Author: 'Cherish' Your Enlistment
Patrick Turley, the author of “Welcome To Hell: Three and a Half Months of Marine Corps Boot Camp" reflects on his time as a Marine.
I’ve been sitting here on the morning of my book’s, “Welcome To Hell: Three and a Half Months of Marine Corps Boot Camp,” release reflecting on this process and trying to figure out what’s appropriate to write for this outlet.
After all, the Marine Corps holds a special place in the minds of our nation, an aura of invincibility, but it’s a deserved reputation by containing the greatest men in the world. What outsiders don’t understand is that the true backbone of the Marine Corps isn’t forged by training, but in these unfathomable alien moments where bonds are strengthened by horrible circumstances.
In boot camp, we learn how to drill and how to shoot and condition our bodies, but we also learn how it feels to taste the blood in your mouth as you bite your cheeks, fighting to maintain your bearing as your Drill Instructor promises that he’s going to punch your rack-mate in the throat for asking a stupid question.
We know how it feels to drink our water bull’s until we covered the deck in a forceful jet stream of vomit, and to be counted down in the showers and lose any moments of modesty. We know how it feels to use our filthy scuzz-brushes to brush our clothes in a cement trough with a dime-sized drop of Purex and to lay awake at night wondering who took your war belt and what you’d do to not be the one singled out in the morning.
So people don’t understand because the concept of constructive maltreatment is so foreign… but it’s vital. Vital to the Marine Corps and, by extension, America itself.
I’ve had some amazing and frustrating experiences in this process. Having a former Commandant personally thank you for your service and tell you they love your book is just amazing, but the publishing process on the whole is one of the more frustrating things I’ve experienced.
Still, I didn’t take on this project to tell my story and I don’t view this as a memoir book. I think of it as a nostalgia book. All those stressful moments that consumed every waking moment for the three longest months of our lives become fun and fond memories through the comfort of hindsight. I wanted there to be something we could share outside of casually comparing stories at the smoke pit or bar and arguing about Parris Island versus “Hollywood” (Hollywood is harder, by the way). It’s a chance to start changing perspectives too, and getting the public’s priorities in the right spot.
There’s no reason that America should keep up with the Kardashians because of a sex-tape while the majority of the public doesn’t even know the name “Dakota Meyer.” It’s time we stood up and said, “No,” and put the focus where it belongs with our Medal of Honor, Navy Cross, Silver Star, etc., heroes. Even more than the message, we have the opportunity to make a real difference for people who need it the most. One interview and book at a time, we're raising money and awareness for the Children of Fallen Patriots Foundation and I'd be hard pressed to imagine a more purposeful cause.
Now that I’ve rambled on self-righteously, let me talk about enlistment time. Cherish it. I’m going to say it again just for emphasis, “Cherish it.”
Odds are you hate what you’re doing, but look at the people around you and the tightly-knit bonds that have been created from poor circumstance. These are the best people and friends you’ll ever have. I worked like crazy in my journey from recruit to Sergeant, but looking back the most powerful moments are such a mixed bag. I was caught by fishermen surfing at the Oceanside pier.
I smacked a friend in the testicles while we were in the gas chamber so he’d take a deep breath (do NOT do this). I had a friend break his penis in Iraq. I held an envelope of seeds tightly in my hands; a present from a dying, ten-year-old Iraqi girl who was headed to America to get lifesaving medical treatment. I stared at nothing all night after getting a call that one of my best friends hung himself after we came home from Iraq.
For better or for worse, you are living more now than you will at any other point in your life. Experiencing things the rest of the world can’t even fathom. Nineteen and 20-year-old NCOs are making life and death decisions for their squad. How many college freshmen or trade school kids can say the same?
Take pride in yourself. You’ve earned it.