30 Lessons I Learned from My U.S. Marine Dad
Any child of a military man or woman can probably relate to the many tidbits of wisdom my father passed down to me over the years. Having served two voluntary tours in Vietnam, Dad was chock full of wisdom and stories from years of being shot at and sleeping with his head in the dirt. Although many non-military children are taught a lot of these same values, my father was privy to experiences that are simply impossible to come by unless you've been on the front lines of a war or combat situation.
In honor of the Marine Corps Birthday (Nov. 10) and Veterans Day (Nov. 11), here are some of the basics of Military Family Boot Camp, which I participated in from the day I was born.
1. Loyalty. From the day he joined to the day he died, my father was a U.S. Marine, even though he was honorably discharged in 1970. If the rest of us showed this kind of staying power with our friends and careers, imagine what we could accomplish.
2. Cleanliness. If time in boot camp teaches a person anything, it's that we should respect our possessions and homes enough to take proper care of them.
3. Importance of family. Watching your friends get injured and killed really makes a person appreciate those he loves most.
4. Appreciate your bed! My dad and his comrades-in-arms slept, quite literally, with their heads in the dirt for years.
5. Traumatic situations take time to recover from. Wars don't just fade into the background once they're over. Veterans deserve our respect and understanding as they work through their feelings.
6. Marine Corps Green is the best color -- ever.
7. Most people have no idea how to salute. Seriously, don't try this in front of a soldier unless you've been schooled on the proper form.
8. A real Marine never loses his shooting skills. My dad once came home from the firing range all disheartened that he'd only shot with 99% accuracy. Most of the rest of us can't fire with 1% accuracy.
9. Why get up at 6 a.m. when you can rise at 5? I've grudgingly come to accept the old adage that "the early bird catches the worm."
10. Sacrifice. Plenty of enlisted men and women don't exactly long to be away from friends and family for months or years on end, but they do it to protect our freedom and the rights of others.
11. His birthday might have been February 9, but his true birthday is November 10 (the Marine Corps Birthday). Happy Birthday, Daddy! I shall eat cake in your honor.
12. War is the gift that keeps on giving. In 2006, my father was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a blood cancer that he probably contracted thanks to Agent Orange exposure in Vietnam. This and similar stories are all too common, which is why...
13. Veterans deserve every benefit they get, and then some. From healthcare to burial benefits, if the federal government ever tries to take anything away from our veterans I'll be the first one peacefully picketing the Capitol.
14. It is okay to acknowledge your weaknesses. Not everyone can be a general, just like not every excels at mathematics. He understood that I couldn't be good at everything, and was satisfied as long as I tried my best.
15. The only acceptable tattoos depict the eagle, globe and anchor (Marine Corps insignia). He never got one, but he appreciated others who did. Other than that, he thought the intentional scarring of one's body was ridiculous and unnecessary. To each his own, right?
16. Even small gifts are appreciated during deployment. Ever wonder if soldiers actually read those cards and supplies that you and your kids mail every so often? They do -- especially the soldiers that don't receive much from their families.
17. People make mistakes. The trick is in learning from them and not making the same dumb decisions over and over again.
18. Occasionally, your temper will get the best of you. Don't hesitate to apologize, unless you want to make things worse.
19. Discipline is key. Too many kids and adults run wild and expect to be able to do whatever they want. Life just doesn't work that way, unless your end desire is a not-so-comfy jail cell.
20. War movies rock. One wouldn't think a veteran would enjoy war films, but he watched every single one.
Photo: yurilong/Creative Commons
21. Fireworks sound like bombs. Every year on the 4th of July I feel terrible for veterans that are bombarded with the noise of incessant fireworks for days on end.
22. Education is vital. Thanks to the G.I. Bill and other military benefits, soldiers are given every opportunity to further their education both during enlistment and in the years following.
23. Exercise, exercise, exercise. Many military men and women value the lessons in physical fitness learned in boot camp for the rest of their lives, unlike many of the rest of us.
24. Enjoy life! Sure, the world is full of suffering and trauma, but we all need to take a step back and do the things we enjoy.
25. Mortality is fleeting. He knew that firsthand from his years in combat. When he died, not a single person who truly mattered to him doubted his love, which brings me to...
26. Children are the best way to ensure that you truly live forever. Even if you never have biological children of your own, passing down your values and wisdom to a niece, nephew or adopted child will ensure that a bit of you will last for years to come.
27. All pets should be given a Marine Corps-appropriate name. My father's bulldog Gunny lives with us now, and he is easily the most popular member of our household.
28. Military affiliation is similar to an athletic rivalry in that you must always good-naturedly rib someone from another branch, like the Navy or Air Force.
29. Sometimes we all just need to fall in line. Sure, there are times when we must stand out on our own, but not a lot would get done if people didn't follow leadership well.
30. It doesn't matter how much you oppose a specific war - you should never oppose the veterans who served.
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