Thanks to David Reuis of Barnwell for sharing the story of a special day in his family: the day he watched his brother Jeremy become a Marine.
The brothers were reared in nearby Allendale, so a lot of family joined the celebration: David's wife, Morgan; their parents, Marshall and Lisa Reuis of Allendale; grandparents Nix and Peggy Loadholt of Allendale; sister April Reuis of Beaufort; aunt Sandy Monts and uncle Douglas Monts, both of Beaufort; and aunt, Lori Martin of Hilton Head Island.
"My Brother, The Marine"
By David Reuis
Today is Aug. 31. Hurricane Isaac is making its way through the Gulf of Mexico, but there isn't a cloud in the sky here on the South Carolina coast.
I have driven from Barnwell to Beaufort many times before. However, today the adventure feels new and exciting. As I drive through the small towns between my home and my destination, my mind reflects on the past.
I remember the days my brother and I got into an occasional argument and even exchanged a few shoves from time to time. I realize how much our friendship has grown, and I reflect on the day he stood beside me as the best man in my wedding. We could spend hours and hours making each other laugh, even through serious conversations.
Today, my wife and I are driving to his Marine Corps graduation. We take a very familiar left outside Yemassee onto Old Sheldon Church Road. This road always has been a checkpoint on my trips to Beaufort. I'm almost there. I didn't even notice going over the annoying railroad tracks that force you to slow down. The old oak trees that form a canopy over the road are a blur, and the traffic in front of me is my worst enemy. The anticipation is blinding.
For as many summers as we have spent in Beaufort, I have never before set foot on Parris Island. We make the turn to get onto the island, and I realize I don't even remember driving through Beaufort. I am bursting with pride. As we pull down the long road, I think about how my first impression of Parris Island must differ from most of its guests. Although I admire the precision of the Marines in uniform working the guard gate, or stare at the absolute beauty of the palmetto trees that line the marsh on either side of the road, I assume most of the young men and women who are in this very spot for the first time have too much of an unknowing fear to appreciate its beauty.
We finally get through the long line and find a parking place, only to be greeted by another long line of proud family members and friends trying to get to the parade deck in time for the graduation ceremony. The Marines working the metal detectors are stoic and seem to appreciate the fact that you are there. It should be me who appreciates what they do. We all should. The humble confidence in their faces and the knowledge in their eyes make me feel safe as an American.
The parade deck is essentially a vacant parking lot. One side is lined with bleachers and hundreds of spectators. The opposite side has a few trees and three flagpoles in the center. The stars and stripes stand higher than the rest. Although I complain about the heat at 8:30 in the morning, I remember that my brother arrived at the island in early June. He has endured 13 weeks of boot camp in one of the hottest South Carolina summers I can remember. My complaints quickly turn to respect.
The "green" Marines enter from the far right corner, perfectly marching to their drill instructors' orders. I fail to pick out my brother in the crowd of more than 600 recruits who will graduate that morning, until the very end. The sound of the Parris Island Marine Band playing in the background and the muffled chatter of parents and friends almost fade away as I start counting columns and rows in search for my brother.
The graduation ceremony, when recruits are first recognized publicly as Marines, is the same today as it was forever ago and will be the same forever in the future. My brother now is a part of that ongoing tradition. As the ceremony ends, the Marines receive the last and probably most anticipated order from their drill instructors yet:
"Marines! You are dismissed!"
The crowd erupts in applause, and a stampede to find their uniform-clad loved ones follows. I search for my brother. He looks good. There is a newfound, and well-deserved, confidence in his eyes. He looks sharp, uniform neatly pressed and his head held high. No more fear. No more vulnerability.
Today I have more feelings and emotions flowing through me than I can ever remember having. For a brief moment, I feel disappointed that I am the only man in my family not to serve, but the feeling quickly passes because I am reminded that today, I am a proud brother.
My little brother made a decision that was bigger than himself and put his everything into achieving a goal.
And for the first time, I feel like he doesn't need me any longer.
He has grown into a man who will set his own path and go places I've never gone, experience things I've never experienced. If he hits a wall, he has been trained to look at himself for a solution, not call his older brother for help. He knows he can achieve anything in the world, not because some teacher or parent told him that when he was younger, but because he has proved it to himself.
He has taught me the lesson of determination, a lesson I was supposed to teach him.
Jeremy, I could not be more proud of you. I hope when you encounter the annoying railroad tracks in life, you remember to slow down and appreciate where you are and how you got there.