Those words continuously swirled in my brain, knocking me off balance like some type of pinball going for the high score while it painfully clanged around the synapses inside my skull. But that’s not what was really making my head hurt. That would be the ginormous Marine who stepped on the Greyhound screaming “get off my bus!”Drill instructors barked and recruits scrambled to the yellow footprints.
That’s when the real fun began.
Anyone who has served in the United States Marine Corps will have absolutely no problem identifying with the chaos and sheer intensity of those first moments that served as the genesis for earning the title of Marine. It’s a memory that is scored into your mind’s eye for the rest of your days. Whether you made the Corps a career, or like myself, you served one term, the lessons we learned as Marines will never be forgotten. And when we think back to the beginning, you’ll notice that we don’t lament the day our feet stood on those yellow footprints. We smile. We share a funny story. We laugh about how often we found ourselves in the sandpit. And we regard our drill instructors with a respect and thankfulness that back then, we never would have thought possible. But what is it about the Corps that still bands us together? What is it about our experiences that have connected us all? Why is it that when others see a Marine, they see a determination and inner strength that is mirrored in all Marines?
It comes from the three core values that Marines hold sacred above all other values. Honor. Courage. Commitment. These are the lessons we can learn from Leathernecks.
Above all, Marines are taught they are to live by a strict code of integrity. This isn't just about not lying and cheating. This is about treating others with dignity and respect. Recognizing that accountability isn't just something to expect from others, it’s demanded from one’s self. Commitment and dedication to being honest and truthful aren't just words. They are actions that are to be practiced every single day.
“Fear is weakness leaving the body.” That’s a great line to get ourselves pumped up, but what does it really mean? It has to do with having not only the physical courage, but the mental courage to do what is right – regardless of the outcome. It’s an understanding that sometimes tough decisions have to be made and that the right choice will not always be the easy choice. And many times that means putting the needs of others before your own.
Simply put – don’t give up. This is the determination to continue when everybody else has already thrown in the towel. This is the dedication to see things through, even when others no longer see the point. This is the promise that Marines make to themselves and to others that they will not quit. They will see things through to the end. And they will not leave anyone behind.
These are the lessons from the Leathernecks. We needn't have had the experience of the yellow footprints to learn from them, but we should learn from them nonetheless.