My grandson Isaac Epps has, if all goes well, 13 days until he graduates from Marine Corps boot camp at Parris Island, S.C. He will have spent 13-plus weeks of the toughest days he has ever, or will ever face. He still faces “The Crucible” next week.
According to sources, “The Marine Crucible is the final test a Marine recruit will go through in the final stage of boot camp, phase 3. Everything that a recruit has been taught will be required to complete the Crucible. It is impossible for a single recruit to complete it alone, emphasizing team work and unity. It is 54 hours of extensive marching (48 miles) with simulated combat testing. Recruits are deprived of food and sleep, wearing recruits thin and forcing them to focus and rely on their teammates and their training. During the entire Crucible, recruits are only given about three MRE’s (Meals Ready To Eat) and a total of four to eight hours of sleep. The soon-to-be Marines go through a series of challenges that test them mentally, physically and even morally.”
Here was my last letter to him:
19 April 2017
They tell me that the last letter needs to be mailed today since you are entering a very important phase of boot camp. So, this is that last letter. You have already accomplished an amazing feat. I was watching the History Channel the other day and, When World War I broke out, the U. S. military had a military force of about 150,000. Only 12,000 of those were Marines, which, the narrator explained, were the only REAL soldiers the U. S. had. And so it has been.
The Marine Corps is a small force in comparison to the rest of the military, and it was always intended to be that way. As you well know, the heritage, history, and reputation of the Marine Corps is legend. And you now stand on the brink of entering into that legacy. I couldn’t be more proud of you. Even now, when people ask me what was my greatest achievement, I always say, “Becoming a United States Marine.” The further away you get from that accomplishment, the prouder you become.
Unlike the rest of your family and most of your friends, I know what it has taken for you to get this far. There is just a little way to go — perhaps, the hardest part of the way. But daylight is now at the end of the tunnel. Don’t slack up and, especially, during the crucible, stay intent and focused. It has all led to this.
The people of the church are behind you and ask about you frequently, During the Prayers of the People, I hear your name called. You have been, and will be, in my prayers several times a day. Members of the Marine Corps League, many of whom are veterans of Vietnam or the desert wars, also ask about you and send their best wishes. They, too, know what it takes. You are not alone as you face this final hurdle.
It is often said, “Once a Marine, always a Marine.” No greater truth has ever been told about the Corps. It will be something you have earned and something no one can take away. It is a title that you will always hold, however long you serve.
God bless you, my beloved grandson. My prayers and thoughts are with you. Finish the job.
[David Epps. a USMC veteran, is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, Sharpsburg, GA (www.ctkcec.org). He is the bishop of the Mid-South Diocese which consists of Georgia and Tennessee (www.midsouthdiocese.org) and the Associate Endorser for the Department of the Armed Forces, U. S. Military Chaplains, ICCEC. He may contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.]