It was about this time last year when I was invited to go to San Diego and visit the Marine Boot Camp. I packed pretty light and did not think it would be cold in California but to my surprise it was sunny but a bit chilly the entire time. I got through it with my hoodie and by adding some layers. It was not a problem until I was invited to an early morning event.

During my time with the Marines I was assigned a public information officer, a girl that could not have been more than 20. She was approximately four foot tall with glasses and she spoke as though someone was holding her nose closed. One evening she approached me and said, “Mr. Graham we would like to invite you to the Eagle, Globe and Anchor ceremony. Would you like to go? It is a very important, very emotional ceremony that every private has to go through before they can be called Marines.”

I did not give it any thought before agreeing. “Okay sir I will come by and pick you up at 4am.” My response was, “Wait! What?” I was informed that not many people were invited and that it was something special that I did not want to miss.

Sure enough at four in the morning I received a call that I was to go to the parking lot and that there was a van waiting on me. I stepped outside and the word cold is not a strong enough to describe the temperature outside. I got into the van and away we went. It was a long drive that went off road and up a steep incline for what seemed like forever.

When we arrived I was ejected from the vehicle and told that the soon to be Marines would be there in about an hour. I walked around and around trying to keep warm but my hands and feet were soon numb.

An hour had passed when I started hearing whispers from those around me. When I asked what all the whispering was about I was told that a General was on his way to observe the ceremony and that he was about the highest rank in the Marines.

As I stood trying to get my freezing hands to manipulate the settings on my camera an older Marine approached me and said, “Where are you from son?”. I told him I was from Greenwood Arkansas to which he replied, “Huh, is that why you don’t know how to dress for the weather?”

I was not sure how to reply so I just said, “I suppose, I have never been to San Diego.” He gave me a disapproving look and walked away.

After he left several Marines gathered around me and one asked, “Did the General actually talk to you? What did he say to you?”. They were very excited. I said, “I think he was making fun of me for not having a coat.”

That was my meeting with US Marine Corps General Robert Neller.