The first week of Recruit Training is exceptionally tough. Sensory overload. Conflicting emotions and thoughts run rampant. This is what transformation is all about.
Jon Hammar wanted to be a Marine and now he would be tested as never before. A lot of guys quit or break or give-up. He didn’t. He became a United States Marine.
I don’t know Mr. Hammer but as a former Marine I have a sense of him.
Over the twelve weeks of initial training, his every waking moment as a recruit was focused on the pursuit of the Eagle, Globe and Anchor––the great emblem of the Corps. Someday he hoped, or prayed, that he’d overcome his fears, endure the discipline, meet the challenges and find the warrior within and be awarded the Marine Corps Emblem. Then, for the very first time, he’d be addressed as Marine.
He would take an oath to support and defend the Constitution, to obey the orders of his superior officers, the President specifically mentioned, and undertake to serve a purpose greater than himself. He would be guided by the values of honor, courage and commitment and be bonded to a motto. Semper Fidelis. To always be faithful to his mission, his fellow Marines, the Corps and his country, no matter what.
Now part of a revered brotherhood, he’d go to war in Iraq and Afghanistan and serve honorably. He’d be exposed to the evils of war and return wounded. The severe anxiety associated with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) would render him unable to cope with life––it would take nine long months in full-time treatment before he felt well enough to live once again.
A surfing trip to Costa Rica with his best bud would seem like the perfect beginning to a new life. From my perspective, he certainly deserved it.
What he doesn’t deserve is to be left behind.
For the past four months, this former Lance Corporal has been languishing in some medieval Mexican prison on trumped-up gun charges. It’s easy to imagine this filthy, corrupt, cartel-controlled prison––many of us have seen these hellholes in documentaries––what’s not so easy is trying to understand why this young man remains there.
Mr. President, I don’t know you but I have a sense of you.
You’re a very busy man dealing with a myriad of issues and duties. Heady work. Although, at times, I would suspect you’re not in your comfort zone because you have to decide matters in which you have no direct experience. Commander-in-chief comes to mind. I’m sympathetic. There is no greater responsibility––supreme command authority over the military of the United States of America.
Moreover, it has to be particularly tough for you because your understanding of military service is from an intellectual perspective only. Your instincts aren’t honed by practical knowledge––you’ve never served. This is what happens to Presidents, sometimes, when the warrior ethos isn’t part of their character. They lose sight of the soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines––they become chess pieces.
And so, simple things become complicated. The right thing becomes encumbered with double-talk, political speak and inaction.
And a Marine who served and sacrificed for this great nation sits chained to a bunk fifteen miles from our border. In danger, without dignity, a human rights casualty and forgotten.
Mr. President, to hell with bilateral relations. I can’t imagine that a phone call to the Mexican president about this issue would cause irreparable harm to our mutual interests. So make it. Fifteen minutes top. Jon Hammer, by his very service has earned that call.
In some faraway land under the orders of the President of the United States, Jon Hammer was willing to die: to be the embodiment of John 15:13 and sacrifice his life for his fellow Marines and country.
Mr. President, I’m not quite sure you understand that.
So trust me. Make the call. It’s the right thing to do. And for Mr. Hammar and his family, I’ll pray that he’s home for Christmas.