George Richardson of Palmyra has always dreamed of a military career.
“My friend actually convinced me to join the Marine Corps,” said Richardson, 18, at a recent gathering for families and future Marine recruits at the Canandaigua American Legion for dinner and an evening of “show and tell” with local Marine recruiters. “I talked to my recruiter, Staff Sergeant Medlin, and just liked the way that he carried himself. It was very impressive; that was really what made me want to join.”
About 100 parents and “poolees” — as future recruits in the Delayed Entry Program (DEP) are called — met with officers, drill sergeants and Marine personnel to get a better feel for what’s ahead at boot camp on Parris Island, S.C.
Richardson is looking forward to becoming more physically fit, gaining honor and patience and earning respect. But he’s not enlisting with a blind eye toward what’s ahead — his brother served two tours of duty in Iraq as a member of the Air Force.
“I’m expecting it to be hard — I don’t expect it to be easy,” he said. “I expect to be a different person — a better person. Being a Marine is the ultimate goal. It’s the best volunteering you can do for the United States — the highest honor.”
George’s mother, Dorothy, said while she trusts God to protect and strengthen her son, the experience will be very challenging.
“I’m very concerned about him going in because it’s going to be a true test of his mental ability to succeed,” Dorothy said.
In presentations gleaming with military polish, precision and in-your-face information, parents and poolees learned what to expect from their first footsteps onto the blazing hot 8,095-acre island, all the way through to graduation.
Marine Staff Sergeant Clinton John DuClos, 32, of Canandaigua, enlisted in June 1999 and now serves as station commander for recruiting out of Canandaigua. He is charged with equipping men and women ages 17 to 28 to successfully navigate through the rigors of Parris Island and eventually become Marines.
Not everyone who dreams of becoming a Marine will end up wearing dress blue. About three out of four who apply will be disqualified. But for those who make it, DuClos said the transition from home life to Parris Island will be jarring.
“It’s going to be a culture shock,” said DuClos. “Physically they’ll be fine. We do PT with them every Wednesday at 4:30, and every second Saturday of every month. We gather over at 75 Lafayette, right next to Mark’s Pizzeria, right out in the parking lot. We would not allow them to go to boot camp if they are not physically fit to meet the standards. So that’s always a good comfort.”
Page 2 of 2 - A great brotherhood
John Pikuritz, 18, of Macedon is scheduled to ship out in September. It’s something he’s been anticipating for the last four years, and a legacy that was handed down by his great-grandfather, who served in the Air Force.
“It’s the most elite group in the military,” said Pikuritz of the Marines. “I’m not really into schooling, and I like to feel like I’m belonging to something. This definitely has a great brotherhood, and this is what I want to do with my life.”
Still, he knows the experience will change him.
“I’m kind of a little nervous but excited at the same time. I want to start life,” Pikuritz said. “ It’s going to be challenging. I lift (weights) a lot so I’m physically in shape, but I know they’re going to push me a lot harder than I push myself.”
Pikuritz said he’s never been away from his family before, and knows that will be a huge adjustment as well. Same for his family.
“Not being able to talk to him will be hard,” said John’s mother, Christine. “The letter-writing sounds great, but I know it’s not going to be the same as having a family breakfast or dinner at least once a week.”
For DuClos, being a Marine was a life-changing experience.
“My most proud moment of being a Marine is probably just being a part of something much bigger than myself,” said DuClos. “Knowing that since 1775 we’ve had Marines that have come across yellow footprints (recruits are ordered onto Parris Island’s legendary yellow footprints when they arrive) to serve their country, and to know that I stood on those exact same yellow footprints — it means a lot.”