Ever since I can remember, there has been a military recruiting depot on the mainstreet of my hometown: Army, Navy, and Marine Corps. (For the record, I know where the Coast Guard recruiter is in the vicinity, but not the Air Force recruiter.)
About two years ago, I noticed a few protestors liked to gather outside the Marine recruiter with anti-war signs and shout slogans against the current administration. They were real vocal during the summer, and even cynced-up their small protests with the weekly gathering of Marine recruits. The Marines like to get the kids in shape before they arrive at Parris Island, so they do group PT for the kids while they await their induction date. The protestors tried to disrupt the training, but the Marine recruiters kept smiling while they urged their kids to do more pull-ups, or push-ups, or sit-ups. Knowing a few Marines, I suspect they got a perverse joy out of exercising in full view of the protestors.
Eventually, the Winter months came, and the protestors diappeared, but the Marines didn't. Funny thing that.
But, about two months ago, I noticed the Marines and the Army were no longer occupying the storefronts they'd used as offices for over 30 years. Only the Navy remained. One month ago, I noticed that the Marines had posted two identical billboards on either side of town.
The signs say "We don't accept applications, only COMMITMENTS." There's a portrait of a Marine NCO in full dress blues staring out at the viewer, too.
My daughter was looking one billboard over one day and asked me who that man was. "He's a Marine, sweety. He keeps us safe."
I don't know why, but I feel a little funny about the change. Billboards aren't the same thing... Especially for an elite force that prides itself on being the first in and the last out. I miss those Marines.