Referring to last Sunday, Anne said, “I just left my oldest son in the care of the U.S. Marine Corps for the next 13 months. Emotional day is an understatement.”
It was quite a shock when Mark, barely 19 years old, announced he had joined the Marines.
As far as family knew, he was comfortably settled in college life at Reinhardt University and had a part-time job he loved at Northside Pharmacy. But during his second semester Mark announced college was not for him.
Personally I am having a hard time with that. I agree that college is not for everyone. And, sure, military service is a very honorable thing for anyone to do.
The problem with me is that I still think of Mark as a child. He was about 5 years old when I first met him. He was so handsome and I especially noticed his beautiful hair.
I have so many memories of the years when he was growing up. One was when his sister Grace was born. Mark was with me and I was eager to see the new baby.
I think Mark must have been blessed with a good appetite at birth. We had already stopped twice for breaks. When we got to Troy, Ala., Mark announced again that he was hungry.
He wanted pizza. After I told him that we could not get pizza at a drive-in window, he commented that he, “… thought pizza was worth waiting for.” So there we were at the slowest pizza restaurant on earth waiting to be served and then for Mark to leisurely enjoy his dinner.
Finally, we got to the hospital in Dothan and I was holding Grace in my arms. As I had expected, Grace was worth waiting for, too.
For a while Mark and I had a not so secret handshake. I would have some bills in my hand that would transfer to his when we shook hands. His mom knew what that was about but she did not object.
Mark grew up in the church. Church camps, Bible Schools and mission projects were a part of his life.
I admired him when as a young teenager he was part of a church group that would deliver hot soup on cold days to homeless people living under bridges in Atlanta.
I was honored that Mark, clean cut and mannerly, allowed me to be his grandmother.
I saw him play Etowah High football and regretted I was not there the night he intercepted a pass and scored a touchdown.
We shopped together for his high school letter jacket. After his high school graduation our family had a party for him.
While Mark was attending Reinhardt he lived in an apartment at my house but we rarely saw one another.
Occasionally I would call him to go out to eat. He loves sushi. I feel sure he will not get sushi during his 13 weeks at Parris Island.
A few weeks ago, the Marines called Mark for a physical exam and then enlistment. He had a scab and a cut place on his nose where something had hit him when he was weed-eating.
His leaving was deferred until that healed. Mark was so disappointed.
The call came again, the places on his nose had healed and in a few days he would be on his way.
We had a family party. Anne made his favorite — banana pudding. In Mark’s honor little sister, Grace, had learned to play the “Marine’s Hymn” on the piano.
The younger grandchildren decorated the walk with chalk including a huge American Flag and messages saying they love him and wish him well.
At noon Sunday Mark left from Cartersville on a bus to Fort Gilliam. On Monday morning he was sworn in, told family goodbye and left for Parris Island.
Later in the day Anne wrote, “I have never been more proud than I am today. It is very exciting as a mom to see your son apply all his energy and heart to something he wants, especially something as honorable as serving in our military. As he raised his hand and promised to uphold our Constitution and defend our country I thought my heart would swell to bursting. It must have been all that heart swelling that made my eyes tear up!”
Like his mother, I am tremendously proud of Mark. He will serve our country well.
Former Marines say Mark will come back changed. I know what they mean, but I love him just the way he is.
Marguerite Cline is the former mayor of Waleska.