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It's Dramos. You may know me from the recap on LATV. Now I've got my own podcast, Life as a Gringo, coming to you every Tuesday and Thursday. We'll be talking real and unapologetic about all things life, Latin culture, and everything in between from someone who's never quite fit in.
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Toes, you fit the jackpot of comfy. Hey dude, good to go to. This is Lee Habib, and this is Our American Stories. And we tell stories about everything here on this show, including your stories. Send them to OurAmericanStories.com.
They're some of our favorites. And today, we have a story from Rhode Islander Joe Jutras. Joe is a retired cabinet maker, and since his retirement, he has dedicated most of his time to growing giant fruit and vegetable. In 2017, he broke the record for the largest green squash ever grown, coming in at 2,118 pounds.
He used Joe with his story. I've been growing giant vegetables now for the last 25 years. It got started years ago just by accident. I started growing vegetables in my backyard. I threw in a giant pumpkin seed.
I grew it to 124 pounds. And from then on, I was hooked. A couple of years later, I got hooked up with a gentleman here in Rhode Island. His name is John Castellucci. He's like the godfather of pumpkin growing here in New England.
He started in the early 90s. He had great success, real gentleman, helped anybody that wanted to learn how to grow pumpkins. So my friend Steve Sferry and I, we spent a lot of time in his house just drinking some beers and learning how to grow pumpkins.
From then on, we just got hooked and enjoyed growing, met people from all over the world. This hobby attracts people from all strains of life, from cabinet makers to scientists. There seems to be an addictive quality to growing these giant fruits and vegetables.
It's remarkable how many people you meet that all have the same interest of growing fruit and just enjoy being outside growing these large vegetables. It's been one of the best parts. I know my wife really enjoys it. We have get togethers. We have cruises that we go on with pumpkin people.
It's very competitive. But then again, it's such a long season. We start these fruit in beginning of April and we're not finished a lot of these weigh offs until October. So, you know, you've got a fruit on the hook for like 100, 110, 120 days. That's a long time to have a fruit being healthy and a lot of things can happen.
A lot of weather related problems you can run into and bugs and diseases. It takes a lot to get a pumpkin to the finish line. So when we go to these weigh offs, we're all happy for each other just to see everybody getting a fruit there.
And a lot of people grow multiple fruit just so that you do have a fruit at the weigh off time, hopefully. To get the full advantage of your growing season, you want to try to get these in probably about three or four weeks before your last frost, which means you have to grow them in a greenhouse. We use heating cables to warm up the soil. We use lights. We use like a small greenhouse. My greenhouses are like a five by seven. After we got the pumpkin going, I'd say we've grown them in that greenhouse for probably four or five weeks. It's probably about the first week of May by the time we take it out here in Rhode Island.
And the race is on. We're growing these plants. You're trying to set this fruit out on the main vine, probably 10 to 12 feet at least, preferably 14 or 16 feet is even better. You've got probably 10 side vines on either side of the fruit.
And you plant probably 500 square feet, 400 square feet at pollination time. And by that time, your fruit at 20 days old is really starting to put on the weight. You could be putting anything on like maybe 30 pounds a day at 20 days old. And by 25 days old, you could be putting 30 pounds on by 40 days.
You could be putting 40 or 50 pounds on if you really got one hooked up. I was fortunate enough to, in 2006, grow a world record longboard. Actually, the very first time I tried, I grew a world record. And the year after that, 2007, I had started a new garden. I grew the world record pumpkins. And ever since then, I was trying to grow the world's largest green squash.
It's a different, it's similar to a pumpkin, but the color is different. Just a little different in growing them. The earlier ones back in 2007, 2008, they were harder to grow.
I think what happened, the gene pool was so closely related that they had a lot of problems with pollination. There weren't as many people growing them. There's like nine times more people growing giant pumpkins than there are squash. This hobby of giant fruit growing turns out to be quite the science. But a little over the last decade, some people wanted to make their chances of growing a giant green squash a little higher. And after a few years of crossbreeding squashes and pumpkins, there are a lot more people growing giant green squash. Part of the reason this type of fruit is so difficult to grow is that pumpkins and the color orange are actually dominant.
