This I Believe

Mike - State College, Pennsylvania
Entered on July 3, 2006
Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: integrity

I believe that truth is the secret of life.

I have not always been a truthful person. About the time that I started to talk, my father nicknamed me Karl. Shortly after, I began to experiment with lying. I told fat lies and white lies. I made up accounts of really big fish and told tall tales. As I grew older and more sophisticated, I became willing to participate in cover-ups and dirty tricks. I was not even above lying at confession. I had figured out that if I went into the confessional and told the priest that I had lied, each new lie would cover the last string of deceit. My parents constantly lectured me about the importance of “my word.” I was grounded, lost privileges and paid for my sins. But I never got caught. And I never broke. I believed that I was one smart cookie.

My chicanery came to a halt in the fall of 1993. On a warm December morning, Senior Drill Instructor Staff Sergeant Wallace stood in front of Platoon 3137 and bellowed “EYEBALLS!” Seventy some voices, in unison, answered “SNAP!” Once all heads and eyes were fixed on him, he said (with the conviction that only a Marine Drill Instructor can muster) “Marines never lie.” I believed him without question.

I believe that my immediate complicity was linked to the immense red and gold sign on the causeway announcing the entrance to Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island. I believe the act of crossing the threshold from liberty to service crushed my adolescent bravado under the combat boot of reality. The devil on my shoulder was cast out by the realization that there was only one way I would leave the island: as a Marine. So when the Senior Drill Instructor told Recruit Hendrickson that “integrity violators” are not tolerated, it became the enduring ethos of my life.

After 14 years as a Marine I have truly come to understand how basic the need for trust can be. Becoming a father has further strengthened the essence of truth in my soul. I believe that the most important errand in my life is to teach my daughters that truth, will, set them free.