Old Corps, New Corps

This is the fifth in a series depicting the author’s experience in Marine Corps boot camp. The story continues just after the “recruit” is injured and returns to training, but with a different platoon.

Once a Marine, always a Marine.

I have enjoyed relating my boot-camp experiences over the last four “LBWA” columns, and I hope readers have enjoyed them too, but you might ask, why?

Why should it interest someone in parks and rec or a related field?

Well, because it’s really about the youth in America. Many of today’s youth need more of what the Marine Corps represents: honor, courage, commitment, heritage, camaraderie, and service.

I have heard many distinguished Marine leaders talk about their experiences on youth-sports teams and how they prepared the players for the type of teamwork required in the Marine Corps, and in life.

The Marine Corps is a young organization: 63 percent of Marines are 25 or younger, 82 percent are 35 or younger. The true power of this band of brothers and sisters is mentoring, a word that most parks-and-rec professionals are involved with in one way or another.

Marines don’t call it mentoring; it goes by the more pithy term “leadership,” but is essentially the same. The “Old Corps” has a sacred obligation to pass on the lessons of experience to the “New Corps.”

The Old Corps is essentially that other 18 percent from 35 years old to, well, 85 or 95 or 105, because “Once a Marine, always a Marine.”

The Marine ethos is different from that of other military services, and possibly from any other group in society. Many have tried to capture that spirit in words, but generally it’s like capturing a wisp of smoke in your hand. Just as you think you’re about to capture it, the wisp curls around and escapes.

But it is a sense of belonging to something much larger than the individual. It’s about putting the “me” behind the “we.”

It’s the same type of attitude a youth-sports coach tries to instill in his or her young players … hopefully not as enthusiastically as a drill instructor.

Lead The Way

I worry about our youth because many don’t receive mature, adult direction in this digital, decentralized, quickly changing world, where we worry more about what’s happening in the moment, or the immediate future, and not what has happened in the past.

Lessons of history are sadly lost on the majority of people, young and old, in today’s society. But, as we have learned so many times in the past, a society that forgets the mistakes of its history are doomed to repeat them.

The recreation environment is arguably one of the last places in society where youth can obtain some direction. Youth sports and other activities provided by parks-and-recreation professionals teach some of the basics like teamwork, goal setting, and preparation.

The Marine Corps, like the recreation field, is not a perfect organization; over the years there have been issues. Marines are, after all, a reflection of the society from which they come. But one thing the Corps has been consistent in is accountability.

Mistakes happen. Bad things happen. Errors in judgment happen. But covering up an incident should never happen. When a mistake is made, those responsible should be held accountable, including and especially yourself.

No excuses, no short-cuts. Admit the mistake, dole punishment where it’s needed, make adjustments to fix the problem, and move on.

President Ronald Reagan once said, “Some people spend a lifetime wondering if they have made a difference. Marines don’t have that problem.”

Pride For Life

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Related posts:

  1. The History And Tradition Of Recreation
  2. Earning the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor
  3. Leadership By Wandering Around
  4. “Get Off My Bus!”
  5. Second Chances
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