The one thing that binds generations of Coast Guardsmen together is the boot camp experience at Cape May, New Jersey (and for a time, Alameda, California). Eight long weeks of physical, mental, and emotional training concludes with a pass and review – and finally – the graduation ceremony that turns recruits into seaman apprentices, fireman apprentices, seamen, and firemen.
The first promotion a recruit receives is on graduation day, making for an emotional and exhausting day. These are just a few of the thoughts I (and many other) Coasties have on their last day at Cape May.
1. "This is it. I'm a big Coastie now. I'm joining the fleet. I'm doing it."
(As I was getting my uniform on in the morning.)
The Nation's newest Coast Guardsmen from Recruit Company Lima 188 march in front of family and friends during Pass and Review during recruit graduation at Training Center Cape May, Aug. 2, 2013. Training Center Cape May is the service's only enlisted basic training facility, which creates more than 80 percent of the Coast Guard's workforce. (Coast Guard photo by Chief Warrant Officer Donnie Brzuska)
2. "This is never going to end. This is the longest hour of my life. I'm never gonna make it outside. I'm gonna die here."
(As I was getting my uniform inspected.)
3. "I wonder if they packed the clothes I asked. I can't wait to wear real clothes again. I miss shorts. I hope they brought snacks. I'm so hungry already."
(As I was getting into formation to march to the parade field.)
4. "I wonder where they're sitting. Did everyone find it okay? Did they even make it on base? I hope mom didn't say something stupid and get denied entry."
As I was marching to the parade field.)
Mom made it just fine. (photo courtesy of Mary-Elizabeth Pratt)
5. Oh my god, I see them. Oh, my god, I'm gonna cry.
(As I was marching to the stands.)
6. "Okay I get it, you're really proud of us. I'm proud of me, too. Can we get this over already?"
(As I was listening to the CO's opening remarks.)
7. "Yes, you were here in my shoes forty years ago and you've done big things since then. You should know I wanna get out of here. Can we get this over already?"
(As I was listening to the guest speaker's remarks.)
8."I don't remember what I'm supposed to do. I hope I don't screw this up."
(photo courtesy of Mary-Elizabeth Pratt)
(As I was standing in line to receive your certificate.)
9. "This is the happiest I've been ever. I finally did it and they can't kick me out of boot camp now!"
(As I was receiving my certificate.)
10. "Can we get this over with already?"
(As I was listening to the CO's closing remarks.)
Petty Officer 1st Class Gus Casey, a company commander at Coast Guard Training Center Cape May, N.J., leads the unit's Recruit Precision Drill Team through a performance during the graduation for Recruit Company Lima 188, Aug. 2, 2013. Training Center Cape May is home to the U.S. military's only Recruit Precision Drill Team. (Coast Guard photo by Chief Warrant Officer Donnie Brzuska)
11."I'm free! Where's my family? Where's my mom? I missed you guys!I have so much to tell you
(As I'm finally released.)
12. "I cannot wait to not have the same bag as everyone else. Damn, I hate these shirt-stays. I wanna get this thing off."
(As I was getting my stuff.)
13."That is the most fun I never want to have again."
(As I was sitting in the car, finally leaving Cape May after 8 long weeks.)