Late in July, the Norfolk County Marine Corps League held a Bon Voyage party at the VFW, at 193 Dean St. in Norwood. Not your typical Bon Voyage party, this celebration was honoring seven young high school graduates who are joining the US Marine Corps. Young men who could not walk into a local bar and order a beer or in this state could not even walk into a convenience store and buy a pack of cigarettes. Yet at their young age, they have signed a legal document committing the next four years of their lives to protecting their neighbors and their country. How inspiring!
The Master of Ceremonies for the event was former Marine Bill Maguire, and there were a number of other former Marines attending the celebration. As you know, there is no such thing as an X Marine. They were there to welcome and honor these new recruits and offer some wisdom and advice. Their memories and stories of past experiences and times gone by held everyone in awe. For only they knew these new recruits in a few short weeks will be off to Paris Island where their lives will change forever. They will go there as boys and leave there as US Marines with a code like no others. “Oorah!”
I had the chance to talk with each one of these young fellows and they amazed me. Most teens I meet today are clueless. They don’t know where they are or where they are going. If you meet them as a clerk in a store, they couldn’t make change for a five dollar bill if the computer or register didn’t tell them what to return to you. If you took their cell phones away, they would not only be lost but probably start into withdrawal. These kids were different and mature already. Each one knew who they were and what they were after. One of them said he wanted to eventually go on the police force and having military experience would be a giant leap in that direction. Another said something very similar, only he wanted to become a firefighter. One of them had the most astute understanding of his own self and completely floored me with his answer to my question, ‘why do you want to become a Marine.’ His answer was, ‘I was just an average high school student, my grades were OK but not great, and since I’m not the college type I knew I needed a head start in life and I could use the discipline.’ They will probably make this kid a General some day, because at the tender age of 18, he already has a battle plan for life.
They brought in a real Marine Drill Instructor and he put on quite a show. He lined the boys up in the front of the room and gave them and everyone else a taste of what they were in for. He got up close to each and every one of them, shouting in their face ‘your momma’s not going to help you now.’
‘And that hair has got to go… your head is going to look like a baby’s bottom.’ A few of them he made do push ups because they did not answer him ‘Yes Drill Sergeant.’ That brought back memories for the older veterans. Near the end of the evening, Staff Sergeant Derek Edrington, one of the men who recruited some of these young men, gave a rousing speech and confirmed the patriotism of everyone in the room.
Two of the recruits had their grandfathers there. Former Marines themselves, Norwood Town Selectman Bill Plasco welcomed his grandson Colin Plasco, and Russ Walton, Past Commander of the Norwood Post #2452, wanted to welcome his grandson Mathew Spellman. And of course there were many other parents and grandparents there proud as could be, because the old saying is true, “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”