- - Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Twentynine Palms, a  remote Marine Corps facility in Death Valley, Calif., was my home for three weeks each year. I remember the days and nights vividly — the intensity, the danger, the camaraderie.

It is where I learned that my death or that of my brother is not some abstract event, fodder for movies and novels.

SEE ALSO: Seven Marines killed in explosion during Nevada live-fire training

It is where young soldiers receive the training to prepare themselves, physically and mentally, to charge into a hail of bullets on the beaches of Normandy, screaming their defiance, daring the enemy to threaten their homes, their families.

It is where a young Marine learns what a Marine truly is.

Live-fire training — including traveling through live-ordnance impact areas, both on foot and in vehicles — is just a part of the intense training required to prepare a Marine for what may come. It is the only way to prepare a Marine to be the warrior his country needs in its time of need.

Being a Marine has more meaning than most will ever know: It is not only the ability to storm that beach or take that hill. It is having the discipline, physical and mental, to overcome that most basic of instincts — survival.

Had I never before felt the explosions and been blinded by white phosphorus grenades during training, had I never known that a step in the wrong direction could very well end my life, I could not tell you honestly how I would have reacted when the lives of those I count as brothers to this day needed me to do what only live-fire training could prepare me for.

My heart goes out to the families of the seven brothers I lost in Nevada late Monday.

There is no denying the tragedy of the loss, but one must know that it was not a senseless, avoidable tragedy. It was Marines, making the ultimate sacrifice for that which they valued above even their own lives: ours.

Mike Shortridge is a former Marine who served in the Middle East.