A Civilian Addresses the USMC

Today is November 10, 2015. The 240th birthday of the United States Marine Corps. And I have something to get off of my chest.

 

Once, a long time ago, I disliked the United States Marine Corps. I mean, I really didn’t like Marines at all. My disdain had nothing to do with being a liberal punk-ass kid or a dislike of the military. In fact, I’d been actively recruited by various branches of the military after I made the huge mistake of absolutely crushing the ASVAB test. I considered the Navy for a while, as my pops had enlisted back in the day before receiving a medical discharge. I ended up going to college and never joined up with the armed forces of this or any other country. So, right away, my dislike had nothing to do with my peacenik, pussy-ass Democrat leanings.

 

No, it was more the Marines themselves. Specifically, the guys that I knew from my small hometown of Mount Vernon, Indiana. Guys who you either didn’t ever pay attention to in high school or the ones that got the wrong attention, being bullied by the meathead jocks and made to feel inferior. (Hey, it was high school. If you’re one of the lucky ones who never got bullied or made fun of, congrats. Savor that shit.) Some of these kids, though, went off to places like Parris Island, and they came back hard. Too hard. I mean, I get it: you used to get beaten up. Now you can kill a man with your bare hands before he has a chance to even flick his cigarette. Good for you. The problem was that some of these guys didn’t wield their new powers with class or grace. They were every bad supervillain from the comics. “Remember me? Remember stuffing me into that locker? Remember all those wedgies?! Do you? DO YOU?! NOW YOU WILL TASTE TRUE POWER! “ They were living out the fantasies of the victim.  “One day I’ll learn karate and teach you all a lesson.” (Although as I type this, it occurs to me that maybe if more kids enlisted, we’d have fewer Columbines.)

 

Those guys. Those guys sucked. Those guys became the thing they hated. Those guys, with their ridiculous high and tight haircuts. Those guys would get into deliberate fights just to prove how tough they were, how less-weak, all thanks to the miracle of the USMC. Those guys are the reason why I was prejudiced against jarheads.

 

But then something happened. My wife and I moved to New Bern, North Carolina in 2001. We got down there literally the week after 9/11 to start a new life. Holy shit, was that scary. New Bern happens to be about twenty or so minutes up the road from Cherry Point Marine Corps Air Station, and about forty or so minutes from both New River MCAS and Camp Lejeune. We were right in the middle of Marine Country as it was ramping up to full deployment mode. It was nuts, especially to a lifelong civilian from the Midwest. I must also admit that the atmosphere was fairly exciting. You just haven’t lived until you’ve found yourself at the Taco Bell drive-through in Havelock, NC trying to shout your chalupas order over the deafening roar of the Harrier hovering in mid-air half a mile away.

 

During that time, I started making friends with various folks, either through my work in radio or socially though roller hockey and surfing. And I was shocked…SHOCKED! to discover that many of these folks were actual active-duty Marines. And they were…well, they were awesome. Hell, even the retired (de-commissioned is a better word, as they were always going to be Marines) USMC guys at work were amazing. Funny, smart, confident, disciplined. I was welcomed into some of their circles, playing roller hockey outdoors aboard MCAS New River while Cobras and Ospreys flew overhead. Spending Thanksgivings aboard MCAS Cherry Point. Attending Carolina Hurricane games in Raleigh and minor league baseball in Kinston. Eating at Waffle House in the wee hours of the morning after a night of boozing it up. Kegstands at a party at the off-base civilian lodgings of some young Marines. (They pooled their housing allowance for a two-room apartment to save the rest for video games, stereos, and yes, beer.) I made some lifelong friends during my time in NC, and it’s safe to say that at least half of them were/are Marines.

 

I’ve learned some things. The first is that it is absolutely ludicrous to base your judgment of any group on the behavior of a select few. I’m frankly embarrassed by the prejudicial views of my youth. I was no better than the racist who points at the TV any time a black man is shown in cuffs and hisses “Goddam blacks. Fuckin’ let ‘em kill each other.” Or another recent example, where I called someone out on Facebook for asserting that all Muslims are terrorists that hate Christianity. I asked him how many actual Muslims he knew. His reply? “I don’t need to know any, because I can see what they do with my own eyes.” I shake my head at this type of idiot. I would shake my head at my own ignorant, adolescent stupidity.

