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Today's word on journalism

Monday, January 29, 2007

Words as weapons:

"When he had a pen in his hand it was like giving a kid a machine gun."

--Peter Hall, theater director, on "Angry Young Man" playwright John Osborne (1929-1994)

My 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 courses.

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 down.

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.


Copyright 1997-2005 Utah State University Department of Journalism & Communication, Logan UT 84322, (435) 797-1000
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