So the growers will take the seeds from the squash-pumpkin hybrid and plant multiple seeds in hopes to grow a green squash, in which they have a one in four chance of getting one. These giant fruits that are being grown have gone through lots of breeding and pollinating seasons in order to become these world-record-breaking 2,000-pound monster produce. Before these large fruits are brought to scale, the growers try to estimate just how much they will weigh. We have a way of measuring these fruits so we have an idea how heavy they are. They call the OTT, it's over-the-top measurement, where you take a circumference measurement, side-to-side measurement, front-to-back measurement. You add them all up and it may come up to 480, 500 inches, and you put that measurement up against the chart. And the chart is changing all the time depending on how heavy the pumpkins get.
And it will give you an estimate of how much your pumpkins should weigh by the cubic inches of your pumpkin. So you have an idea how many pounds is growing. It's pretty exciting when you can gain 300 pounds a week, 280 pounds a week. And you've been listening to Joe Jutros telling the story about his retirement hobby, which has grown into a pretty serious hobby and a world-record-breaking hobby. And my goodness, what it takes to grow one of these monsters, how complex it is, all the exigencies of surviving through a 120-day growth season.
And that's a long time to get from beginning to end. As he put it, it takes a lot to get a pumpkin that size to the finish line. When we come back, more of Joe Jutros' story, the giant pumpkin and squash grower from Rhode Island, here on Our American Stories. Folks, if you love the great American stories we tell and love America like we do, we're asking you to become a part of the Our American Stories family. If you agree that America is a good and great country, please make a donation. A monthly gift of $17.76 is fast becoming a favorite option for supporters. Go to OurAmericanStories.com now and go to the donate button and help us keep the great American stories coming.
That's OurAmericanStories.com. And we continue with Our American Stories and with Joe Jutros, who holds the world record for growing the largest green squash. He's been sharing with us all that goes into growing these giant fruits and vegetables.
Let's return to Joe. You can actually see that pumpkin growing, especially at the beginning, between day 20 to day 40, it changes the shape daily and triples, quadruples in size in that amount of time. Once they start getting bigger, you know, every inch is like 10, 11, 12 pounds. So they don't change as much. Like anybody else, they get more more cracks and age spots and just about. And they seem to gain more weight as they get older, too, just like anybody else. You know, they start packing on the weight. Just very rewarding to see a fruit grow and get it to the scale and, you know, watch other people have their pumpkin come to the scale and they're thinking it's, you know, say 1,000 pounds and it ends up being 1,150 pounds. Well, they grew quite a bit over the scale. You know, they're double-digit heavy, so that's great.
They adjust this chart all the time so that they're either 5 percent over or 5 percent below, trying to be as accurate as they can. In Joe Jutros' first attempt to grow his world record-breaking green squash, he grew 12 plants. And out of the 12, only one was green, and it grew to a mere 1,252 pounds. But in 2017, when he tried again with a different seed, it brought him his world record-breaking green squash of 2,118 pounds. The year I grew the world record squash, you know, you have a very good idea. You've got a good one growing. That same year, Scott Holbin grew that same 1,844 seed. So we both had one going.
And, you know, your friends, you talk with one another and say, gee, how you doing, Scott? I'm doing, you know, close to 1,900 pounds. You're trying to do the math, all right. Mine's close to 2,000 pounds. I think I taped out measuring like 2,009 pounds. So if he's taping 1,900 and I go light, he goes heavy, you know, either one of us could win. Well, at the end of it, I won 5% heavy, he won 5% light.
So that's a big difference. In 2017, after a long season of hard work growing these giant produce, the weigh-in day arrived. And getting these fruits to weigh in is quite the process and takes a team effort. It's called Fat Friday. The day before our weigh-up is usually on a Saturday, we help each other out. There's four or five guys that get together, you have a tripod with a harness that goes around the bottom of the pumpkin, you have a chain fall, and you're able to lift the pumpkin up by this harness from the tripod without actually having to lift any weight whatsoever.
