Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Around Town: New Marines step up to the Crucible

Driving down to San Diego and listening to the war news on the radio, it’s easy to focus on the decrepit state of our interstate highways. Just past Disneyland, the I-5 starts falling apart. Who will fix it? Does anyone know?

The news drones on. Syria. Iraq. Libya. The CIA is on the ground, says one station. The CIA is not on the ground, says another.

Meanwhile, fish from Asia is being tested for radiation. Hamas is shooting rockets at Israel, and the budget is out of balance.

Soon, we arrive at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot, affectionately known as MCRD and less affectionately known as something worse.

It is a sunlit morning. The Crucible is almost over. We hear chants in the distance.

The Crucible is the final test for a Marine recruit. It is a 54-hour challenge of endurance, teamwork and skills. It is designed to push recruits to their limits, but through courage, perseverance and commitment, the platoon will together earn the title of “Marine.”

Retired news journalist Dan Rather never graduated from Marine boot camp;he was medically discharged before completion. Despite this, Rather often referred to himself as a Marine, which earned him a place in B.G. Burkitt's opus on the painful subject of fake military credentials. The book is called “Stolen Valor.”

But there's no “phony vets” today at MCRD. The sound of chanting grows louder, and we hear the cheers of parents and friends as another group of recruit platoons reaches Marines status.

Moms and dads mill around. Some are on the parade grounds, looking for a glimpse of their kids. Others wander through the food court.

We have no one graduating today. We came on board for a meeting. I make a quick stop at the exchange to buy a USMC stuffed bear for the Torres golf auction and then I split.

The sun is shining. The air is soft against my skin. The ocean is near and my hair is starting to curl. I hear the sound of jets in the distance.

The families continue to gather. Their sons have been at boot camp for nearly two months. Civilians, dressed in jeans, weird shirts and bad haircuts wander the base. There are Marines everywhere, even drill instructors, sporting their high and tight haircuts.

They say Marines are “the first to go and last to know,” but with three wars, most of us are in the dark.

Meanwhile, the drill instructors continue to train the next generation. Forty-seven percent of our Marines today are under 21.

Their shoes are polished. Their slacks are pressed. They exhibit precision in all things. They take care of each other.

It's called “Semper Fi.”

ANITA SUSAN BRENNER is a longtime La Cañada Flintridge resident and an attorney with Law Offices of Torres and Brenner in Pasadena. E-mail her at

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