April 2011 - Letter of the Month

At 0700 on Parents’ Day, we stood shivering in the predawn cold at the Lieutenant General Oscar Peatross Parade Ground while we waited for the platoons to appear. Soon we heard the unmistakable sound of the drill instructors calling cadence as the platoons marched smartly past the review­ing stand in their physical training gear. The crowd gave a hearty cheer when the platoons began their run with the 3d Battalion flag fluttering.

I was very impressed with the changes in recruit training since my time at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., including the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program, basic warrior training, combat shooting and, of course, “The Crucible.”

When we finally got a chance to spend some time with our son, we could see that John was lean and hard with the quiet con­fidence of a U.S. Marine.

I was like a kid at Christmas as we took a walking tour around the recruit training area. We stopped by John’s squad bay, met his drill instructors, toured the base museum and stood once again on the famous yellow footprints. Yes, there were some changes to Parris Island since 1972, but many of the sights and sounds remained the same.

The graduation day ceremony was brief, but poignant. The graduating Marines looked sharp in their service “alphas” as they stood at attention before an enthusiastic audience of family and friends. The highlight for me was listening to the band play “The Marines’ Hymn” as I proudly watched my son among his fellow Ma­rines of Platoon 3101.

It was during a driving tour around the depot after graduation that I received a phone call that changed my life forever. My father, John, a Navy veteran of World War II, passed away a mere 15 minutes after the graduation ceremony. It was just like Dad I thought, to wait until after it was over so as not to take the spotlight away from his grandson. It was surreal to go from the euphoria of my son’s graduation to the somber news of my father’s death within such a short period of time. I realized from that day forward, Parris Island would hold a special place in the hearts of my family.

We laid my father to rest five days later on a bitterly cold day in Buffalo, N.Y. The sight of my son in his dress blues, saluting his grandfather’s casket as “Taps” played, is a moment I will cherish forever. At the conclusion of the graveside service, the burial detail presented the flag to Private First Class John K. Sullivan, USMC, just as my father would have wanted.

Bill Sullivan
USMC, 1972-74
Williamsville, N.Y.