Tomorrow morning is the Boot Camp Challenge at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego. It is a three mile run with seventeen obstacles. There will also be drill instructors on hand to “gently encourage” participants.

I know those drill instructors. I know that “gentle encouragement.” Twenty-one years ago, I was a recruit in Platoon 1099, and I was on the receiving end of that “encouragement.” It was a tough time for a young man just out of high school, and I had my moments when I didn’t think I would make it.

But I never quit, and I made the journey from the yellow footprints of new boots to the day of graduation. The first time I was called a United States Marine is still one of my proudest moments.

So tomorrow I will be there again, not as a young Marine but as an adult nearly 40 years old. But I will still carry myself as a Marine. I will give everything I have in this run, and when I am finished I will be proud of myself.

The one thing I cannot forecast is how I will feel when I am there. Will I be wrapped in nostalgia? Will the memories of my time be strong? Or will the details be lost to time? I can’t know until I get there, of course. But I am proud of who I am today, and I am thankful to the Marine Corps for the part it played in my life.

Not as lean. Not as mean. Still a Marine.

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