And these fruit now are so big that you have to have a trailer because they won't fit in the back of a pickup truck any longer. So we pick it up in the air, we push the trailer underneath, we let it down, hook it up to the truck, and we pull it out. We bring it to the farm. We have this weigh-off in Warren, Rhode Island, Ferishes Farm.
We set up things for the following day. We usually weigh till the end. We weigh the biggest ones last by the measurement, by how it goes. And just that day I won the world record, I was fortunate. I had the biggest fruit there, and it ended up weighing the heaviest.
I was very surprised that it went 5% heavy because I was just hoping for something that could beat 1844, which was the world record, so to really come in 2118, it was a dream come true, that's for sure, to say the least. It's going to be a hard record to beat because that was a very large fruit, even nowadays. At the time, that was the 13th largest fruit ever grown. Pumpkins and squash.
Now, since then, there's probably about another 30 or 40 ones that are as big or bigger than that, but there's not really any green squash that have come close to that, other than my 1935. There's no doubt seeing these giant pumpkins or squash on the road would be a sight to see. Well, the funny part of this is when you're going down the road, because some of these layoffs we go to are in upstate Connecticut near the New York line, and you're on 95, and you've got people taking pictures and hanging out the windows and putting their thumbs up and almost running you off the road. That's the scary part is when you've got people who are not watching where they're going, and they're really excited, and they're taking pictures, and they're beeping their horns. Everyone enjoys a large pumpkin going down the road. Some people probably have never seen it before, and they're really in awe when they do see it. That's the part that's exciting, and you get to the way off, and you have families and kids that look at it. It's like a Christmas tree, a big pumpkin.
It's something everybody enjoys looking at. There's a pumpkin organization called the GPC, and they're something like a government of the pumpkin growers. The GPC is the Great Pumpkin Commonwealth, the organization that makes sure everyone is on the same page when it comes to growing and measuring these giant fruits and vegetables. So it's very important that we do have a GPC to control the pumpkin community and that everybody is judged fairly, and we have a yearly convention that's put on by the GPC, and that's a good time where everyone gets together. There's usually about 200 or 300 people from all over the world.
They give out awards, and usually the growers who grow the larger squash or fruit or vegetables, depending on what it is, they do a PowerPoint presentation, and everyone learns what the newest strategies were, how they did it, what not to do, what to do. It's just as important as what to do as what not to do. What you can learn from other people's mistakes, you certainly don't want to make them all yourself. The best thing about this hobby is the friends that you meet, I think. I enjoy fishing, too, and I've got a bunch of fishing buddies that I really enjoy fishing with.
I can't wait to talk about the fish we caught and how to catch them and what to use. It's basically the same thing when you're growing giant pumpkins. What are you using to fertilize? What are you using to spray?
What are you using for fungicides? What do you think of this seed? What do you think of that seed? What are you growing next year?
How do you do it? It's just really a lot of friendship, too. It's not only the work of growing them.
It's people you meet and the friends you acquire over the years are just so much fun. Joe Jutras is now in his 60s, and he has no intention of stopping his hobby any time soon. You know, God willing, if I'm still fit, and this sport really keeps you moving. You're out there, first thing crack of dawn, working on these plants, stretching and moving and up and down, and there's quite a bit of physical work to it. I'd like to do it as long as I can. I know my buddy Eddie, who I'm helping now, he's 83, and he likes growing these fruit as much as anybody I know, and he just can't wait to get up in the morning and get out there and work on them. Granted that, you know, at 83, you're not able to do it as well as you can at 40 or 50 or 60, but he still does a heck of a job at it.
I know it's not for everybody. It's quite a bit of work. Not everybody has to take it quite as serious as a competitive pumpkin grower, just to grow one in your backyard, to have a 200 or 300 pounder on your step is a great achievement over the summer, and it's very attainable now with the seeds we have.
