PARRIS ISLAND, S.C. — “Keep your mouth shut, do as you are told.”

With that phrase clearly stated at our dinner tonight, we wait for tomorrow. The headline statement comes from Colonel Grabowski, chief of staff at Parris Island Recruiting Depot. With great anticipation, a group of educators from North Carolina and Virginia that now totals nearly 40 will head out for their first day of a simulated basic training. It is certainly going to be an interesting day. More about that later, but I will recap today first.
Our busload of about 20 North Carolina educators left Raleigh shortly after 6 a.m. for a more than five-hour bus ride. Shortly before leaving, I was fortunate to meet and speak at length with Sgt. Major Jim Lanham. One big word that came from his talk was “opportunity,” a word that I heard several more times during the day. After lunch, we checked in our hotel. Rather quickly, a group of four of us went for a nice run around downtown. It was warm, in the upper 70s, as Richard Taylor, Sgt. Dwight Henderson, and our new friend, Amanda French, cruised the downtown historic district. Many beautiful antebellum homes and a picturesque waterfront made for some wonderful sightseeing, just before we all stopped for ice cream. I haven't shaken that habit yet. French is a science teacher from High Point.
We met a lot of great Marines today, and it is very easy to be inspired by them. Maj. Brandon Gorman, commanding officer for a recruiting station in Raleigh, addressed the group on the way to dinner.
Colonel Grabowski gave a stirring speech about the pride that he has in Marine Corps and his 38 years of service. He called Parris Island “hallowed ground,” and explained why.
”I'm intoxicated with being able to associate with these recruits, the best and brightest,” he said. “These are the highest quality men and women, hand picked for extensive training.”
He continued with his thoughts on why the educators would be able to express to today's students about the real Marine Corps, asking everyone to open up their blinders about the perception of the most extensive boot camp in today's military.
At our meal tonight, Richard Taylor and I, along with our two table mates from Virginia were able to question Sgt. Andrew Miller about his service so far. Sgt. Miller is from Beech Grove, Tenn., and has served the Marine Corps for 13 years. He plans to make the Marine Corps a career. Already, he has served in Afghanistan and Japan. So far, he has spent four years overseas. Gunnery Sgt. Miller said, “I think the best thing about my service is the opportunity. I had the opportunity to make myself grow up, to make a good life for my family, and have our kids experience different cultures. My wife probably loves our lifestyle in the Marines as much as I do. While it is not for everybody, the Marine Corps life works for us.” Sgt. Miller told of returning to his high school for his first reunion, recounting how there was a long line to talk to the only Marine in attendance.
Tomorrow we start the day taking Colonel Grabowski's words to heart as we are up early to get meet our own drill instructors. I am expecting lots of eyes focused on what they say. Then there is a whole day of experiencing little pieces of boot camp life, including a thrill for me of getting to sit in a the cockpit of the F/A-18 fighter jet. It is going to be a great day.

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