Making the best of things

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Despite graduation ceremony’s cancelation, new Marine proud to be part of the corps

By MINDY LUCAS

Madison Hicks was a little disappointed that she didn’t get to walk across the parade deck at Parris Island for her graduation from the Marine Corps on Friday, March 13.

After all, becoming a Marine is not an everyday thing. At least not for Hicks and her family.

“We were planning on spending two nights, but we’ll probably turn around and go home in the morning,” said Hick’s aunt, Peggy Smith, who had driven 16 hours from Dallas on Thursday to see her niece graduate.

Other members of the family flew in from Oregon. All found out the ceremony had been canceled shortly after arriving in town.

The Marine Corps Recruit Depot announced on Thursday that it was canceling the remaining family day activities, which started on Wednesday, and Friday’s graduation ceremony “out of an abundance of caution.”

Though an announcement made on Facebook never mentioned the coronavirus, the statement said, “We understand the significance of this event to Marines and their families, but we must remain cautious and focused on public safety.”

While Hicks’ family members were also a bit disappointed, they still seemed to be enjoying their family reunion of sorts.

Hours after hearing about the cancellation they were resting under the Pavilion in Beaufort’s Waterfront Park and taking in the views.

“It’s beautiful down here,” Smith said. “Just gorgeous.”

Sporting a new scarlet and gold USMC sweatshirt, Hicks, while a bit disappointed, was still proud to be a newly minted Marine.

“Getting to walk across the parade deck as a female Marine is kind of a big deal because we’re a small group that make up the Marine Corps.”

As she noted, female Marines, as they are called in the corps, make up less than 10 percent of the Marine Corps and Parris Island is the only basic-training site in the country for women in the Corps.

But Hicks also understood the decision to cancel Friday’s ceremony, she said.

“There are a lot of recruits who are just coming in to training, so they are their main priority. The priority is to keep their recruits safe so it does make sense to me,” she said.

And it didn’t stop Hicks mother, Roxie Eslick, from beaming with pride. Eslick, who has a son in the army, said she was still getting used to the idea that her 19-year-old daughter was now a Marine.

“I mean my girl. She just graduated from high school,” she said. “She’s definitely matured.”

Eslick said they were able to attend a practice graduation held at the base on Wednesday.

“So we got lucky,” she said. “It’s definitely not the same, but it was still special.”

Hicks who was a little more stoic about the situation, said that finally being able to see her family – which kept her going through some of the rougher times in training – was nice.

And while a ceremony would have also been nice for all the families coming in, she said, for Hicks it was always about getting that Eagle, Globe and Anchor.

The “EGA” emblem, as it is sometimes referred to, is placed in the hands of recruits who have completed their training in a private ceremony which signifies they are now Marines.

“The day we got our EGAs, that’s the day I knew I was a Marine,” she said.