It is difficult to explain the relationships we forge in the Marine Corps. It is really another family. And at this point in my 17 years, I am the “dad” to 20, 25, sometimes up to 45 or 50 young Marines.
Imagine having that many kids, mostly19-22 years old. They have all the typical dreams, aspirations, problems, and issues any young person of that age has. And, like any dad, I am privy to most of them.
And, like any dad, I want to see them do well and do what I can to ensure that happens.
I have had many experiences over the years with more kids than I can remember. Working with them, disciplining them, playing football and basketball with them, seeing them do well, and seeing them self-destruct. I have been around the world with them, promoted them, acted as their shield when they have been treated poorly, watched rockets explode around them, flown with them, and once had reason to put my loaded pistol to one.
Our jobs put us in strange places and strange situations. We face adversity together and that, more than anything, builds a relationship that anyone who hasn’t experienced it will never truly understand. These kids find friends like they will never have the rest of their lives. Most of them will go home on vacation and then come back saying how bored they were and how they couldn’t wait to get back.
Dad, tutor, leader, financial advisor, marriage counselor (now that should make you smile), expert in all things – that’s me.
Over the years, I have lost several kids, several friends, and many Marines that I knew only in passing. Killed while flying, both crashing in the ocean and shot down in Iraq. More were riding their motorcycles, driving their cars.
The feeling is the same, no matter how they died. The questions always come, no matter the circumstance.
In the end, all you can do is your best. You can train them, show them, and warn them. But you can’t protect them all the time.
Like any parent who loses a child, there is always a feeling of failure and loss.
This week we lost Lance Corporal Dean R. Muraco. May God bless his family and his soul.