brother's no longer a kid - he's a Marine
By Kathryn Kemp
December 1, 2006 | When my younger
brother left for Marines boot camp three months ago,
I was terrified. I didn't know what would happen to
him. I wondered what kind of person he would become
and if he would lower his standards and change his values.
I even worried that he would be influenced to get a
tattoo. My concerns haunted me over those months, but
little did I know I had nothing to worry about.
He has now completed the longest
and most difficult military training in the world: 13
weeks of boot camp at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot
in San Diego. Thirteen weeks of being yelled at every
day and having to shout so much himself that by the
end he barely had a voice. Thirteen weeks of push-ups,
sit-ups, pull-ups and running until you throw up and
then picking up the pace. He learned to shoot a gun
better than anyone in the Army (so they say), hiked
mountains with a 60-pound pack on his back (sometimes
it was 80, if the Drill Instructor made them put rocks
in that day) and fought his way through impossible obstacle
But at boot camp he was trained in
more than just physical fitness and combat skills --
he was taught to stand straight and tall and to hold
himself and other Marines to the highest moral standards.
He was taught confidence in himself and others. He was
told to honor his parents and take care of his family.
He learned patience and respect. He was trained not
just to be a good soldier, but to be a good man.
These aren't just things a person
forgets, like when you leave a school classroom and
go back to real life. These are things he has carried
with him as he has left boot camp-- and it's changed
him for the best.
In many ways he's still the same
independent and quirky 18-year-old kid he was before.
He still listens to punk music like Streetlight Manifesto
and The Mighty Mighty Bostones, and he still turns up
the bass in his car when he listens to them. He still
likes to kick around a soccer ball and run around in
shorts and bare feet no matter how cold the weather
is. He still teases and tickles his sisters and picks
fights with his brother, just because he knows he can.
But he has now gained a deeper perspective on life.
He learned to love his family and appreciate his religion
in ways that he hadn't before, and is now grateful for
the things he had taken for granted at home.
As a typical 18-year-old kid he once
thought family time was "lame," the parents didn't know
anything and he didn't need anyone but his friends.
His friends knew he joined the Marine Corps before we
did. His first letter home said he'd try to keep us
updated, but if we didn't hear from him we should call
his best friend and she'd tell us how things were going.
That's what kind of a person he was when he left. But
it didn't last long.
We got a letter from him every week,
and never once had to contact his friends for an update
-- they had to contact us for one. Only a few weeks
out he began counting down the days until he came home
again. He told us the Marines teach them that family
are the most important people in your life, and when
all is said and done, they're they only ones you can
count on. He found that to be true in his months at
boot camp. High school friends come and go, but it was
us, his family, that was consistent and never let him
The values he was taught showed right
away. He walked with our mom on his left, holding her
arm and escorting her. He opened the door for her every
time we got into a car. While we were sitting down to
lunch one day, as he was pulling out our mom's chair
he said to the youngest brother, "get your sister's
chair for her." And instead of getting upset when our
youngest brother was being annoying, which is what always
happened before, he calmly and patiently explained to
him why he needed to do better.
All of these things he would have
never done in the past.
The changes in him and his values
are small, but they are significant. They are making
him a better person that will be respected and admired
by others. I never would have thought the military would
be a place that would teach him something so important,
and it has changed my perspective as well. Now I know
the standards he has been taught to value are ones to
be proud of.
My brother and his fellow recruits
had to earn the right to call themselves Marines. They
had to prove they have what it takes, not just physically
but mentally and emotionally as well. My brother earned
his rank through hard work, honesty and respect. After
13 weeks, he is no longer Recruit Kemp, he has become
Private First Class Kemp. It's official -- and I am
no longer afraid. I am proud to call myself the sister
of a United States Marine.