NEJM -- Semper Fi

Life In the Land That Time Forgot:

This is a dispatch from Parris Island. I don't know what to say about it, except that it is right. It captures everything about the misery, the hate and the heat, the suffering of training and the sorrow that comes in its aftermath. It's a bad world, as my old Aussie friend often says.

The doctor who writes closes it well, following the anguish of a mother who lost her only son with a song drifting over the swamp:

When I go outside, I can hear the shouts floating across the water, the young recruits out there sounding off in unison as they go out for their morning run, flat-out gung-ho at 6 a.m. The shouting sounds as if it is coming not just across the marshes but across the decades, and I swear sometimes that I can hear what they are shouting — all that Marine tough-guy talk:

Lock and load!

Ready on the left!

Ready on the right!

Ready on the firing line!

Failure is not an option!

Good to go.

Thank God for that chorus, but what a price to join it! What bitter thanks are offered to its singers: death, and separation from love, and the attentions of a divided citizenry and a divided Congress.

Yet they are owed thanks, and kinder attentions. On the behalf of the keepers of the flame--an Order of which they are chiefer members than I myself--I thank them, and pledge them my friendship and trust. Semper Fidelis, as the lady says.

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