Sent by Jay

Marines and Friends: I wanted to share an experience I had while I was on leave recently. I was hanging out with a former Marine buddy of mine and mentioned that I wanted to visit the Iwo Jima and Vietnam Memorials while I was home. I do my best to visit them every time I'm home or at least once a year. He said he wanted to go, too and that I should wear my Blues.

We visited the Iwo Jima Memorial, the new Korean Memorial (it's beautiful), and ended at the Wall. We had both done very well to keep our composure. We did have one incident where we yelled at some kids playing tag around the base of our beloved Marine Corps Memorial, but that's all.

Standing near the center of the Wall, next to a mother and her 12-13 yr. old son. I noticed tears in her eyes, but she was doing her best to hold them back. The boy pointed at me and asked his mother , “He's a Marine like Uncle so-and-so, isn't he?” She nodded. The boy walked up to the Wall, touched a name and returned. He said, “Why is Uncle so-and-so's name up there, again?” Mom replied, “This is the Vietnam Memorial. All the people who died over there are listed here.”

“It sure is a lot.”

“Yes Honey, it was a very horrible war.” I looked at my buddy. His eyes were getting misty, as were mine. Then the kid tapped me on the sleeve. When I looked at him, he said something that I will never forget, “I'm still not sure what all this about, but thank you for being a Marine like my Uncle.” THAT'S when the three of us lost it.

About six people around us quickly joined in. During the next 15 minutes, I received more handshakes and thank-you's than I can count, was hugged by three people I had never met, and I smartly returned a few salutes to little ones. I have never felt more proud of being a Marine! Tears were streaming down my face, yet my chest was bigger than it was on Graduation Day.

It is very easy to get upset at the Corps when we see civilians making more money than us for the same job. It is easy to become disheartened when we haven't seen our loved ones in who knows how long. It is easy to become disgruntled when we ask for east coast and end up at Camp Pendleton instead. It is very easy to get caught up in our daily lives and forget why we swore that oath in the first place.

I know there is not an overwhelming love for the military these days. It is hard to remember the last time I went off base when I didn't encounter at least one turned-up nose, a “Harumph”, or an “Oh God, not another Marine,” but that's why I'm here. To help defend the freedoms that allow them to scoff at me. That group of people and a simple thank-you from a half-pint kid reminded me why I joined.

To those of you still serving, I want to thank you. Not everyone in the country may respect you, but I do. I am very proud to be a part of your team…a part of the finest fighting force in the world. To those of you who came before me, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart. If it were not for the sacrifices you made, I would not be here today making the sacrifices I make to help defend our beautiful country so that a young boy could grow up as I did…FREE.

Semper Fi,
Etienne “TN” Sullivan