 

That being said, here’s another generalization. Hockey people and Marines are the groups that I’ve encountered that have the highest percentage of all-around superiority. True greatness. Stout hearts, loyalty, courage, generosity, compassion, strength, intelligence…all of it. Sure, there are going to be turds in any subset. I know some hockey guys that have failed humanity again and again. But most of them are stand-up men and women. Same thing for Marines. There will always be that asshole wearing his cover out of uniform in the hopes that a civilian will ask “were you in the Marines?” But there will also be a staff sergeant in civilian clothes asking the stranger, a woman at her wits’ end with two screaming kids and a flat tire, where she keeps her jack as he strips off his blazer and opens the trunk.

 

I guess this was all my way of apologizing. Of saying “Sorry, Marines, that I ever doubted you.” I will never again. Thank you for your service, Devil Dogs. And Happy Birthday. Semper Fi. Oo-rah.

 

That is all. Carry on.

 

Everlasting Blog Whopper

I wanted to post my full review of The Avengers, but since you prolly just saw it, I won’t bore you.  You know it was awesome, and you know that without the assembled cast (see what I did there?) and Joss Whedon at the helm, it wouldn’t have worked.  Oh, it’s also great to see that SOMEONE finally got the Hulk right.  Not just Dr. Banner, though Mark Ruffalo was pitch-perfect…no, I mean the CGI incarnation of the Hulk was completely awesome.  So much s that I really hope Hollywood rolls the dice again, because I would pay to see an entire Hulk movie if it was done as well as the characterization in The Avengers.

Number One is the winner, but Number Four is a close second.

Moving on…

A couple of random thoughts, one of which I may have mentioned before, but which really struck me when I saw the preview for Battleship.  The US Navy has unlocked a spiffy new digital blue camo pattern for their deckside troops and sailors, corpsmen, etc.  The obvious drawback to this cool new color scheme is that once someone falls overboard they are impossible to find.  “ALL I SEE IS BLUE, CAPTAIN!! WHERE IS ENSIGN JOHNSON?!?!  JOOOHHHHHNSSSOOOOOON!!!!”  Maybe they should be made of a material that turns blaze orange when it gets wet. “Captain, there!  Just off the port bow!  It’s Johnson, sir!  Stupid bastard fell in again, but thanks to that neon orange uniform, we’ll have him back aboard in no time, captain!”

“We’ll wear these green ones in the swamps, people. We want to DISAPPEAR.”

Remember Compact Disc Players?  Those were awesome.  I don’t wanna brag or nothin’, but my vehicle has a six-disc changer right in the dashboard.  Yep.  Well, apparently, if you don’t use your disc changer/player for five months or so, it kinda gets…lazy.  As in, doesn’t work too well.  Keep in mind that my Escape is about ten years old, so the under-used electronics might be showing their age.  Anyway, I wanted to play some Volbeat tunes that I don’t have loaded on my iPod (NO, YOU SHUT UP!!  I’VE BEEN BUSY IS ALL!)  Before loading a new CD, I had to eject one of the discs already in there.  That’s where the problems began.  For those of you that have never spent time with this sort of archaic technology have never experience the numbing fear one experiences when the words “ERROR – – UNABLE TO EJECT DISC–” or similar words of digital madness scrawl painfully, quickly in evil green bits of mocking hate across the primitive LED faceplate.  So you try it again.  And again you are denied.  Panic starts setting in.  You try to change disc slots.  “Let’s try disc five, and then I’ll go back to disc one.  Probably just a little dusty.”  No dice.  Again.  Now the droplets of sweat begin racing one another down either side of your nose and your are suddenly aware of how hot it is in the car.  Then, cruelty: on the thirteenth try you hear it…a sickening subsonic whirring noise.  Somewhere deep inside the analog wiring and Chinese-assembled plastic gears and tiny metal springs and levers, something is trying to work.  SOME part of the mechanical beast is trying to wake up and deliver your cherished CD back to you, back to the surface world and sunlight and hope…so you mash the “EJECT” button with one thumb on top of the other, pushing until the meat of your flesh turns pink, then white…and you hear it…the small “click” and you SEE it…the very tip of the disc, a sliver of silver and greenish plastic…a giant’s pinkie nail barely, almost imperceptibly showing itself like the final silvery sliver of the last crescent before a New Moon.  You hold your thumb on the button and manage to sort of get a tiny little purchase on the disc with the other hand.  “C’mon…please…” you mutter through teeth ground fast together.  You wiggle the disc, pulling, coaxing a nanometer at a time…your sweaty fingers slip off, and you grab it again…a centimeter more is showing…the gears of the monster are grinding and whirring…this black plastic-and-graphite bitch isn’t giving up her prize so easily, but you can feel the beast’s willpower waning…the spell breaking…clearly now you see the sharpie-scrawled label “Summer Mix #3” as the disc is halfway out…now three-quarters…and finally it leaps out of the dashboard and you hold it aloft like Excalibur itself, gleaming in the midday light, motes of dust swirling and dancing and singing your praises, exalting you and this victory of man over machine.  Momentum is on your side, and tide of battle has turned.  Rohan has come at last, and the enemy is routed, fleeing…Disc Slot Two yields the Wiggles Hot Potatoes LIVE!…Slot Three produces Concrete Blonde “Bloodletting” (THAT’S where that thing was!)…Number Four is surprisingly empty…Five angrily spits out Fatboy Slim, and finally Bing Crosby’s “Merry Christmas” (or “White Christmas” depending on the year/label) strolls out of the final Disc Slot and lights a pipe, humming to itself and smiling.  And it occurs to you then how fickle and wonderful are the odds that made this possible, and how you could have been consigned to a fate of hearing “Christmas in Killarney” over and over again in the middle of April.  And then you realize that perhaps that wouldn’t be so bad a fate at all.

