“Ultimately ... [it] was a duty I could not, and should not, leave for others to assume.”
The short essay below is by Jordan Blashek, Princeton 2009, who decided to turn down acceptance to medical school to join the U.S. Marine Corps and enter its
“You Joined Us” -- That phrase is carved into a steel plaque that tauntingly guards the entrance to the Officers’ barracks at
It’s a question I have tried to answer many times for my family and friends, but never feel as though I have fully conveyed my reasons. I made the decision to join the U.S. Marine Corps at the start of my senior year at
When I told my plans to anyone else, I felt as though I were talking to a brick wall – the Military, especially the Marine Corps, was simply outside their reality. My closer friends would nod their heads and say something to the effect of “Wow, that’s cool;” but since I was the perennial flake of the group, most did not take my decision very seriously. And to be honest, even I was not quite sure that I would follow through with the choice. In the comfort of my college dorm, the decision to become a Marine Corps officer seemed glamorously abstract. However, on
My OCS experience was surreal. Along with 407 other “Candidates” – all college graduates with newly shaved heads – I ran around for 10 weeks carrying an M16 rifle, while the Marine Corps’ famous drill instructors screamed increasingly creative insults at us. In reality, we were beginning the painful, yet deliberate process of transforming from civilians into Marine officers through some of the most intense training that exists in the
Ultimately, I joined the US Marine Corps because I believe that officers bear the most solemn responsibility in our nation, and that was a duty I could not, and should not, leave for others to assume. To say that I wanted that responsibility is not quite right, because being a Marine officer is not about one’s self, wants or needs; it is about guiding the young 18 and 19 year-old Marines fighting this country’s wars on our behalf. I decided that serving them was the highest honor and responsibility I could have at this point in my life. As one speaker at my commissioning ceremony explained:
“As second lieutenants, you must have a strong sense of the great responsibility of your office; the resources which you will expend in war are human lives. This is not about you anymore. This is about the young Marines who will place their lives in your hands. It is your job to take care of them, even when that means placing them in mortal danger. That awesome responsibility – the weight which now rests on you – is reflected in those gold bars which you will soon place on your shoulders.”
That is why the plaque hangs in every portal through which we pass – You Joined Us. We chose to bear this responsibility and we must make absolutely sure we are prepared to fulfill it, because young American lives are at stake. If that means being cold and miserable; studying for ungodly hours; and going for days without sleep, then so be it. That is the price of the salute we receive from our Marines.
Five months into my service commitment, I have not regretted my decision for a moment. I already have unforgettable memories from my experience and new friendships with diverse and exceptional peers from all over the country. We have had moments of pure fun together and laughed harder than I ever thought possible. We have also been humbled by the stories and portraits of brave Lieutenants – those who fought and died after roaming the very halls where we now stand and their portraits hang. Most of all, I am immensely proud to bear the title of ‘United States Marine,’ an honor that I will carry with me my entire life. Semper Fi.