This is one of those days when I will invariably think of my father. Sergeant Michael James Ahearn of the United States Marine Corps. I don’t know a lot of the details of my father’s military career. He served one tour in Vietnam between 1965 and 66. Reached the rank of sergeant. Had the most incredible stories — happy and sad. And even though he didn’t stay in the Corps for 20 or more years, my father was a Marine every day of his life.
Courage. Honor. Commitment. He lived these things. It was obvious in the way worked, taking pride in a job well done. It was obvious in the way he held doors for people, the way he was always courteous, in the way no one was foolish enough to mess with my father when he got that certain gleam in his eyes. In a million small ways he never let go of the things he learned from the Marine Corps.
I never understood how much of his personality came from his time in the Marines until my little brother returned home from Marine boot camp. One of my favorite memories of my Dad and Eric (my brother) is from this time period. Apparently Eric had developed a reputation for being meticulous about his uniform while at Camp Lejeune and it was something he took quite a lot of pride in. He’s home. Dad and Eric are in the living room and their shining their shoes. Keep in mind these are boys we’re talking about. All men will at some point fall victim to their inner boy mentality given the right set of circumstances. For Dad and Eric, that happened to be shoe shining. Of course, it became a race. Boys.
I think Eric actually expected to win. Why not? He won every time at boot camp. Logical assumption. He finished one of his shoes and looked up. The expression on his face was priceless. Dad is finishing up his second. Eric just sits there kind of stunned and Dad smiles – “What did you expect? I’ve been doing this a lot longer than you.”
Life is in the details, in the myriad of small things and the way one does them. I admire the Marines for a lot of reasons. But what I love best is their “Once a Marine, always a Marine,” mentality. It has certainly been true of the Marines I have known, and they have my deepest respect for it.
On that note I would like to send out a happy birthday to all Marines on this the 235th Birthday of the United States Marine Corps. Best wishes. Semper Fi.