More than 2,000 family and friends of new marines traveled to Parris Island, South Carolina to see 397 men graduate from boot camp and the ceremony had all of the pomp and circumstance you would expect.
Captain Patrick Murphy, the Alpha Company Commander, says weather permitting the graduations are outside, however when it rains they are held in a large auditorium. Regardless of the location he says it's a sight to see. "One of the reasons we do graduations like this is because its tradition and a lot of the things we do in the Marine Corps are founded on tradition and some people may not think that that is important, but there are some things that have happened off and on over 230 plus years of the military service and they're written in blood" says Murphy.
All of the recruits wanted to become a marine for a different reason. After seeing his father respond to 9/11, Private Roberto Mas, a marine from Goshe, New York wanted to serve and now feels he can. "You don't feel like a marine until you get right to this point here, even though you have your eagle, globe, and anchor because recruit training is over and I feel like the most proud person in the world" says Mas. His father Robert Mas says he is in fact is the proudest person on graduation day. "The patriotism that's instilled in me and in him, its overwhelming the emotions I had when he told me he was going into the marines. Today I couldn't be any prouder" says Mas.
Private First Class Aaron Keene, a marine from Sebastian, Florida says the 12-week transformation from civilian to marine life was a challenge. "I thought that I would come in here and I thought it would be easy because I was in good shape, but just like mentally it was a really tough thing to do.
The Parris Island Recruit Depot has anywhere from 2,500-8,000 recruits at a time and hold graduations several times a year. Private Christian Herrera from Allentown, Pennsylvania says he was a little nervous for graduation day to start because of the pressure to get every move correct. "Everyone is very anxious because we've been waiting for this day for so long, it seemed like it would never come" says Herrera.
The ceremony itself included marines marching to ceremonial music, a speech to the audience about what their loved ones have been through and what to expect when they get their marine home, top marines receiving an award, and more. When the graduation ceremony was over, marines quickly found their family. "It was actually pretty hard not to cry, it was so amazing to finally see them because that's all I've wanted to do for the last three months" says Pfc. Keene.
After graduation new marines get 10 days off and when their break is up, the real work begins. Marines immediately report to the School of Infantry East near Camp LeJeune, North Carolina. After infantry training and depending on their military occupational specialty, they move on to more infantry training or military occupational school.
Marine leaders say the experience of boot camp and the changes they've experienced over the past three months have bonded the marines as brothers for life.