Yeah, an American soldier, an American
Beside my brothers and my sisters I will proudly take a stand
When liberty's in jeopardy I will always do what's right
I'm out here on the front line, so sleep in peace tonight
American soldier, I'm an American
An American soldier
As the song slowly faded out, I blinked to try and clear the tears from my eyes. 'I should pull over before I have an accident.' I thought, slowly pulling towards the side of the road. I was almost off when I suddenly remembered the ditch on the side that I was pulling towards. Panicking, I quickly spun the wheel. My truck instantly began spinning and then I felt a bone-jarring THUD! as it ran into the ditch. Then I was flying forward into the windshield, my seatbelt trying to stop my momentum before snapping off. I heard glass shatter and felt a hard blow on my skull, then everything went dark.
"WAKE UP, GET UP!!! ON YOUR FEET, MAGGOT!!" yelled a loud voice. My eyes snapped open and I sat up. I looked around, trying to figure out where I was, but there was nothing but darkness around me. Oh, wait, not all darkness. There was a huge cliff face in front of me. I looked up...and up...and up. Finally I saw the top, but it was thirty stories above me, a glimmer of light just barely visible at the top.
"Where am I?" I wondered aloud.
"I'M THE ONLY ONE WHO ASKS QUESTIONS, MAGGOT!! NOW GET ON YOUR FEET BEFORE I BUST YOUR BUTT!!" The voice was right next to my ear and the sheer force of the command forced me to my feet.
"IT'S ABOUT FREAKING TIME!! AND FROM NOW ON WHEN I GIVE YOU A COMMAND, YOU WILL SAY "YES SIR"! DO YOU GET ME!!" shouted the mystery voice.
"YES SIR!" I yelled, mostly from fright.
"THAT'S GOOD, SON! YOU'RE SMARTER THAN YOU LOOK!! NOW GET THE HELL UP THAT CLIFF!!" I looked up again.
"But sir, that's too high." I protested. Suddenly, something pushed me forward.
"I DIDN'T ASK YOU WHAT YOU THOUGHT ABOUT THE CLIFF, I SAID GET UP THERE!! IF YOU WANT TO BECOME A MARINE, YOU HAD BETTER GET TO THE TOP!!!"
The word "MARINE" jarred me and I instantly jumped onto the cliff. Grabbing for any available hand and foot holds, I slowly pulled myself up. I was so pumped up on adrenaline from the yelling that I lost track of time.
It wasn't until my arms became sore that I took note of where I was. I looked down and gasped; there was nothing below me but a deep, dark pit. I quickly reversed my view, looking towards the top. The top of the cliff wasn't as hard to see now, so I took that as a sign that I had made some progress.
I reached up to continue climbing, but as soon I as grabbed the next handhold, it suddenly broke away, causing me to lose my balance and swing away from the cliff. If I hadn't kept the death grip on the rocks with my right hand, I would have tumbled down into the darkness. I struggled to get myself back into climbing position, but I felt drained, my entire body burning with pain and drenched with sweat.
"I-I can't do it. It's too much," I gasped, panting. Suddenly, that voice made another appearance.
"WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU CAN'T DO IT! AND YOU TALK ABOUT BECOMING A MARINE! IF YOU FALL NOW, YOU WILL NEVER BECOME A MARINE, DO YOU GET ME!?" it yelled with even more ferocity than before. I groaned again and my fingers began to tremble.
"I can't sir, I'm too tired. And it hurts so much," I groaned. I was just about to let go when a different voice, a gentler voice, spoke up.
"Come on, son," it said in a soft, fatherly manner, "Don't give up, buddy, you're almost there." I felt a warm feeling fill my body, but the pain was still there.
"I can't sir. I'm so sore," I groaned, my hand about to let go.
"What do the Marines say about pain, son?" inquired the voice. I groaned and then...as if a switch had been flipped, suddenly felt new determination.
"Pain is weakness leaving the body!" I said, the pain vanishing almost instantly. A wicked grin spread on my face and I regained my grip on the cliff with my left hand.
"Go on, kid. Do it for the troops," said the voice.
"YES SIR!!" I yelled with new vigor. I instantly resumed my climb, looking up as I approached the top. The light was brighter now and was beginning to take shape. As I got closer and closer, a new sound suddenly wafted through the darkness.
From the Halls of Montezuma
To the shores of Tripoli
We fight our country's battles
In the air, on land and sea
"The Marine's Hymn!" I gasped. The music sent a feeling of great pride through my entire body and I started to sing along, my voice growing louder as I neared the top of the cliff.
