On the way home from annual training, I stopped at Wendy’s for lunch. As I was eating, I overheard a conversation between the young man who had served me and another customer. It turned out that the customer was, like me, a former U. S. Marine–and the server was getting ready to ship to Marine Recruit Training (“Boot Camp”) in San Diego, CA. The former Marine had attended Boot at Parris Island, SC and was making the typical pained noises about “Hollywood Marines,” so I got up quickly and introduced myself as a graduate of San Diego. I returned to my seat, from which I heard him deliver his parting lesson: the best way to make it through Boot was to “keep your head down and blend in to the background.”
After some thought, I got up from my salad and walked back to the counter. There were no other customers in line, so I called the young man over to talk. “I’m going to disagree with my fellow Marine,” I said. The young man smiled uncertainly. “No matter how well you try to blend in, you will get attention from the Drill Instructors. I say, if your platoon is doing something that you can do balls-to-the-wall and really show your stuff, do it. Not just because your platoon will respect you for it, but because no matter what you do for the rest of your life, I guarantee you that you will remember Marine Corps Boot Camp. So you might as well make it a memory worth having.
“What you can’t do is, A) Get injured–they’ll recycle you, which would suck–and B) Take it personally. No matter how personal your Drill Instructors try to make it, telling you that the platoon is out island-hopping because of something that you did, it’s just a game. The platoon is out island-hopping because island-hopping is on the schedule. It’s just your day to find out how you stand up under the pressure, and taking it personally makes it worse.
“Good luck in my Corps, and I know you will do great things.”