There is so much to be proud of with my immediate family. By immediate family I mean my wife Christine and sons Justin and Tyler. For this I choose to share a story about Justin.
After returning from Vietnam the climate back home was so hostile towards veterans I hid the fact that I was a Marine. I know that goes against everything a Marine should do, but it allowed me to cope and integrate back into society without being judged or ignored for opportunities,
This silence continued well into our marriage as I never spoke about my service at all. After such a debilitating experience the last thing I wanted was for either of my kids to go through the same. I never tried to encourage or discourage them to go into the military, I just avoided to conversation.
I had 9 siblings with numerous children. Justin was the oldest of the cousins because I was the first to be married in the family. We were an extreme blue collar family and because of impossible financial situations, secondary education was never mentioned in the house. It was a cost nobody could bear. My father believed we could all do as well or better by going into our own business and hiring the people coming out of college. All ten of us siblings have been independent business owners. College was not in our blood.
But, Christine and I had other dreams for our kids. We wanted to be the first to send a Cormier to college. Justin was our first hope. It was not to be. Justin wanted to be a Marine and that was that. Not a soldier or an airman...a Marine. Those commercials were simply too irresistible to a young patriotic boy.
He was a freshman in high school when from out of nowhere he came home and told us he had visited the local Marine recruiter. Mind you, he wasn't hit on by a recruiter. He instigated it himself. It was peace time and attitudes had changed about how our servicemen and women were perceived.
I told him not to sign anything until after graduating from high school. I suggested, "You're gonna get a girlfriend and it'll all go away." It didn't.
He put posters on his bedroom wall and continued to dream of the day he would become a Marine. I surely felt that in his Sophomore year he would become more distracted by the social pressures of a young man but he continued his same mantra. And, I again repeated mine. "You're gonna get a girlfriend and it's all going away." It didn't.
The same happened during his junior year and Christine and I began to think he was really serious about it. He had his share of girlfriends but they didn't throw him off his goals and dreams one bit.
During summer break between his Junior and Senior year he went to some kind of "pre-recruit" training. I mean, why would anyone want to experience Parris Island boot camp unless they absolutely had to? He did. They put him through almost all of the rigors of boot camp during those 9 weeks. Not only was he not dissuaded, he earned the coveted "Marine Recruit of the Year" award. Who knew there was anything like this? I surely didn't. This kid is GOING TO BE A MARINE!!
During his Senior year the attack on 9-11 happened followed by the first Gulf War. Everything changed in our hearts. It was no longer peace time. And Justin was even more determined to become a Marine.
He kept his promise and signed no piece of paper committing him or even "pre-committing" him to the military. His recruiters did nothing to lock him in. They never had to.
On the day of his graduation his recruiters were there with us to congratulate him. We were not only proud that he graduated but standing next to this fine American in his dress blues reminded me of the pride I once felt. I had given in.
Here is a photo of Justin at graduation with his recruiter
He signed up and within 3 days he was off to Boot camp. I'll let Justin tell the details of what happened next but the short version is that in only the 2nd week of training while doing pushups he was bitten by a lowly fire ant. It turns out he was so allergic (he was born prematurely weighing only 3 pounds at birth and was always subject to immune issues and allergies), he spent 10 days in intensive care, nearly dying from the severe allergic reaction.
While lying in his bed his drill Sargent visited him and gave him the most impossible news. "Private, this place is loaded with fire ants and so is Camp Pendleton. I'm afraid we're going to have to discharge you and send you home".
Do I have to describe the level of devastation he felt? NO! Three days later he was discharged and showed up in our tiny apartment without even a bedroom for him. His dream of being a Marine were now shattered. What next for this young man with no other aspirations? That is an amazing story still in progress.
So much more has happened in his life and he'll be the one to tell. But when it comes to a proud moment that stands out in our family this is definitely one of best.
If you haven't read his account of what happened in boot camp it is a great story worth reading. To read the story click HERE
I love ya bud. That was a well told recap of what happened. I appreciate You and Mom's neutral position on what Ty and I could or could not do in life. It's an important lesson to learn, I'm sure Ty would agree, that we will both pass down to our children one day. It was a huge sacrafice on your part not to say something when you knew I was headed into the winds of danger. I've moved on in life and have new goals that mean just as much or more to me now than when i was 18 and full of pee and vinager. Again, thanks for being my Dad, I'll always love you.
Tom I teared-up in reading your story. Having spent 36 years as a teacher/administrator I can tell you that we parents who co-created and then gave God and Our Country good people are very fortunate. Most young people ARE good people. But we hear about (via the media), and our government "assists," for the most part, only the "rotten apples." Justin - I was only a dogface soldier; I really didn't think I could "take" the USMC life. I salute you and as a citizen am proud of you.
The pride that the father has in his son oozes throughout your story! And it is also a proud moment for a father when his son can write such a stirring comment as Justin has when he says: "Again, thanks for being my Dad, I'll always love you."