In a month I’m shipping off to boot camp. I have one last visit back home to move my stuff back home, hang out with old friends, and spend time with my family before I have to be back in LA to get flown over to Parris Island.
That being said, I figure it’s time for me to finally get to that bit about why exactly I’m doing all of this (and by all of this, I mean joining the Marine Corps). Not surprisingly, this isn’t going to be short. I’ve said a lot of things to various different people, all of them true in their own way, but altered a bit depending on who I was talking to, sometimes because I wanted my reasons to sound more noble than they were or to assure people this wasn’t some crazy whim or just because I didn’t feel like getting into an argument with someone. Because there are some people who just look at me like, “You graduated from college… Why would you join the military?” as if enlisting is something only people who can’t do anything else do (which is bullshit).
So this is where I’m going to be completely honest.
A really big part of why I decided to become a Marine is because I want to do something that I can be proud of. I want to become something that I can be proud of. Because yeah, I’m proud of being several things, but I mean, it’s not like I can say I worked my ass off to be Japanese American. I wasn’t like, in the womb with a game plan like, “Yeah, okay… So how do I get to the top of the list to get me that Japanese person slot?” But if I make it through boot camp, I can truly say that I fucking earned the title of U.S. Marine. And I know I can be proud of that.
Another part is that, y’know, for all the complaints I have about this country, I love it. Yeah, there’s a lot of things wrong with it, but nothing’s perfect and honestly, after going abroad for a bit, I feel pretty damn lucky to have been born an American. And it wasn’t even like I went to a third world country — I lived in Japan for a year and I still was thanking whatever divine force is out there that I was born in the States. So yeah, I love this country and I want to do something to give back. Which is kind of odd for me to admit sometimes, because I feel like in high school for some reason I thought it was cool to be all down on the United States and whine or whatever (also because I whined about a lot of things in high school, I realize. I was one of those, “omg, my life is so hard,” kind of teenagers). I thought that becoming an ex-patriot would be kind of hip and awesome, but I’ve grown up and opened my eyes and even though I can’t say that I’m the epitome of American patriotism (I still refuse to say, “One nation under God,” while reciting the pledge of allegiance), I think America is the bee’s knees.
Yes, I really did say that. Laugh all you want, I’m going to bring that phrase back, yo.
Now for some of the reasons that I haven’t actually told a lot of people. One, I want to be a badass. There’s always been a part of me that liked to think that I had some badassery in me, but I was never able to really get it out, and let’s be honest — how much more badass can you get than becoming a U.S. Marine? (Well, maybe becoming a ninja, but I’m pretty sure that only exists in comic books and highly unrealistic action flicks these days.) Two, I’ve spent most of my life playing it safe and I’m tired of doing that. I want to change myself. As Nathan Fick wrote in One Bullet Away, “I wanted something more transformative. Something that could kill me — or leave me better, stronger, more capable. I wanted to be a warrior.” And I will admit, I’ve always wanted to be a warrior in one way or another. When I was a kid, I wanted to be Robin Hood, a Ninja Turtle, an Animorph… I wanted to be the one who saved the day. Never once did I want to be a princess. At the time, I think I just didn’t like dresses and was more into animals than people (the version of Robin Hood I was obsessed with was the one where he’s a fox), but I’d like to think that subconsciously I was trying to rebel against the traditional roles that women are often placed in.
And there’s also the writer in me. I’ve written mostly fiction up until this point and not particularly well-written or imaginative fiction — just stuff you write for class because that’s the assignment and you can’t not do the assignment. And for a while I thought writing fiction is what I wanted to do and to an extent, I still do want to do that, but there’s something about nonfiction that captivated me. I want to write something like Among the Thugs or Generation Kill. Whether I will or not as a result of joining the Marine Corps, I really can’t say, but as a combat correspondent, I know I’ll get to write stories that are at least true and that will affect people in some way. I don’t have any pretenses about my MOS — I know that I’m essentially going to be writing propaganda, — but so what? I’ll be (hopefully) writing things that will help motivate the Marines and touch their families.
Or y’know, I’ll be stuck in some room editing and laying things out, but I can hope.
Writing all of this makes me feel like I should get off my ass and go work out, because yeah, I’ve been a bit lazy with PT these days. Gotta make sure I don’t get fat before shipping out, har.