It seems like a lifetime since I’d walked this road. In actuality it’s only been a couple of years. Growing up, my father told me about how he, my grandfather and great grandfather joined the United States Marine Corps after high school. He told me about the personal rewards of service, the training, how the Marines become a second family, about how you gain friends and brothers from your very first day and the bonds you share… how you’ll give your life for them and how they’d do the same for you.

He also told me about the horrors of war, the deaths, the chaos of it all, even to this day he has nightmares about what he did and what he saw. I guess I do too. But we get through it, we carry it with us because that’s what we were trained to do.

I enlisted not long after high school. My dad was proud, gave me the same advice his father had given him as well as some of the lessons that he had learned when he was a marine. My mom wasn’t too thrilled about watching her eldest fly the nest, especially in a military uniform. But according to my dad, she came around. She knew it was what I wanted… I guess her maternal instincts always had a hold on her though.

I guess my sisters were like my mom, they didn’t want me going off and getting hurt, but I guess they didn’t fully understand my reasons either. We wrote and sent videos all the same. I was always a part of their lives, looking back though I really wish I could’ve watched them grow up.

But I’ve served my country, shed blood and sweat in the name of peace and freedom. My honourable discharge papers are filed, so I’m just a civilian again… they say there’s no such thing as an ex-marine, but what am I now? Who am I?

“Mom! He’s here!” I heard the same call that I was greeted with the last time I was here. Two weeks leave a couple of years back. The most fun I’d ever had on leave. I helped my Dad with his carpentry business. Drove my sisters to and from school, went shopping with mom, spent time with my old high school buddies, fishing, football, hiking in the mountains… it was great. I was looking forward to doing it again. But I guess I had to take things one day at a time.