Hurricane Dorian might be splitting many families apart, but it’s bringing one North Dakota family together.
Thirteen weeks: that’s how long it takes to go through boot camp to be a Marine Corpsman, and that’s what North Dakota native Serene Wilkinson has been doing all summer at a training depot located at Parris Island, South Carolina.
Due to Hurricane Dorian, she was forced to evacuate and come home before her graduation — so her family and friends decided to bring a graduation ceremony to her.
As 9:00 PM slowly approached, more and more of Serene Wilkinson’s family friends gathered into the Bismarck Airport awaiting her arrival.
Serene’s parents had not been able to talk to their daughter in months.
Serene’s father, Cederick Wilkinson Sr., says, “I’m nervous. I’m very nervous. I miss her so much.”
The Wilkinson family comes from a long line of Marines and knows what it’s like being away from family. That’s why Wilkinson was surprised at the emotions he was feeling. “It’s different being a parent on this other side than it is being the Marine,” he says. “When you are gone a long time you don’t know how many people miss you. But when you are the parent doing this it’s so much different.”
“Everything happened so quick but I called my brother in the morning and I said our baby girl didn’t get to have a graduation and she got sent straight home so let’s do a little something for her,” says Wilkinson. “So I called my brother this morning and asked if he could bring his drum group down and he said no problem and as you can see they all made it.”
Family and friends traveled hours away to welcome back Serene, and as expected, she was shocked when she arrived.
“I was just at least expecting my parents and my family but I didn’t expect this whole ceremony. But it was a good feeling knowing that everyone was here and was supporting me throughout everything and having them all come out together,” says Serene.
KX asked her what was her first reaction when she got the news she would be coming home.
“I got dressed so fast packed up all my stuff so fast and then I was right out the door.”
While being happy about being home, she did have some mixed emotions about missing graduation.
“It was a sad moment for all of us but knowing that we get to graduate early that was a good feeling also and that we get to go home the next day. It was a good and bad feeling at the same time.”
And even though she didn’t get the official graduation she was expecting — she can now call herself a Marine.
Her dad adds, “You know you earn that title Marine and no hurricane and nobody can take that from you.”
“Right now I am just feeling like happy and just a big relief that I am actually home and actually with my family again and I am just happy,” says Serene.
While Serene got to go home, she says not all her fellow peers were as lucky.
“We just had to pack all our stuff and be ready right then and there, but there are only a few of us that got to get out and come home like actually come home. And the others had to stay back and stay wherever they get evacuated to. So I am just blessed that I actually got to come home and be one of the few that go to come home.”
Serene tells me she doesn’t know what will happen to those who weren’t evacuated. She will be home for 10 days and she says she plans on eating and relaxing as much as she can.