"Today you people are no longer maggots. Today you are Marines. You're part of a brotherhood."
-Full Metal Jacket
Throughout the three months you spend in Boot Camp, Graduation Day is the one that you fantasize about the most. You plan what you are going to do when you get home, you dream about sleeping in past 6, you look forward to giving your body a rest, and you curse your friends that went into the Navy, Army and Air Force because they made it home before you did. When THE DAY finally arrives, it's almost a shock.
The first part of the day is practice. You go through the whole ceremony early in the morning just like you have the entire week. It's a very tedious process, because they insist on going through every little thing that you are going to do during the ceremony. But once the practice is done with, you are sent back to the squad bay to change over in your Deltas then marched to the Chapel. We were left alone for about an hour in the chapel. The adrenaline was flowing, we were excited in spite of how boring this was because we knew that we were going home soon.
The ceremony began promptly at 11, which is one of the few things I can think of in Boot Camp that began promptly. We marched into position and waited through all the speeches. Foremost in all of our minds was the mantra of It's almost over. We're almost home. We were marched closer to the reviewing stand for the retiring of the Guidon as well as more speeches.
Then came the one sentence that my Platoon had been waiting for. Senior Drill Instructor Staff Sergeant Soria looked at us and barked:
We took one step back. "AYE, AYE, SIR!!" then did a perfect about face. "OOH RAH!"
Once that was done, we raced towards the stands to meet our families. As soon as we were reunited, we moved like hell to get our seabags and garment bags in the waiting cars. I have never loaded a car faster in my life.
On a side note, I did have a conversation with Drill Instructor Sgt. Abigania as we were heading towards the gear. The man was one of the most merciless towards me in my three months at San Diego and I finally had a chance to talk with him. I thanked him for everything he had done and will never forget his response:
"You did it all on your own. All I did was point you in the right direction."
It was one of those moments that will remain with me forever.