First to fight for right and freedom
And to keep our honor clean;
We are proud to claim the title
Of United States Marines.
As soon as those last words left my lips, I looked up and saw that I was at the top. The light had now formed into a man dressed in a Marine's Dress Uniform, an M-14 slung over his shoulder. He was about thirty-years old and the light now surrounded him, giving him beautiful glow. Behind him was a golden stairway, basked in the same light that surrounded the soldier.
At first I couldn't do anything. All I had to do was take one more step and I would be at the top, but the soldier had me frozen in shock. Then he walked towards me and kneeled down, extending his hand to me. I looked at the hand and then at the soldier's face, watching him smile warmly and nod.
"Come on, son. You made it," He said in that fatherly voice I had heard. I nodded and grabbed his hand, the soldier pulling me up as though I weighed nothing and then helping me to my feet. I stood up and stared at him for a few seconds. Then, realizing I was in the presence of a United States Marine, I straightened up, said Marine nodding.
"Marine, ATTEN-TION!" he yelled. I instantly stood straight up, hands at my sides, my heels clicking together, the Marine doing the same.
"PRESENT-ARMS!" he yelled, snapping a salute. I mimicked his movement to the letter. Then he relaxed.
"At ease, son," he said, my body assuming the Parade Rest position. I looked past him at the golden staircase. It lead up to a golden gate. Standing in front of the gate were two more men dressed the same as the one that stood before me.
"Is that...?" I said, unable to get the last word out. The soldier looked back at the gate and then faced me. With a small nod, he stepped aside, my jaw nearly hitting the ground in shock.
"Am...am I supposed to be there?" I asked, unable to believe it. The Marine sighed a little.
"You can go up there, son. You've earned the right to enter that Gate." He said. Sensing a "but" coming on, I looked at him with questioning eyes.
"I've been told that it's not your time. You can enter Heaven if you so choose, but if you do, you won't be able to be a Marine." He said, simply and plainly. I looked back at the gate, unable to decide. It was a tough decision; becoming a Marine was my dream, but the idea of Boot Camp still created that dreadful feeling within me. As though reading my mind, the Marine spoke again.
"Listen, I know you're scared. I was too when I was in your place. But every Marine has to start at boot camp and even though it's hard, I guarantee you it will be worth it in the end. And once it's over, you'll be able to claim the title no one can take away. Heaven will always be here, waiting to welcome you when it's your time, but the Marines will only be there if you go back and face the challenge," he said soothingly. The Marine's Hymn was still playing and there were now tears in my eyes.
"You really think I can do it, sir?" I asked, sobbing a little. He smiled and held out his hand, which I didn't hesitate to grasp.
"I know you can, son," he said, shaking my hand twice, "Just remember; Semper Fi, Always faithful. To each other and to ourselves."
As soon as he said those last words, the light suddenly became too bright to look at. I winced and covered my eyes. The light got brighter and brighter. Then everything went white.
I groaned as I opened my eyes. I was once again on my back, only this time there were red flashes above me. I felt the ground underneath me and gasped. I remembered the car accident and getting thrown out through the windshield. By all rights, I should have been dead.
"What happened?" I asked. Suddenly, I felt a hand under my head, tilting it up. Following it, I saw it was a paramedic. I looked around and saw a fire engine, an ambulance, and a police car, all with their lights flashing. Then I spotted my truck, or at least what was left of it; it was totaled, the windshield smashed, the entire body now nothing but a hunk of twisted metal. I looked back at the paramedic.
"What happened?" I inquired again. The paramedic looked at me and cocked his head to the side, clearly confused.
"You were in an accident, kid. A very nasty one for that matter," He said, taking out his stethoscope and holding it to my chest. Even though I remembered flying through the windshield, I didn't feel any pain. By all accounts, I should have been dead or, at the very least, seriously injured. But except for my torn clothes, there wasn't any evidence of me being in a crash.
"I can't understand it. Strangest thing I've ever seen," muttered the paramedic.
"What?" I asked, confused at what he was saying. The paramedic looked at me and shook his head.
"You were dying. Weak heartbeat, weak pulse, you weren't breathing, and you looked like hamburger. Then I turned around for a second and you suddenly started singing. When I turned back around, you were healed. Not a scratch on you and your heart, pulse, and breathing were strong. Damn strange," He said, shaking his head again.
"What was I singing?" I asked, feeling a rush of excitement.
