By Francis Scarcella
The Daily Item
PARRIS ISLAND, S.C. — Halfway through his intense basic training in boot camp, a 2012 Shikellamy High School graduate says there is no place he would rather be than Parris Island.
Brett Nagle, 18, spoke softly after returning to his dorm from rifle training Thursday.
“Before I talk, can I dry off?” Nagle asked his drill instructor.
Nagle had just returned from the shooting range, where he practiced firing a rifle in an all-day South Carolina downpour.
With a rare, but big smile, the instructor agreed with Nagle’s request, and soon the Sunbury native began to talk about the seven weeks of training he has put in.
“This is amazing here,” Nagle said. “I have learned great discipline, and I have learned to make myself a better person.”
Nagle, who will graduate in about five weeks, says he hasn’t concentrated on things he’s missed about his hometown and that he is thinking about what he will enjoy once he graduates.
“I miss music and my family,” he said. “But I don’t think about that stuff. I think about how I want to be stationed overseas and how I want to continue to better myself and become a field radio operator as a U.S. Marine.”
Nagle is one of several hundred recruits getting ready to graduate.
Approximately 40 graduations are held each year, and the Marines work like a fine-tuned machine, said company commander Capt. Ansley. “Even though it’s raining today and none of us want to be outside, it could be worse,” he said. “We don’t stop for rain. We are built to keep going, and we are built strong.”
By 7 a.m., recruit after recruit was being pushed to the limit by what seemed to be an endless amount of drill instructors.
Recruits wouldn’t look from side to side, continued to stare straight ahead and spoke only when spoken to.
“Move! Move! Move!” an instructor screamed at several dozen recruits as they ran from station to station doing pullups, chinups and situps.
About 100 educators and journalists on Thursday watched what recruits have to withstand. One teacher said she was just in awe.
“This is amazing,” said Connie Gratton, an emotional support teacher from Seneca Valley High near Harmony, Butler County. “I have gained a whole new perspective and appreciation for what goes on here.”
Gratton, who was traveling with several other teachers and guidance counselors from Pennsylvania and New York, said she was impressed with every aspect of the Marines.
“The drive and the dedication these men and women have is unbelievable,” she said. “When I return back to my school, I will be able to explain to my students and give them so much more information. If I could come back here again, I would.”
Gratton may have that chance, because the Marines sponsor 24 educator workshops a year between training facilities at Parris Island and San Diego.
The Marines bring educators to the facilities to show them what takes place during training and in return hope to gain support and help when it comes to recruitment.
As for Nagle, he may have to wait another five weeks to graduate and see his family, but more than 100 recruits reunited with their own families from all over the country Thursday at “Family Day,” just hours before the morning’s graduation.