The 4th of July holiday has held new meaning for me over the past four years since our oldest son, Wesley, joined the US Marine Corps. Our family has always been patriotic, but there’s something about seeing your son in a military uniform that brings out a pride beyond words. Wesley joining the military has literally been life changing for both Wes and the rest of our family.
Wes joining the military came as quite a surprise to us. After his first semester at Elon University, Wesley found himself clueless as to what he might want to major in and he felt like he was spinning his wheels in college. Neither into the party/social scene nor one who just loved, loved, loved school, Wes felt completely out of place.
In January 2008, Wesley had an epiphany. He decided that he would join the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves. To say Steve & I were taken aback would be the understatement of the century. You see, we had mentioned the military to Wes during his high school years and we received a resounding, “NOT ON YOUR LIFE.”
He couldn’t get past the haircut. Here is why:
Wesley L-O-V-E-D his bushy blonde hair.
I guess Wes had done a little bit of growing up in the semester he had experienced at Elon and realized that he needed some true direction that the military would certainly offer. He joined the Marines and on my birthday, 5/27/08, he left for Parris Island, SC.
Before Wes and the rest of the recruits left, the families were warned by the commanding officer that we would most likely get a distress letter from the recruits begging us to come and get them from Parris Island, saying that they had made a mistake by joining the Marines and to please, if we loved them, “come get me now!” I remember Wes looking at us as if to say, “You won’t hear that from me.” And I was thinking, “Oh God, please don’t let me hear that from him…my heart won’t be able to take it.” We were also advised that Wes would not be allowed to call us for the duration of his boot camp, nor could we call or see him during that time. The only contact we had was snail mail. And, the last words we would hear from Wesley until graduation four months later was a phone call we would receive when he arrived to let us know he was safely in SC. But we would not be allowed to carry on any conversation during this call…
I stayed by the phone the entire evening that he left just waiting to hear his voice again. The phone rang and on the other end was Wes reading from a cue card telling me that he had arrived safely and that I would shortly receive a memo with his address then *click*. Conversation over. Because I knew my time with him on the line was precious, the entire time he was reading, I was crying and saying as fast as possible, “I love you, Wes! I miss you, Wes! I’m praying for you, buddy! I…” *click” Phone call over. My tears started pouring…
A few days later, I received the first bit of contact from Parris Island. The letter promised us with his address for the next four months.
This address would be part of my every day until Wes graduated from boot camp. I wrote a letter to him every single day and surprisingly filled about two pages each day. Funny, I guess we talked more than I thought when he was home. All I knew was I missed him and prayed for him like I never had before. It was a hard time for me, but it was a good time for me. I grew in the Lord as I was forced to trust Him to hold on to our Marine.
The very first letter we received from Wes was like the ultimate Christmas present. The entire family gathered around for “the reading of the letter”. Yes, it was that special. I laughed and cried as I read it. The first thing that made me laugh was this statement:
“I am having mixed feelings about boot camp right now…” Remember what the commanding officer said before he left? To me, this was Wes’s way of saying, “What have I done???” I laughed and then…you guessed it. I cried. My poor baby needed his Mama and there was nothing I could do about it.
Wes’s first letter from boot camp
You can’t see it, but the p.s. on the back of this letter reads:
“P. S. -please send my Bible & pictures in a small box and keep the address book in it. Thanks so much!”
Wes wanted his Bible. I can’t count how many times in his lifetime I encouraged him to get his Bible and spend some time with the Lord. I wanted him to read his Bible. When Wes went to boot came and no longer had the pleasure of attending church whenever he wanted to, he wanted to read his Bible.
Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.
I have a special wooden box that I can hardly close because it is full of letters that Wes sent home while he was in boot camp. They kept me going while he was away from us. When we finally got to see him at graduation, well, let’s just say it was better than the day we received his first letter…
He was definitely a changed young man. I could sense a transformation as I read the letters he sent home. I could see the transformation at his graduation.
We were happy to see our Marine. Can you tell?
(Check out the guy to the right of my head…Pahaha!)
Physically, Wesley certainly had changed. He was chiseled and reshaped into a true MARINE. But the greater transformation was in his eyes. I could tell…Wes got it. Like his Mama, boot camp was hard on Wes, but it was good for him, too. He had truly discovered joy that only Jesus Christ can give.
It’s the greatest gift for a Christian parent to look into their child’s eyes and see that they have reached out and grasped the forgiveness, love, and grace of Jesus Christ because they personally see their need for Him. Wes had discovered the Lord and His goodness and over the four months at boot camp had allowed God to reshape his heart. And to this day, I’m both thrilled and proud to say that Wesley has continued to grow in the Lord, seeking to be the man God wants him to be.
Thank you, Wesley, and every man and woman who serves our great nation and fights to keep us free.
I thank God for you all!
Cpl. Wesley D. Fogleman,
United States Marine Corps