According to Legend's handler, Lance Cpl. Alexandra Stamateris, the dog "goes absolutely berserk" on Thursdays and Fridays -- the usual days the Depot holds Family Day and Graduation Day. "We joke that he has such a hard life because on Thursdays and Fridays he gets to be pet by a thousand people."
Since the 1920s, Parris Island has hosted between 12 and 18 mascot bulldogs. Legend comes from a special bloodline, as the great-grandson of the University of Georgia mascot, UGA V.
During the ceremony, "you see America," says Col. Robert Jones, Parris Island's commanding officer for recruit training. Graduation represents a cross-section of society from every state in the union celebrating the transformation of men and women from recruits into Marines.
In fact, the physical transformation is so extreme that moms will run out on the parade grounds to hug their sons "and they'll end up hugging someone else's kid," Col. Jones says with a chuckle. "These young men and women change so much during their training," he explained. Jones said it's a physical change, but also a change inside. "They're more disciplined. They understand our core values of honor, courage and commitment."
It's the drill instructors, Jones said, "who make that transformation happen."
Not all of the ceremonies are public, however. Prior to the graduation the recruits, staff and drill instructors hold a private tradition. The Eagle Globe and Anchor ceremony recognizes the intense bond between the drill instructor and the recruit forged by their 70 days of extreme training.
"It's actually a very emotional ceremony," says Jones. The recruits are charged with carrying on the traditions and legacy of the Marines who came before them. "For a lot of the recruits you'll see tears come to their eyes as the drill instructor puts a small eagle globe and anchor emblem in the recruit's hand, shakes their hand, calls them Marines for the first time and tells them, 'job well done.'"
USS Midway: Unparalleled service
In San Diego lives a Navy pioneer named Midway.
The aircraft carrier USS Midway -- now a museum docked at the Navy Pier -- boasts quite a resume.
It's the longest serving carrier of the 20th century -- 47 years before retiring. Nearly 200,000 sailors served aboard the Midway -- average age 19. It was the first carrier to sail into the Arctic during winter.
And in 1975 Midway set the bar for humanitarian missions with Operation Frequent Wind, part of the U.S response to the fall of South Vietnam and the resulting rush of refugees. When it was all said and done, the Midway was credited for saving some 3,000 refugees, who would otherwise have been left behind.
"Some very courageous decisions had to be made in terms of pushing helicopters overboard to create space for those refugees," says Scott McGaugh, author and director of marketing for the USS Midway Museum. "You talk to sailors who were aboard at that time and they all will tell you, it was the highlight of their military career."
Among San Diego's 170 tourism attractions, the USS Midway is rated No. 1 on TripAdvisor.com. Visitors can climb into aircraft cockpits, sit in the captain's chair and stretch out in a sailor's bunk. You can go into the brig and see what it was really like to be confined to a jail cell aboard a Navy ship.
Check out the flight deck, and the bridge -- the ship's nerve center. Imagine what it was like to launch some of the first strikes against Iraq at the dawn of 1991's Operation Desert Storm. Or take your imagination back further to the days after World War II. "It's a remarkable amount of history that's now being preserved on the ship," says McGaugh.
On Friday, November 9, the Midway is testing new waters with a fresh venture: college basketball.
Right smack dab on the ship's 4-acre deck Syracuse University will battle San Diego State University on a temporary court with room for about 4,000 fans to cheer from temporary stands.
Then on Monday San Diego hosts its annual Veterans Day parade, led by legendary pilot Chuck Yeager, who in 1947 was credited with breaking the sound barrier.
"This week is a good time to pause and reflect, for just a moment," says McGaugh, "the thousands of men and women who served their country to defend the freedoms that so many of us enjoy. It's a great time to simply pause and thank a veteran."