My three-year-old thinks Bing looks like me. Probably because I drink too much and hit him. KIDDING! It’s the hat.

Why She Fights.

No, this isn’t the “Mother of All Blogs” that I promised last week.  It’s just something I wanted to share with you, specifically a pic I saw on The Chive and what it means to me.  As you’ve no doubt heard, the Iraq was is officially over now, with the drawdown of troops wrapping up as the last units trickled out yesterday.  Many of our military personnel did not return.  Almost 4500 of our service men and women lost their lives in that conflict and I don’t even want to think about how many have been terribly injured, both physically, mentally, and emotionally.  God bless ’em, every one.

But that’s not the discussion I want to have right now.  I want to talk about hope.  Specifically, Iraqi hope.  And it’s all summed up in this picture of a young woman soldier with the 25th Army Infantry division…

It doesn't hurt that she's pretty cute...

There are tons of great pics of American and British soldiers doing wonderful things like teaching Iraqi children how to play baseball, giving piggyback rides and so on.  It’s one of the great legacies of the American Soldier.  Their kindness and compassion is legendary.  The gratefulness of the liberated peoples doesn’t always get the press it deserves, but the kids…my God, the kids love the American grunt.  Ever since WWII, the world knows that the GI’s have good candy and an abundance of smiles.  Sure, there have been exceptions.  A few bad apples sully the good works that 99% of our men and women carry out above and beyond the great call of duty.  But for the most part, you simply have to look at the face of those kids to know how much they adore their liberators.

This photo in particular says something even more about the legacy of the American Soldier.  One can’t help but notice that the soldier in this shot is female.  A blonde, smiling female.  It appears that the children surrounding her are also female.  Little girls.  Little girls who have lived in a part of the world where they have traditionally been relegated to second-class citizens based solely on the fact that they were born without a penis.  No votes, no property, at the whim of religious and political systems designed to keep the Man firmly entrenched in a position of absolute power.  And here they are, looking up to a fully-empowered, ass-kicking, FEMALE member of the United States Army.  This woman can vote, drive a car, use birth control, and disagree publicly with her husband.  If she even HAS a husband.  This American soldier is single-handedly changing the way these little girls view themselves and their world.  Regimes may come to pass wherein conservative religious views try and relegate women to the scrapheap.  Iraq may end up being more like Iran than we want to admit.  But the seed has been planted.  What has been experienced will not be forgotten.  The image of a woman fighting and building alongside her male counterparts will be indelibly etched into the memories of these kids and the thousands around the country that have witnessed similar scenarios. And perhaps just as importantly, the young men that have been in the presence of female soldiers and airmen might just see women in a different light.  Seeing a woman in uniform being saluted by men is no doubt a powerful image for them, no matter how alien it may have at seemed in their past.

Come what may, these kids have experienced two things, at least for a little while, that will shape who they become as adults.  They have tasted freedom, and they have seen how easy it is for men and women to serve together in some of the most stressful scenarios possible.  It will be a long, trying road for Iraq.  But if the children remember what is possible, they might just realize that nothing is IMpossible.  The world certainly hopes so.  God bless the American Soldier, and God Bless the people of Iraq.  May they continue to find their way.

Pictured: The Future