Just about everybody has room for a 10 by 15 foot garden, and you could easily grow 200, 300, 500 pound fruit without a heck of a lot of work, I think. And a great job as always by Faith and Robbie, telling the story of Joe Jutris, and my goodness, what a passion he has, and my goodness, how many of us have a world record in anything? And if it's the squash world record, so be it, 2,118 pounds done in 2017, and Joe's pride and joy, but still out there competing and wanting to win, and most importantly, sharing his hobby with pals, and that's what it really is all about.
We all have those hobbies, and what really brings us together is more than the passion for the thing, but the people we meet and the friendships we make. Joe Jutris's story here on Our American Stories. ¶¶ I Heart Radio and the Black Effect Podcast Network are sponsored by BetterHelp Online Therapy, BetterHelp Online Therapy, a more convenient, affordable, and accessible way to try therapy.
I'm Debi Brown, host of the Dropping Gems Podcast, a podcast about the depth and potential of personal growth and the human spirit, all in service to our liberation and internal peace. Go to betterhelp.com forward slash black effect for 10% off your first month. Soon millions will make Medicare coverage decisions for next year, and UnitedHealthcare can help you feel confident about your choices. For those eligible, Medicare annual enrollment runs from October 15th through December 7th. If you're working past age 65, you might be able to delay Medicare enrollment depending on your employer coverage.
It can seem confusing, but it doesn't have to be. Visit UHCMedicareHealthplans.com to learn more. UnitedHealthcare, helping people live healthier lives. I know everything there is to know about running a coffee shop, but for small business insurance, I need my State Farm agent. They make sure my business stays piping hot, and I stay cool and confident. See, they're small business owners too, so they know how to help you best. State Farm is in York Corner and on it. Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.
Call your local State Farm agent for a quote today. And we return to Our American Stories, and as you know, we tell stories about everything on this show. And up next, a story suggested to us by a listener. In 2009, Tom Morton decided to join the Marine Corps, but it wasn't a cakewalk to get onto the yellow footprints at Parris Island. Here's Tom with his story of joining the Marine. So I was born and raised in Nashville, Tennessee, you know, kind of a middle-class upbringing like in the suburbs and stuff. Overall, fairly normal childhood.
My parents split up and got a divorce when I was 13. It was hard initially, but eventually it was something that I came to really respect and treasure, because I learned a ton from my stepdad. Like, my father is a more, he's always been a businessman, you know. Like, he kind of followed the smarter path, the more stable path, and that was kind of what his father pushed on him. And my stepdad didn't really have a lot of family by the time he was an adult, so he ended up getting drafted into Vietnam and kind of was forced into service.
But the way that he handled it and the way that he looked at it, it always kind of made it seem not necessarily something glorious, but something honorable. The way that my stepfather Gary is about handling trauma and stuff, like, he looks at everything as kind of like, well, that was terrible, but I learned this from it and I'm moving forward. And I think that was kind of what made me realize that, like, even if the military was going to give me things that were horrible to experience, like, it was something that I could learn from and grow from if I took the right path with it. And, you know, I think even as a little kid, I was always fascinated by the military, but, you know, after I got to know my stepfather and kind of had somebody that was honest and open with me about, you know, the bad times, not just what you see in war movies and stuff, it made me respect it more, even knowing that it wasn't as positive as it was portrayed.
So that was, you know, my stepdad's always been a great, very positive influence on me, and, you know, my dad has too. We just, we've always kind of, not always, but over the military, when I wanted to join, we butted heads quite a bit. If I was going to join the military, he wanted me to at least go through college and go in as a commissioned officer and, you know, therefore at least have, in their minds, some kind of a better chance at survival because you're better trained, higher up the food chain, however, you know, people look at it.
