• Today's Daily Devotion
The Grinder
THERE IS a place at the Parris Island Marine Corps Recruit Depot that holds lasting memories for all Marines. That special place is the vast parade ground located in the ...

The Grinder

Many years after his time as a recruit, Dennis Mannion returned to Parris Island with a group of Khe Sanh veterans. At one point he wandered away from the group and walked until he found the scene of his former agony and pride. He stood on one end of the Grinder watching two platoons march over the vast space. After a while he was approached by one of the drill instructors, who asked if he needed help. Mannion asked if he could go out to the center of the Grinder. Noticing his name tag, the DI said, “A Khe Sanh Marine, Sir? You can walk anywhere you want.” Describing the experience, Mannion said:

I then walked straight out until I was in the exact middle. I took in the view. The last time I had that same view with the stands in front of me and the Iwo Jima statue to the left, it was Graduation Day on 16 March 1967.

I knelt right at that spot, down on two knees like in church, and said a quiet prayer for the Platoon 236 guys who never made it back, the Khe Sanh guys who never made it back, and all the Marines and Corpsmen from our era who never came home. I stood for a minute . . . brushed away a tear or two . . . rejoiced that my good wife and one of my sons were back at the PX waiting for me, then turned and walked on a 45 degree angle to reach the end of the Grinder. As I walked, I kept looking down at the concrete wondering if my spit polished boots had ever made contact in that exact same spot 3 plus decades before.

The image of a lone figure kneeling in the center of a vast parade field is haunting. Surely it is a scene God would observe kindly and a prayer he would hear sympathetically. We don’t need a special place to add our voices to that prayer: Lord, remember our comrades who didn’t come home.

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