The last day of the 12th week of the most demanding recruit training in the world represents
both a finish line—and a starting point. Graduation Day is the final day for recruits, but the first
and proudest for newly transformed Marines. It is a defining moment for those who will define
their service with honor, purpose and distinction.
The day before the graduation ceremony, the Marine Corps Recruit Depots in Parris Island, SC, and San Diego, CA, host Family Day. It is here that for the first time, soon-to-be Marines introduce their parents, family members and friends to those they've trained alongside and the Drill Instructors who've trained them. Families tour the barracks, parade decks and training areas where each transformation begins—and each Marine is made.
A Title Earned Together
Chin up, chest out and shoulders back, recruits wait eagerly for the moment that will soon change their lives forever. Eyes focused straight, not one of them needs to turn their head to know who they stand alongside. Twelve weeks ago, this was a platoon of strangers, each with their own reasons for taking the Oath. Moments from now, they will graduate recruit training the same way they endured it—together. Soon they will be welcomed into the brotherhood of Marines.
As the next generation of Marines march with their platoons across the parade deck and the American and Marine Corps flags are raised, the graduation ceremony begins. The Marine Band and All-Marine Color Guard perform in front of thousands of parents and families who anxiously await the opportunity to congratulate their Marines. The ceremony is not complete until each Senior Drill Instructor issues their final command and dismisses their platoon. No one ever forgets their Drill Instructor's next words: "Congratulations, Marines."
Marching As One—One Last March
There is a simple way to determine how many weeks a platoon has been together: watch and listen to them march. The longer a platoon trains, the more their marching becomes a case study in precision. After 12 weeks of living, training and enduring together, Graduation Day represents the last time they will march together. Each movement crisp, each boot hitting the deck in unison; it is the finest performance their families will ever see.
Marine recruits are no strangers to running, yet there's something different about the morning run during Family Day. This four-mile run isn't about physical fitness, training or discipline—but unity, motivation and achievement. As these seasoned recruits echo the cadence of their Drill Instructors, parents and family members look on and cheer, astounded by the transformation born from 12 weeks of recruit training.