re they earn the U.S. Marine emblem and title

ST. PETERSBURG, FL — If you’ve ever been to military basic training, most of us get support from our moms through letters and the prayers they say at night.

A 19-year-old St. Petersburg man currently in Marines boot camp is getting extra support from his mom in his final hours of the 54-hour crucible every recruit must endure befo.

The crucible starts on a Thursday morning at 2 a.m., and ends Saturday morning. Marine Recruit Douglas Collins, son of St. Petersburg mom and third-degree black belt Kinney Karate instructor, Sonja Leone, 44, is in the middle of his crucible as this article is being written. The recruits walk more than 45 miles during this challenge and get very few hours of sleep. They also have limited meals.

“He always wanted to challenge himself physically and mentally,” Leone told Patch. “He went back and forth with different ideas but ultimately he wanted the physical and mental challenge, and he felt the Marines offered that.”

Sonja Leone stands with her son, Douglas Collins, 19, after his swearing-in-ceremony to the U.S. Marines. (Sonja Leone)
Leone created “Walk for Douglas Crucible” here in St. Pete to send her son and his fellow recruits strength when their mind and body are in the final hours of finishing. The walk takes place dark and early Saturday at 5:30 a.m. She and supporters of Collins will meet at in the parking lot in between Northshore Aquatic Park and Gazelle Park just before 5:30 a.m. The plan for Leone and the walkers is to walk the last 5 miles of the Crucible with Collins’ company spiritually.

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One of the personal challenges Collins first faced at boot camp was the repetitiveness. He wrote in a letter to his mom that he found that boring. Collins is a second-degree black belt so he already went into training with the kind of listening mentality some recruits lack at the beginning. It was hard for him to understand why his fellow recruits pushed back on their drill instructors instead of immediately following commands without question.

“He started karate when he was nine,” Leone said. “It really took him out of his shell. It brought him into his own focus. He excelled as an athlete and academically after that. He was top of his high school graduation at Gibbs High School Pinellas Performing Arts.”

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