I haven't posted much--actually, I guess, I haven't posted anything--about Austin being at Parris Island for the last three months for Marine Corps basic training. It's been a somewhat surreal experience. It seems more like six months since he left, yet the time has flown by. At first I felt grief, then anxiety, then overwhelming pride and excitement. These latter two emotions have pretty much been the norm. I haven't missed him as much as I have been excited for him and wished that I could talk to him each day to find out what he did, what it was like, how he has liked this or that.
The only communication has been short letters, averaging about one a week, but it's clear from even short letters that he has changed, matured, grown. He's come a long way, and we are all very excited and proud of him.
Tonight is the beginning of the end. At 2 a.m. he will begin The Crucible, the final test before a recruit becomes a Marine. The Crucible is a 54-hour test of endurance, a physically and emotionally challenging event in which, under conditions of sleep and food deprivation, recruits must work as a team to overcome various obstacles. There are 36 stations and 29 problem-solving exercises that must be negotiated, and they will hike a total of 48 miles throughout the event. They will get to eat only 3 MRE's over the course of the 54 hours, and, in addition to their gear, uniform and rifle, they will each carry 45 pounds of equipment during the Crucible.
It ends on Saturday morning with a nine-mile hike. Upon completion, they receive the coveted Eagle and Globe emblem, and they are no longer recruits but Marines.
So, if you're awake tonight at 2 a.m., say a prayer for Austin. And if not, say a prayer when you awake, and occasionally throughout Thursday and Friday.
And I'll keep you posted--pun intended--on each day's activities.
We leave one week from today to see him graduate and to bring him home for 10 days.
And I am going nuts with anticipation and excitement.
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