Pätrick Cripps Marine Graduation Part 1

He did it! My son persevered the dreaded Crucible and earned the title, United States Marine. On Sunday, Pearl Harbor Day, he got to make one five minute phone call. It was the first time I’d heard his voice in thirteen weeks. I expected him to sound very different, but he was still very much my Pätrick Henry.

Jen and I planned to leave Tuesday morning, December 9th, for his graduation ceremony. We got everything ready and packed up the Jeep Monday evening. We were too excited to sleep. On a whim we decided to head out right away and drive all night. We figured we could spend the day photographing the most beautiful city in America…Savannah, Georgia.

We arrived in Savannah just as the sun was rising and headed downtown to the waterfront. I did manage to take a few photos, including the spot where the Forrest Gump “bench scenes” were filmed. We had some breakfast and coffee then made a stop at the Colonial Cemetery, which contains some Revolutionary War vets. Since it was bitingly cold we made the decision to head on to Beaufort, South Carolina. You can’t rush photography, and Savannah definitely deserves better. Maybe next time…

In Beaufort, I stumbled upon a really kewl cemetery surrounding the old St. Helena Episcopal Church (established 1712). I somehow missed this fantastic slice of history on prior visits to Beaufort. Even though it was still quite cold, Jen and I took a few photos before heading to the motel room. I will post some of the shots in the next few days.

Orientation Day

Wednesday was Orientation Day. We attended a briefing where female Marines showed a few videos and discussed the ins and outs of Boot Camp. They also described how Marines differed from other branches of service. It was very interesting. I never really knew just how unique the Marines are. As for Boot Camp, I knew things were difficult but I came away with a greater appreciation of what it means to be a “Devil Dawg.”

Hunting Island

Hunting Island South CarolinaWe had the remainder of the day to kill so we made the trip over the Hunting Island where the Vietnam portions of Forrest Gump were filmed. The main reason for the trip was to hike some of the trails and shoot some photographs. I had searched the area’s best photo ops before leaving and felt like I needed to pay Hunting Island a visit.

My wife and I felt like visiting this State Park was better than a trip to Disney World. It was breathtakingly beautiful. There are many hiking trails throughout the island, a long stretch of Atlantic Ocean beach, a large lagoon, and a very tall lighthouse which you are allowed to climb. One part of the beach has been historically susceptible to massive erosion. The result is dozens and dozens of palmetto, oak, and pine trees “artistically” littered along the beach. I could have spent weeks moving in and out of the “lovely mess” composing photographs. Alas, we had to rush as we wanted to hike the longest trail.

We started on the 2 mile Maritime Forest Trail which cut through the forest, dissecting the island. My wife marveled at the palms growing among the pines and oaks. Even the underbrush was acres of palmettos. Back home, yaupons and Chinese privet provide ugly and invasive underbrush.

Once we reached the end of the island, we decided to take the Lagoon Access Trail back to the parking area. This gave us the opportunity to take in the beautiful lagoon while not trekking back through the trail we had already seen. The lagoon was beautiful and I would have loved to have had some time to properly photograph it. As it was, we were walking fast to make it out of the woods before sunset.

In the next few days I will post a large gallery of photos from the afternoon at Hunting Island.

Family Day

Thursday was Family Day. The proud parents of the 449 graduating Marines gathered in their six platoons at All Weather Facility to get the first glimpse of their sons in thirteen weeks. After the obligatory presentations and acknowledgments the troops marched in and stood at parade rest.

These Marines had spent all of their varied lives in training. They were taught at home, in church and in school. Some were brought up with strict discipline while others grew in a lax atmosphere. Some were raised in wealthy families while others struggled in poverty. Despite all the preexisting conditions, they were now acting as a well trained unit.

The average age of the recruits was right at the 19-20 year old mark. All of the training of the prior two decades almost appeared dim compared to the well-disciplined Hotel Company. How could these drill instructors accomplish so much in just three months? The proof was in the pudding. Now everyone that started out was there to graduate. Pätrick told me that only three of the six recruits that went with him were graduating. Two were sent back and one was dropped due to lying about past drug usage.

After the ceremony, the parents were allowed to snag their sons for three and a half hours of liberty. Pätrick looked very confident and fit. He had gained 25 pounds during the three months at Parris Island. It all went to muscle as there was not an ounce of fat on him.

He took us to his barracks to pick up his bags and then we were off to the food court for some pizza. He talked of all the cravings he was having and how he couldn’t wait to get home on leave. He had lots of stories to tell but most of them had to wait until the drive home. Since we had little time we headed to a secluded park on base and chatted until it was time to “turn him back in.”

We watched the practice parade for the Graduation Ceremony and left for the day. We will continue the story in the next article… “To The Shores of Tripoli.”

Photo Credits: all photos ©2014 John Cripps & Jennifer Cripps
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