Our hometown is San Clemente, CA where we share our streets with a lot of very vibrant, very young Marines. These eager young people come here from all over the country, training to be strong warriors for our nation and yet, so many of them have the baby faces of kids, barely out of high school. In the heart of our hometown there is a small downtown area which houses several small barber shops and if you were to pass by one of these shops on any given day, you would see the faces of these young people, bodies draped with smocks while receiving touch-ups on their short, military regulated style haircuts. It never, ever fails to strike me that most of these individuals are just kids. Just young people who are the same ages as my four girls who are 18, 20, 22, and 24. It is quite sobering to consider the strength of character and courage that is must take to leave your home, leave your family and friends, leave your childhood dog, to embark upon a journey which most certainly will place you within harm's way. And yet, these young men and women do this voluntarily. There is a lot that can be said for teenagers these days. Too many television shows about being pregnant and 16. Too many kids leading undirected, floundering lives because of parents who do not care enough to be home when their child arrives home from school at the end of the day. Too many material advantages. But, when you live in an area in which there is a strong military presence, you get to witness another side of things. You get to see young people, teenagers really, bearing the countenance of something much more stoic and noble because they are representing this great country and even at their very young ages, they understand the responsibility that comes along with that.
Mark and I often see our young Marines down at the local Denny's or IHOP. Most recently, we encountered four young men getting out of a taxicab to go eat a meal at the local IHOP and it struck me that these guys were willing to spring for a taxi in order to enjoy a meal that most likely, reminded them of something that they might do in their own hometowns. As Mark opened my car door so that I could hop in, he pulled some money out of his pocket and then followed these young men back inside. I watched as Mark put his hand on one of the young men's shoulders and talked to the group for a moment. I then observed as prideful smiles came over their faces and they backed up a bit in sort of a thank you, but no thank you sort of way. A bit of discussion ensued and finally, I watched as Mark slipped the money into one of the young men's palms. We drove away knowing that we had just taken care of the sons of four families of whom we were very grateful to for sharing them with this great nation. It was the very least that we could do. Living in this town, this is something that we get the great opportunity to do quite often and it is our honor, a very big honor.
Happy Memorial Day, friends.