I mentioned earlier that I attended the Marine Parents Conference in St. Louis last week. It was an honor for me to be included and I have a wonderful time. As I walked around the conference I noticed something extraordinary about the hundreds of Marine parents who had come together. They were proud. Everywhere I looked there were yellow ribbon pins, pins that read â€œMy son is a Marine,â€ moms and dads were wearing t-shirts printed with photos of their Marine and everyone had a photo of their Marine in his dress blues. I couldnâ€™t help but be awed by the force of the pride in the room.
The conference had breakout sessions for specific discussions. There were discussions on boot camp, preparing for deployment, how to send car packages, how to deal with post-traumatic stress disorder. There was a meeting for parents who had lost their Marine and a group for spouses of Marines. There was also an element of Marine Corps tradition involved. The first dinner opened with the parading of the colors and the parents loved it. The second dinner was a formal night that reminded me of a Marine Corps ball. They were suddenly a part of the strange world their sons and daughters had joined.
But the real learning experience for me came in the free time at the conference. When the parents came together in the hallways and restaurants and elevators and started talking about their children. This was true pride. Men and women who had never met each other, came together because their children were serving together. There was no discussion of the politics of the war, no praise or criticism of the President or Congress. They wanted to talk about the day their son graduated boot camp, or the day their daughter was commissioned. They shared stories of getting the news that their child was going to war and stories of the finally being able to breathe a sigh of relief when he or she came home safely. Parents of fallen Marines came together to talk about how much their missed their sons, but how proud they were of his desire to serve his country.
As I left the conference, I knew that I had witnessed the real meaning of â€œsupport our troops.â€ These parents knew that the war was being fought by sons and daughters of the United States. They knew that politics have no place in supporting the troops. These parents were proud because their son or daughter had been willing to serve when others wouldnâ€™t. They were proud because their child was a Marine.