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It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

I meant November 10th, when were you thinking?

Most people I know love this time of year because the Holiday Season kicks off at the end of November. That usually means families gathering from around the country to eat, drink and celebrate. It means sitting around chatting, reminiscing on past holidays, and feeling loved and accepted by the people around you. 

I’m an only child, and I didn’t grow up with access to the big family traditions. I often look at my friends here in the Northeast with their big Italian families and wish I had all the holiday spirit they have. But then I remember the very awesome tradition I DO have and the family I have that celebrates with me every year - we just do it a little bit differently. 

You see - my husband has a huge family. His brothers are spread throughout the nation. They come from every walk of life and background. And every year, they converge on my house to celebrate our holiest of holidays - no, not Christmas, the Marine Corps Birthday, of course!

Most civilians are aware that November 11 is Veterans Day, but until I married into this crazy family I had no idea of the significance of November 10.

I won’t go into the history here because every Marine you know will be posting about it on the 10th. Rather, I want to share our tradition that means the world to me.

My introduction to my husband’s Marine Corps family started when he began drilling again in 2007, but I never got the full picture, until I met the guys from Sunset 6 - his FAST Company platoon. 

On November 14, 2008 my husband was reunited with “Leppie” (just like all Marines, he has a real name but we never use it). It was one day prior to the Marine Corps Birthday Ball where my husband announced to his Company of Marines that they were going to Iraq in the spring.

(Note to Company Commanders - announcing to a Company of Marines at the Birthday Ball that you’re going to war will result in a sh*tshow at the ball. Your Marines will be so excited they are going to war that they will drink ALL the alcohol. The spouses will be so devastated that their significant others are leaving for war that they will drink ALL the alcohol. The Marines will dance and break ALL the things. The spouses will cry ALL the tears and, if you are lucky enough to have someone like my friend Laura in your unit, one wife will call the Commanding Officer out in the middle of an after party, much to the chagrin of her young, enlisted husband and the amusement of the commander’s wife...). But I digress...

In the spring of 2009, on my 30th birthday, my husband went to war and the brotherhood kicked in.

Leppie never let me go without during deployment. He called, showed up in his suit and tie to change a door, moved me to a new house, helped me buy a new truck, took me to dinner, and was family to me while hubby was away. He was one of two people whose first question was never, “How’s Jer?” Instead, it was always, “How are YOU?”  That November he started what has now become my most treasured family tradition - the Fast Company Sunset 6 reunion. 5?? guys came in town that year [insert pic] to celebrate. We sent the pictures to Iraq along with some video the guys made for my husband, mocking their once-enlisted buddy, now an officer and company commander. I felt surrounded by the love of family that night in a way this only-child hadn’t experienced before. I knew then what it was to be in the Marine Corps family.

The next year we added a trip to Cookie’s Tavern and a few more Marines and the tradition was solidified.

Each year, regardless of whether my husband is in the country or not, my house is invaded by the Marines of Sunset 6 and their brothers from other units who they’ve served with through the years. They show up a few days early and leave whenever their wives finally demand they return to their real lives (seriously - there’s no time cap on their stay...I’m a self-nominated saint for this!). I think my house must have a time warp around it because they show up and are instantly 19 years old again. 

The banter is nonstop. The laughter is loud. The stories are real. The brotherhood is unbreakable. 

And somewhere, in the midst of all this, the Marines of Sunset 6 permit me, the civilian wife, to be one of the family. They have taken me in as one of their own and they share their hearts in front of me. I’ve heard over and over again that the best thing for our veterans to do is discuss their time at war in a non-judgmental environment where they can process their feelings and safely say whatever they want about the experience. Every November, my home is the place where this happens for these Marines. They keep coming back, not only because they love each other, but because there is a healing that takes place for them and a release they get of the things they can’t say anywhere else with anyone else. When people ask why each year I stay sober, stand out in the cold with them at Cookie’s, drive them to Paddy’s (the dive bar where we end up every year) then drive them to cheesesteaks (it IS Philly after all) THEN drive them home, and finally get to sleep at 4 am, this is why. Because it’s important that this brotherhood remain strong and in that light, it’s an easy sacrifice to make that happen.

When I reflect on what makes the Holidays so special, I know it is because it’s a time when families come together to laugh, celebrate, and reconnect. I know that Holiday traditions bind us to one another through the years. I love how the annual Holiday photo shows how families have changed and grown, yet stayed the same at their core. I know that for most people, these treasured days start at Thanksgiving and run into January, but not for me. For me, my High Holy Day falls on November 10th as we celebrate the birth of our beloved United States Marines Corps. I am eternally grateful for this family and looking forward to the party again this year! (Also - for all my business associates, NOW you will understand when I don't respond to email for a few days).

*Special thanks to the Marines of Sunset 6, whose story this truly is. My life would be incomplete without these crazy men and their beautiful wives, who are my sisters. 

Jean SouthComment