But, you know, that just wasn't really my mentality. I always, I kind of looked at it as like the guys who would climb the ladder from the bottom and make it to a point of respect. I wanted to enlist and work my way up. I remember when I, a big shift in things for me of which, which branch I wanted to approach was when I went to an Army recruiting station, like, you know, went out of my way. They hadn't talked to me or anything and just went and found one. And I walked in and I, there was this really, really overweight Army recruiter, just like the most, like, inner service kind of trash talk poster guy. And I'm like, yeah, so I'm really interested in enlisting, but I really want to go to, like, the Rangers or Special Forces. What can you tell me about that? Like, what are the options?
How does that work? And this dude kind of, like, rolls his eyes and scratches his head for a second. He's like, ah, you're going to want to talk to Mike about that. He's not here today.
I think he's supposed to be here Thursday. And I just thought that was the most unprofessional, like, ridiculous answer I could possibly get. So I walked out really disappointed, just kind of thinking like, wow, maybe the military isn't quite what I thought it was.
Maybe it's not what I'm looking for. And then a week or two later, I got a call from a Marine recruiter. Anyway, he started chatting me up, and he was like, have you thought about joining the military? And I told him, yeah, you know, I'm really interested in joining the Army Rangers.
You know, I want to go the hardest I can go. And he's like, well, has anyone ever told you that basic Marine Corps infantry school is longer with longer hikes and harder training than Army Ranger school? And I was like, well, no.
No one has ever told me that. That's my intention now. And so that was kind of the ceiling point of the Marine Corps for me is, you know, I wanted to go, you know, start out at the hardest level of infantry I could find. And then from there, I had hopes of going to, like, recon or snipers or something along those lines. I almost talked my mom into signing off on letting me enlist early. Basically, like, as soon as high school was done, even though I hadn't turned 18 yet, I would go straight to boot camp. But, you know, my dad was very hesitant and didn't want to sign that over and basically said, like, you know, when you're an adult, you can make that decision for yourself, but I really want you to take some time, get an education, and think about this before you do it. And I kind of relented and agreed to go to college and at least just see how that went and, you know, see if something in school grabbed me that made me want to go and do that professionally more than I wanted to join the Marines.
So I went to University of Tampa for my first semester and a half. And, yeah, that level of freedom was not something that 18-year-old me was quite ready to handle. I got kicked out of school. So that was the point where I kind of tried to tell my parents, like, hey, look, see, I tried school.
I'm obviously an idiot. It didn't work out. Like, time for me to go join the Marines. And I remember in that summer after that spring semester when I got kicked out, my sister and I were talking about it, and she was really upset. You know, she was just worried about my well-being. But she expressed her worries enough to me to where I kind of relented and again agreed, like, all right, I will try school again. I know I kind of screwed around and partied last time around, so I wasn't really giving school a hard try, so I'll go back. So I went to Middle Tennessee State, but I still had this kind of back-of-my-mind urge that I needed to do something else to. So I went and talked to my advisor and kind of explained, look, I kind of feel an internal obligation to serve four years in the Marines at least. So she said, like, if you're going to drop out to join at some point, now is kind of the time because you're not so far in that you will lose everything. So that was when I kind of decided, like, all right, well, it's now or never.
So in October of 2008, I signed my contract and swore in in Nashville, Tennessee. You know, like, something that was always really attractive to me about the military was an idea of, like, order and consistency and everything and doing something that I could be really proud of telling people that I did. So I was really excited about it, but I was also very afraid of telling my family.
And when I did, it didn't go over all that well. Everyone started trying to find loopholes, like, you know, until you finish boot camp, you're not actually obligated to do anything or whatever. I had already made up my mind, and on top of that, given my word. The way that I look at a contract is once you give your word that you're going to do something, whether it's signed or not or just a handshake, you do it. You follow through and finish it up. So from that point on, there was no going back.
I also really didn't know what was coming. And you're listening to Tom Morton tell the story of how he ended up becoming a U.S. Marine. And my goodness, I wanted to enlist and work my way up, he told his dad. His dad, of course, wanted his son to go to college, and if he was going to go into the military, come in with some protection, because maybe those officers won't get hurt in war. By the way, those officers do get hurt in war.
