Chapter 4: The long journey for a waffle
You know what sucks? 54 hours of mentally challenging obstacles, minimal food and sleep, that nasty canteen and the fear of the silver bullet. The last day of the Crucible is the most monumental day of the recruit’s day at Parris Island. This day even trumps Graduation Day. Why you ask? Because there was a huge Warrior Breakfast waiting for us! Think about it. MRE or real eggs (not egg beaters), waffles, fresh fruit and orange juice (in a glass and not in a canteen), waiting for us all to devour?
The hump back home was long. Your body is fatigued, you are hungry, grumpy, have aching muscles and your feet that just want to give out (combat boots are NOT made for ladies’ feet). The Marine Corps has a motto; you never leave a man behind. That doesn’t include your sanity. You left that on the yellow footprints 12 weeks prior.
I will be honest. I always felt sorry for the vertically challenged ladies. They were always stuck in the back of the formation. Us “Grand-daddy Long Legs’ had it easy in the front of the formation, until the vertically challenged started falling out. Great. Then the yelling starts. “Who can carry another pack?” “Aye, Ma’am.” “Who can carry another rifle?” “Aye, Ma’am”. Why did I keep saying that? Next thing I knew, I was carrying my full pack on my back, a full pack on the front of my body and four rifles. For once, I craved my canteen, but couldn’t reach it!!! The image of the silver bullet popped into my head. I do not want to be a heat casualty! What a mantra to have. Stupid one-way canteen. I bet the back wash at the bottom of my not-so friendly canteen was laughing at me.
At that moment, I wanted to quit. I started getting cramps from exhaustion and dehydration. The many sling keepers from the rifles were digging into my shoulders from the weight of the packs. Then out of no where, I heard a man’s voice say, “You are almost home, Marine.” I thought it was God talking to me. Then I mustered up the energy to turn to my left, and the Base General was humping next to me. I fought back the tears because the General was next to me. I had to prove to him that I could do this. Within a mile or so, he tapped my arm and told me, “There’s home.’ The Parade Deck was in my sight. But, since this was the Marine Corps, we took the long way there. No short cuts for us, because that would sense.
Pancakes, waffles, sausage. I could smell it in the air. The smell was a mirage, but I knew it was coming soon. You know how they say “Pain is weakness the body?” Well, at this moment, I think I was wondering how much more weakness could leave my body because I was in pain all over. Weak body. Damn you.
We finally made it to the Parade Deck. The words “Platoon halt” were my new favorite words. Finally. I get to take my pack off. Then the ceremony of all ceremony starts. We are given our Eagle, Globe and Anchor (never to be called an EGA. I don’t care what you think. It’s like saying X-Mas instead of Christmas) and are called United States Marines. So you have two platoons of blubbering women, crying non-stop (the epitome of Marine, huh? Luckily there wasn’t a recall on that Eagle, Globe and Anchor for the tears), and then what happens? Lee Greenwood starts playing in the background (yep, now I am getting chills just thinking about it). And you know what? Yes I am proud to be an American and a United Stated Marine.
Breakfast was good. You pile up your plate with a lot of food and the next thing you know you barely eat any of it because you are too tired to eat or your stomach shrank over the 54 hours and you no longer have an appetite. But you know what? It didn’t matter any more. You knew the journey was almost done.
One last task prior to leaving the Island. Final Inspection. First order of business? Take a shower with your rifle. The rifle was as filthy as us (men, get the image out of your head of naked women with rifles; you are nasty). I was told that I should color my hair for inspection a few weeks prior, so during our square away time, I popped out the box of hair color that my sister so kindly sent me. This was the first time that I ever colored my hair. Note to self: Read directions thoroughly. I mixed the dye and toner correctly, but forgot one thing. I forgot to put gloves on. The day prior to final inspection and my hands were dyed dark brown. “Are you freaking kidding me, Marine.” Yep, Staff Sergeant, I forgot to wear gloves. Guess who was bleaching her hands all night trying to get her nail beds back to flesh color? This girl here!
After bleaching the hell out of my hands, they finally came clean. Whew. Battalion Commanding Officer was on deck just in time for me to show my Drill Instructor my perfectly bleached hands. And she smiled with pleasure, until I answered the Battalion Commanding Officer’s question, “PFC Cox, why did you join the United States Marine Corps.” “For the GI Bill, Ma’am!” Like I was going to tell her because the recruiter wouldn’t leave me alone so I caved. Instant disappointment. Epic fail once again. But we are lady Marines and we march with pride. Pride. What a great feeling!
Boot Camp was 13 weeks of learning to become a woman, but it took another 5 years to become the Woman Marine that I was meant to be. My family came in to see me graduate, and I left the Island. Good bye Parris Island, see you in 10 days!