As I approach the imminent birth of my son, I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting on my life. Mainly I’ve been thinking about the short time during my enlistment with the United States Marine Corps. It was the most impactful aspect of my life and still is a huge part of who I am to this day. I was only 19 years old when I took the oath of enlistment and shipped off to the beautifully terrifying Island that makes Marines, not truly aware of the drastic lifestyle change and enduring espirt de corps that has never left my soul. My time in the Marine Corps was that of only 4 short years, but each year had the feel of several years. I was a young man never sure what was ever in store for me, I never knew I would be shipped out to Afghanistan to the front lines pushing into enemy held territory in some of the most fiercest fighting of the GWOT. I sit in my house in West Palm Beach, FL with the television on as background noise, the A/C pumping throughout keeping us comfortable, and the comfort of knowing there is no IDF here, no IEDs out my door, and no RPG teams enclosing on my position. That never changes the fact that my life in the Marines was so profound, not a day goes by that I don’t think of the long hot summer days under the Afghan sun, no televisions, no real A/C, all under the constant threat of IDF, stepping with dread as my foot hits the ground not knowing if that step would be the one where I lose my legs, or the Taliban creeping up on us in the dead of night. It’s been over 10 years since I arrived at Parris Island, and I will forever be a United States Marine. My life has been a daily battle trying to suppress my memories of Combat because I thought that would put me on the right path to getting over it and moving on. I’ve realized over time of failing to suppress these memories that i will never be able to let them go, I will never be the same person I was before I left for that island, and I have accepted that. I’ve learned to understand the memories and understand my role on this earth. If not for anything else, I played a role in what some would call a very controversial war, a war where I truly found myself, a war where I lost friends, a war that gave all of us who experienced it purpose, a war that connects all of us who actually were there and fought. We fought because it was our duty and we fought so we could go back to the PB and bullshit with our buddies and not zip them up in a black bag and send them off on a bird. We fought for ourselves, and we fought for each other. The brotherhood that is forged in combat is unknown by most human beings. I’ve come to realize that coming home and being without my brothers is harder than having bad memories and nightmares. The hardest part for me has been the fact that I can’t walk 2 feet and have my boys right there next to me. We all got out of the corps, leaving the war and going back to the corners of the United States in which we all came. We came to the Corps for ourselves but realized over time we loved the corps for each other. The reason the Marine Corps is the greatest branch of the military is the simple fact that we are a corps of true brothers with blood that runs red, black and gold. A brotherhood where we all earned the title together, we took incoming together, we laughed together, we fought together, we cried together, we will be forever embedded in history and time together. I cherish the bonds I have created and maintained with my brothers. I cherish the brutal times, the horrific times, there is a sense of pride in what we did, a sense of purpose we earned. I forever will miss the days of being in my early twenties around the best men I’ve ever known. As I embark on a new journey that is Fatherhood I will never forget where I’ve come from or who I am. I will never forget the friends we lost, never forget the friends I made, I’ll never forget the memories of kinetic combat, I’ll never forget the loud devastating IEDs, I’ll never forget any of it. It has become a part of my soul that I nurture and support, I am proud of who I am and what we did. I am forever proud until the day I die- that I joined a corps of men who can claim the title United States Marine. I am and will forever be a United State Marine, and soon to be Father.