"I believe it was the Marine's Hymn, son. Heh, you planning on joining the Marines?" He asked, chuckling. I gasped, remembering the dream. My God! The cliff, the darkness, the light. The thoughts went through my head in rapid fire. The pit was death, the cliff was my struggle, and the light was life. My God, he saved me. He brought me back.
"Yes, yes I was going to join the Marines." I replied, the paramedic shrugging.
"Well son, apparently God wanted you to become one as well. Maybe that's why He brought you back. I swear, you were dead...but I guess He was watching over you." He said, making a Cross sign over his heart. I nodded at his statement and then climbed to my feet.
"Can I go home now?" I asked. The paramedic stroked his chin, deep in thought.
"I guess so. No point in keeping you around if you're okay. I think that cop'll give you a ride." He said, pointing to the squad car. I nodded and began to walk over. The cop was talking with a group of people, probably the ones who had found me.
As I stood next to the squad car, I suddenly heard the Marine's Hymn again. I looked in the direction it was coming from and gasped. Standing a few feet away was the Marine who had been at the top of the mountain.
He was bathed in the same white light, but no one seemed to notice him. He looked at me with his blue eyes and smiled that warm smile. Then he straightened up and saluted. Not even caring what the people around me would think, I quickly and enthusiastically returned the salute. He smiled and nodded.
"Semper Fi, son. Always Faithful..." he began.
"To each other and to ourselves!" I finished, tears once again flowing down my cheeks.
48 hours later... "I am Gunnery Sergeant Howard, I am your senior Drill Instructor!" barked a tall, broad man, his voice booming in my ears. I watched as he slowly marched up and down the room, glaring at us.
"From now on, you will not speak unless spoken too, and the first and last words out of your stinking holes will be "Sir"! Do you maggots get me?!" he snarled.
"Sir, yes, sir!" came the response.
Not pleased with the answer, Gunnery Sergeant Howard opened his mouth to say so when he suddenly looked directly at me. I knew why; I was smiling a big, crazy grin.
"WHAT ARE SMIRKING AT, MAGGOT?! DO I AMUSE YOU?" he hollered, stomping right up into my face.
"Sir, no, sir!" I yelled, still smiling. It seemed to piss him off even more.
"THEN WHY ARE YOU WEARING THAT STUPID GRIN?!" he demanded, getting right up in front of my eyes.
"Sir, this recruit is smiling because he is damn proud to be here, sir!" I answered, my grin getting even bigger. Sergeant Howard seemed confused for a second. And then, to my surprise, he smiled back, not an evil smile, but a warm, friendly one. His eyes, which I just now realized were sky blue, seemed to sparkle.
Then, just as suddenly as it appeared, his normal angry face returned.
"Well then, maggot, you can show me how proud you are by dropping and giving me fifty!" he ordered. I immediately got down and began doing push-ups. As I did them, I nearly fell on my stomach when I heard a familiar voice.
"Good job, son. You're on your way," it said.
Author's Note: We all have our day to day troubles, we all have things we feel are overwhelming, we all have things we fear. But there is something else that I think we all need to keep in mind as well.
Right now, somewhere in the US, a little girl is going to bed without a goodnight kiss from her daddy. Right now, somewhere in the US, a wife is waking up without her husband in her arms. Right now, somewhere in the US, a mother and a father are hoping their daughter will be back in time for her next birthday. Right now, somewhere in the US, a young man is hoping his girlfriend will make it back so he can pop the special question.
Our soldiers and their families face something few of us can imagine, much less endure ourselves, and yet they take it with a sense of duty and honor that should humble us and make us realize that, no matter what we're facing, it's small change compared to what they must do. The next time you feel you are facing a great challenge in life, know that if a soldier can face what he does with confidence, then something less than that can't stop you.
I wrote this several years ago during the start of the WOT (hence why the grammar is a bit poor and some of the story might sound a bit silly), when I was a young man struggling through high school. I had heard Toby Keith's new song "American Soldier" and after seeing the music video, it made me realize just what our soldiers and their families go through, and there I was thinking my life was horrible because I had trouble in school. One thing led to another and this was the result.
And it can also be seen as a message to potential Marine recruits. You may often be intimidated by the full measure of what's required to be a Marine, but keep in mind the footsteps you're following in and what the men and women who came before you did and have done and will do. If they can do all those things, then boot camp is no challenge for you.
I hope I've put it in the proper place on Free Republic and do apologize for it being a Vanity.
Very well done
HERE RESTS IN HONORED GLORY AN AMERICAN SOLDIER KNOWN BUT TO GOD
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