When I opened the letter it began, “How do you tell the world a true patriot—a good man—has fallen”. I felt sadness with each word, the heartache on every line; it was a letter of farewell. Farewell, 1st Sgt. Calvin R. McPeters USMC.
Calvin was a husband, and a friend. He made the grade, covered the ground, completed the task. Even though his active duty ended many years ago, he is still a Marine—an elite group of men and women who have dedicated their life to our country, our children, our future.
Today, America’s young men and women continue to honor, and serve our country. My wife and I are fortunate to know one of those young people. In some ways we know her better than she knows herself. We were there for her birth; we were there for every birthday. We witnessed her triumphs and comforted her in tragedy. We have quietly watched her life coursing through the up and down challenges of youth. We witnessed the development of her spirit and determination of mind. Few were surprised when she joined the Marines.
For the family the hardest part of Marine training is enduring 18 weeks of unknowing. There would be few letters, but each day we waited. Often making mindless trips to the mailbox. The phone was kept within reach, and every night it was placed at bedside, waiting and wanting her to call—even though, we knew she only had phone privileges on Sunday evenings. With growing anticipation family and friends began gathering at her parent’s home each Sunday for dinner, and the anticipated call.
The phone rang and we knew without the telling. A cheerful “Hello” said it all—task completed. We crowded around the phone trying to hear, in 60 seconds, what began 13 weeks ago. Now, after finishing a grueling regime of training, her 5’1” body was lean and hardened. She then told of another four weeks ahead; combat training in simulated war conditions, long hikes, food rationing, the heat of the day, the cold of the night, trying to stay hydrated with limited water.
Everything you needed was carried on your back, and your rifle slung over the shoulder. This is when the foot pounds the ground and a shovel determines how deep you will sleep—if you sleep at all. Her hundred and eight pound frame overburdened. Only later would we know the untold damage.
Struggling with pain she had one mile to go, she was falling behind. Her 65 pound pack soaked with rain. There were five of them when the vehicle approached from the front. A command was given, their allotted time gone.”
“I can do this sir”
“Get in soldier, it’s an order.”
She and 4 others climbed into dark silence, their fate unknown.
It was Sunday evening, and we had just finished dinner when the phone rang. This time her voice was tiny, as the worst was told. The excitement drained from the room. Encouraging words were given, promises were made. “There are reasons we can’t understand, look to a higher power”. It was all we could say, there was nothing we could do.
Later that week, she learned there would be one more chance; repeat the final march or go home.
Another week was added, another platoon was joined. But fate would step forward and catch her in a brigade of 400 soldiers punishing themselves on their final training mission—a 9 mile march in full combat gear. With one mile left, doubt began to amplify the pain. It was too much to bear. Until one person would seek her out and find her. A young man she had known since kindergarten. His voice came from the past and connected them to the here and now.
“We can do this, Britt, we can do this!”
He was by her side; his words soothing the pain and bringing the goal back into focus. Their pace quickened, each stride more determined than the last.
“We’ve got this.”
…and like those before her, she made the grade, covered the ground, and completed the task.
Calvin never had an opportunity to meet Brittany, but he would be proud of this Marine.
In remembrance of a friend and a great man. 1st Sgt. Calvin R. McPeters. April 10, 2012.