Marine Corps, MCRD Graduation Family Day

The Parent's Survival Guide to Marine Corps Boot CampThe Parent’s Survival Guide to Marine Corps Boot Camp

After thirteen weeks of intensive boot camp training, Marine recruits see their families for the first time the day before graduation at MCRD Graduation Family Day.

Plan to arrive on Wednesday afternoon or evening for a San Diego USMC Graduation because you will not want to miss anything!

I have THREE Marines and a USMC graduation in San Diego is NOT to be missed. 

With each of my Marines, each San Diego Marine graduation in San Diego has been different. 

Family Day during a Marine Graduation is held on Thursday, the day before the actual graduation at both MCRD San Diego or MCRD Paris Island.

The first time you actually see (or touch) your new Marine is during the Moto run in the Thursday morning. There is nothing like the excitement when they first run past.

You will cry, you will shake with excitement. Promise.

MCRD Graduation Family Day Moto Run will inspire and impress you when you attend your first USMC boot camp graduation.Up until Family Day, there are no phone calls (maybe one for travel plans), no emails, no Facebook, nothing. They are totally immersed in concentrated training and focused on the task.

In this day of instant communication, it is definitely a culture shock not only for the recruits but families who are used to being in touch with their kids at all times.

What Happens at a Marine Family Day?

You get to hug your Marine recruit for the first time. Mom’s cry at the site of their son transformed so much in 13 weeks. Dads beam with pride as their child stands straighter and prouder than he has ever seen in the past. Brothers and sisters will stand in awe of their sibling who looks like the same person but is changed.

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What to expect at an MCRD Graduation Family Day?

Ears Open, Eyeballs Click

Family Day at the Marine graduation in San Diego starts with the Drill Instructor introduction.

It’s an interactive introduction to what your Marine recruits learned and how they had to respond. The ears open and eyeballs click command is to listen and eyes on me, with a response of YES SIR, at the top of your voice.

You will get to practice this many times.

After the MotoRun your new Marines return to their barracks to shower and change into their Charlie uniforms for on-base Liberty.

Marine Corps 101

Parents and family have about 2 hours before the Liberty review begins. There is normally several presentations by the MCRD Commander with an introduction of all the drill instructors. It is here you will learn more about the next phase of your Marines training and success.
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You can also shop at the MCRD Base Exchange for USMC Graduation Shirts and other Marine USMC merchandise if you didn’t buy them ahead of time. You really want to wear a Marine Mom Shirt and bring home several.

Each USMC Graduation Battalion has their own colors.

  • 1st Recruit Training Battalion = Red
  • 2nd Recruit Training Battalion = Gold (Yellow)
  • 3rd Recruit Training Battalion = Navy Blue
  • 4th Recruit Training Battalion = Maroon

Considering the Marine Corps graduations occur on Friday it’s only fitting to some Marine Mom T-shirts in Red RED so you can wear red on Fridays and support our troops.


MCRD Graduation Family DayFamily Day Graduation Liberty

Finally, the time arrives when the new Marine Corps families and friends can hug their Marine. They will march and assemble by platoon and officially get dismissed.

Your new Marine will have four to five hours, on base, to enjoy with his family and friends. They are not free to do anything they want. They still have to be alert to salute and greet officers as they pass. My favorite part of the USMC Family Day is being escorted by my new Marine.

Seriously, they are taught to bend their left arm and escort females on base. There is a hierarchy. Grandma first, then Mom, then the girlfriend. So Marine Moms, you rank over girlfriends.

The pride you feel as a new Marine Mom is overwhelming and one you will never forget.

San Diego Marine Graduation tips and what to expectBring Food to Family Day

It’s not that the Marines don’t feed your son or daughter. BUT, Marine recruits don’t have time to enjoy food, nor enjoy their favorite food. Starting at the third phase of training letters from boot camp will start sounding like a menu as Marine recruits start imagining home and their favorite foods. Ask what foods they want you to bring.

You may be surprised what food your Marine recruit is craving. My new Marine asked for food of all types and during his five-hour liberty on Thursday and he ate continuously.

All we could do was watch in amazement as two bags of homemade treats, beef jerky, oreo balls, “Memaws “(bran) muffins, Swedish fish, Pringles, cheeseburger, ice cream disappeared AFTER a full buffet lunch.

Marine Corps Traditions

Marines cannot eat and walk in uniform at the same time.MCRD graduation Family Day at San Diego USMC Graduation

Nope, won’t happen, so expect a lot of stopping to snack. We stopped to eat beef jerky, we stopped for cookies, we stopped for drinks. It was a constant “Hold on, do you have any more ______”

You will also notice other Marine Corps traditions which may be new to you.

  • Marines cannot walk in uniform and talk on their cell phone at the same time
  • Marines cannot put their wallets in their pockets of their dress uniforms
  • Billfolds are kept in their sock (yes you heard me right)
  • They must keep their right hand free to salute.
  • They will greet EVERY Marine officer or Drill Instructor with the proper greeting “Good Afternoon Staff Sergent” even when walking and talking with you, expect to get interrupted as you walk and talk.

During MCRD Graduation family day you can do several things.

  • Pick up Marines Official Dress Blues photos (the Marine Corps boot camp videos will come via USPS mail a few months later)
  • Eat lunch at the Bay View Restaurant on Base (here you can take a photo of your Marine with his drill instructor)
  • Visit the USMC Museum San Diego right on base and listen to your son describe what boot camp was all about.
  • Kick back and relax in the courtyard area outside the MCRD Base Exchange area
  • Go shopping with your Marine at the Base Exchange. He will want civilian clothes.

There will be plenty of food and gift vendors in the courtyard area and instead of walking all over the base and being exhausted you can actually relax.

Gift Ideas for Marine Graduates

Many parents like to give a gift at graduation to remember this significant day. Below are the best graduation gifts for Marines based on not only the recommendations of my Marines but countless other Marine Moms and parents.

They don’t like MOTO military gifts though and don’t WON’T wear a huge emblazoned Marine Corps logo.

So save your official USMC clothing for yourself.

Gift Ideas for Marines

Core Values - U.S. Marines Challenge CoinCore Values – U.S. Marines Challenge CoinKA-BAR Knife Desk Display Stand (USMC Emblem)KA-BAR Knife Desk Display Stand (USMC Emblem)Wrist Armor Men's 37100002 C20 Analog Display Quartz Watch with Black Silicone StrapWrist Armor Men’s 37100002 C20 Analog Display Quartz Watch with Black Silicone StrapHCSB Marine's BibleHCSB Marine’s BibleSterling Silver United States Marine Corps Medal with Christ Cross Back, 3/4 InchSterling Silver United States Marine Corps Medal with Christ Cross Back, 3/4 InchAllied Frame United States Marine Corps Certificate of Achievement FrameAllied Frame United States Marine Corps Certificate of Achievement Frame


What has been your experience at your Marines Family Day? What did you do differently and what would you recommend?


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