But, well, as often is the case in many of our stories, you can love your dad but disagree. And when we come back, more of Tom Morton's story here on Our American Story. Go to betterhelp.com forward slash black effect for 10% off your first month. Soon millions will make Medicare coverage decisions for next year, and UnitedHealthcare can help you feel confident about your choices. For those eligible, Medicare annual enrollment runs from October 15th through December 7th. If you're working past age 65, you might be able to delay Medicare enrollment depending on your employer coverage.
It can seem confusing, but it doesn't have to be. Visit uhcmedicarehealthplans.com to learn more. UnitedHealthcare, helping people live healthier lives. I know everything there is to know about running a coffee shop, but for small business insurance, I need my State Farm agent. They make sure my business stays piping hot, and I stay cool and confident. See, they're small business owners too, so they know how to help you best. State Farm is in your corner and on it. Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.
Call your local State Farm agent for a quote today. And we return to Our American Stories and the story of Tom Morton joining the Marine Corps. When we last left off, Tom, after finding out college wasn't for him twice, had finally decided to join the Marines despite his parents' reservations.
Let's continue with his story. It's so funny looking back on just how much I was, I don't know, just how excited I was about the idealistic kind of thing, watching the Marine Corps commercials where the dude in dress blues is slaying a dragon with the saber and stuff. It all looks so crisp and beautiful and perfect and like, man, I want to be like that. Yeah, then I kind of found out the hard way that it's nothing like that when you're actually in it. I remember when we first got there, there's the iconic scene of the drill instructor getting on the bus and screaming at everyone, telling you, get off my bus right now and you have to get on the yellow footprints. And those yellow footprints are a big source of lore in the Marine Corps.
They're just kind of referred to and everyone knows exactly what you mean. Like, what would you do to go back and not step on the yellow footprints when you're ten miles into a horrible hike in the rain or something? It's always a point of reference of kind of like the Matrix thing of red pill or blue pill.
Like, what would you do to go back and not stand on the yellow footprints, just stay on the bus? But once you get there, it's complete chaos for the first week. It's all just sleep deprivation and just making you feel like you do not know what to do, because you don't. You're thrown into the most extreme version of a very, very regimented lifestyle without being told how that regiment goes. So you learn through messing things up and then getting what's called IT'd, individual training. Basically, when a drill instructor says, you there, come over here and you go to the quarter deck, which is the little open area at the front of your squad bay, and you'll get pushed through a series of push-ups, jumping jacks, crunches, whatever. Basically, just any exercise until you start to fatigue, and then they'll push you a little longer, and then you finally think it's done when they tell you to stand up, and then they'll tell you to do something else. And it's all about just pushing you past your comfort zone.
And then there's also the pit, which is every series of buildings for each company has a pit. It's a gigantic, probably, I don't know, about the size of a tennis court area of sand that's surrounded by gigantic logs, and basically you go and do a bunch of calisthenics in the sand. So you get super sweaty and the sand sticks to you and gets all down your pants and into crevices and places it shouldn't be. But if it's 6 a.m. and you've just been doused in sand, well, guess what? You've got sand in every orifice for the rest of the day.
No matter how much more running you do or how many more calisthenics you have to do, it's all going to be done with sand rubbing in your undies. So really it's all about trying to remove your identity as a person, as an individual, so that they can rebuild your identity as a part of a larger group or an organization, as a team. So when you first get there, you don't have even name tapes.
You can't say the word I, me, you, my, any of that. It's this recruit or like Recruit Morton requests permission to speak to drill instructor so-and-so. And if permission is not granted, then Recruit Morton does not get to speak. And you start learning how to tell time based on how hungry you are because you can't have a watch.
You're not allowed to know things like that. But you start figuring out from your schedule like, okay, well, my stomach's growling pretty hard, so we got to be within about an hour of lunch. It's incredible how much you can conform to such a harsh environment, but that's what it's designed to make you do. But I also completely recognize that it was all a mind game. Like everything that the drill instructors were doing were intended to break us in some way.
