It's the middle of the night in San Diego, but a bus full of new recruits, is making its first and only stop, boot camp.
"I gave up a nice job I had back home, I was going to school, I had my family, I was living at home, I had a car, what am I doing at boot camp?” asked recruit Noah Huntley from Green Bay.
A lot of Marines ask themselves that question when they give up their lives for the service. For almost everybody standing on these iconic yellow footsteps, becoming a Marine is their dream.
"It means that I'm not anything anymore, it means that this uniform is a representation of every marine whose gone and fought at Iwo Jima or Okinawa or that are in Afghanistan or Iraq right now or wherever they are, it's not about me anymore, it's about the core, it's about our country,” Huntley said.
For the next 13 weeks, these men shave their heads, go through obstacle courses on the Marine base and learn how to fight.
Marching becomes an everyday routine, and getting ready each morning becomes only a 15 minute process.
It all comes down to the Crucible, marching 45 miles through the California mountains in just 54 hours, never knowing what comes next, but focusing on the end result.
"After you finish the reaper hike and the crucible, and the drill instructors look at you. And one of my drill instructors sat down with me at breakfast and said good morning marine, how are you doing? That really just made it all worth it, it made me feel like I've actually accomplished something with my life,” Huntley said.
It's a feeling that runs deep. Not everybody earns the title of Marine, but the few that do are proud of their accomplishment.
"To see that's he's stepping into a line of men who have defended the country just brings tears to my eyes, I'm just so proud of him,” said Huntley’s mother, Elizabeth.
These Marines say they don't do it for the recognition; they do it because it's their calling, and their duty to protect the United States.
"I thought about all of the other Marines that had been standing in that very place and all of the great things they had done, and I thought My God, my son is doing this as well, I couldn't be more proud,” Elizabeth said.
It all comes together in graduation.
"There's nothing you can prepare for, I couldn't prepare for boot camp, because it's just something else. I couldn't prepare for the crucible because it's just something else, I couldn't prepare for the reaper because it's just something else. I can't prepare for it,” Huntley said.
You can see parts of that graduation on NBC26 coming up on Thursday night.