Upon arrival at the main entrance of Marine Corps Boot Camp on Parris Island, S.C., the gates opened into another world. Being fresh out of high school, I thought this world of the unknown resembled the Bastille. The lights at the main gate shone brilliantly like miniature suns, turning night into day and causing the barbs of the fence to twinkle in the cold night. A German shepherd with an immaculate coat and strong, well-defined muscles walked beside his clean-shaven master. A sense of unbelievable reverence and sheer terror overcame me. From that moment on, my transformation from a boy to a man was inevitable.
Beads of sweat ran down my forehead as my heart began to pound as if I were finishing the 100-yard dash. The palms of my hands were cold and clammy as this unimaginable drama began to unfold. Dreadful, unprecedented terror ran through me, similar to what I imagined I would feel standing in a strange dark room unsure of my sense of direction. This made me wonder, "Was this the right choice?" As the bus turned to stop in front of an enormous fortress, the red clay bricks seemed to jump out as the light of the bus glided across the silky, smooth surface of the receiving barracks, where all raw recruits began this metamorphosis.
In the distance, a drill instructor with enormous arms and a chest that filled out every inch of the khaki short-sleeve shirt wore olive green trousers that swayed over dress shoes resembling polished onyx. This domineering presence approached the bus like a rolling thunder cloud unexpectedly engulfing a prairie. As he swung open the elaborate steel doors, fiery eyes glared out from under a Smokey the Bear hat. This omnipotent god boarded the bus and barked out orders with the voice of a possessed demon, commanding all recruits to leave the bus. Scrambling to evacuate the bus as though fleeing a burning building, my body trembled, unsure whether this was because of the cool night air or my fear of this sudden transformation into adulthood.
I stood there shivering like a leaf, waiting for the heavy voice of manhood to engulf and mold me into a man; this forging of mind and body would soon take hold and overwhelm all who dared to travel this road of unheard terror. Yet, this particular path to adulthood was necessary to overcome any adversity. For this challenge was met by a boy and conquered by a Marine.