So I never really broke because I feel like I was a little more capable of keeping my calm than some. And just because I was a little older, which doesn't sound like that much to be 20 going in like enlisting, being that much older than anyone, but most people who enlist are 18. So because of that, I was a squad leader for all of boot camp, which doesn't really mean much. It just means that you stand at the front of the line and anytime someone in your squad makes a mistake, you get to pay with them.
I would say a big moment for me in recruit training was, so the tail end of recruit training, the final test is what's called the crucible. It's a three day nonstop field exercise where basically all day you're either hiking or going through some kind of a obstacle course or doing like team building exercise kind of things where like you have to climb this obstacle, but you can only do so if you like make a human pyramid to be able to step on each other and then pull each other back up or whatever, like stuff like that. But it's nonstop and you have like night hikes and everything.
And so like really, you're only supposed to get about three hours of sleep a night and you're on your feet moving at all times the rest of the time. And our crucible got a little special sauce because it had been raining for three straight days before our crucible started and continued raining for the entirety of it. I don't know how much you know about Parris Island, South Carolina, but it's a very swampy environment. So when it rains hard for a long time, the rain doesn't go anywhere. It just keeps getting deeper. So by the time we got to all these obstacle courses, most of them were at least knee deep in water. But drill instructors being drill instructors, that just means, all right, they're going to hate life more.
They're going to earn it. All right. So we spent three days just staying soggy to the point where your feet have been the skin on your feet is so soft from nothing but wet boots that your skin is tearing off inside your boot. A lot of us were bleeding through our boots like you could see it coming through by the end. I just remember that final hike. You hike back to the main parade deck where you actually do your your drill competitions and graduation and everything. And you get in formation and you're right there in front of the replica statue of the statue of Iwo Jima.
It's right at sunrise. And your drill instructors go through and present each one of you with your first Eagle Globe and Anchor, which is the Marine Corps emblem, because up until that point, you haven't earned it. You don't deserve to wear it. And so that moment is like a really big shift for you. Like it's you're no longer a recruit. You are a Marine now.
Like you are property of the U.S. government and part of the oldest and the fiercest fighting force America has to offer and one of the fiercest in the world. And the drill instructors get to choose who they give, who each of them gives Eagle Globe and Anchor. I was very proud that my senior drill instructor chose to present me with mine because he was he was an incredibly impressive Marine. He was silent drill team before 9-11 happened. And then as soon as it did, he was on in one of the first units in Afghanistan and then went to Iraq for the Battle of Fallujah.
Just just a living legend of war stories. And to have someone like that choose to whether it was because he saw something in me or maybe just liked me better or whatever, for whatever reason, having him choose me and hand me the EGA was very meaningful on its own. But it was also the first time that I could speak to him without having to request permission, refer to myself and him in the third person. So, you know, he asked me, like, if I had anything to say. And I remember just choking up and barely holding it together and saying, I never thought that a little piece of metal would ever mean so much to me as this does. And he looked me in the eye and he said, it's not just a piece of metal, it's a way of life. And I think that was when it kind of set in that has me choking up a little bit now, even.
What was that, 2009? So 12 years later. But, you know, that was kind of what really reinforced the concept that the Marine Corps isn't just a job or you don't just serve a little time in the Marine Corps and then get out. It's not like the Army or the Coast Guard or the Navy. It's it's a different mindset. It's a warrior ethos that once you've if you truly like adopt that mindset, you will never be the same.
You will always be something different. And even though, you know, all that kind of settled in on me later over over time, it was still an extremely impactful moment. And, you know, just getting to to shake that man's hand after he had made my life hell for so long and knowing that it was over. It was it was a very, very liberating and exciting and inspiring moment. And a special thanks to Monty Montgomery for the production on the piece and a special thanks to Tom Morton for talking about his journey to becoming U.S. Marine. And as the saying goes, once a Marine, always Marine, it's not just a piece of metal, he said, it is a way of life.
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