The Best Part Of Me Ran Where?
What is your major malfunction, numbnuts? Didn’t Mommy and Daddy show you enough attention when you were a child?–Gunnery Sergeant Hartman, Full Metal Jacket
In 1994, I graduated from high school and enrolled at the University of Tulsa. After one year of college, I dropped out and joined the Marine Corps. My mom drove me to the recruiting office on the day I shipped out. I remember her crying and telling me to be careful. I wasn’t afraid. I had the mindset of most 19 year old males. I couldn’t die. I was indestructible. I boarded the plane for San Diego with a bunch of other kids. Everyone has their reasons for joining the military.
I joined because I had something to prove to myself and everyone else. I thought that becoming a Marine would give me street cred. I would get in shape-a lean, mean, killing machine. I spent four years in the Marine Corps; I never fired a shot in anger or got shot at. William Jefferson Clinton was my commander-in-chief, and, love him or hate him, he helped keep me alive. Despite never serving in combat, my Marine Corps experience shaped who I am today. My service didn’t end up being “just like summer camp with guns” as I told my recruiter and others before I left for boot camp.
I arrived at boot camp overweight, so I was a “Diet” Recruit. I had a special sweatshirt that I had to wear with two red stripes spray painted on it. Presumably, this was to allow the medical staff to identify the fat bodies with the potential for becoming exhausted during physical training, or merely a means of humiliating one for not fitting within the weight standards. I think that my body image is still somewhat affected by the trauma. When I arrived at boot camp I weighed 245 pounds. During my four years in the Marine Corps, I eventually got down to 175 pounds; albeit, my lowest weight was aided by a bought of dysentery I picked up in Thailand.
Marine Corps Boot Camp is comprised of three major components: drill, physical training, and field training. As I said, when I got to boot camp, I was in horrible shape. While I could run, my ass could barely do three pull-ups; and, I was a Diet. I was in danger of not being able to meet the physical requirements for graduation. I could barely muster three pull-ups two months in, and at graduation I could only do five. It ended up being sufficient. I passed the Final PFT with less than stellar results.
For those unfamiliar with the military, drill is basically marching in formation to cadence. As far as drill went, the heavy (the term for the most sadistic drill instructor) nicknamed me Big Bird for my opposition to the concepts of grace and dexterity. I would often be pulled out of formation and thrashed (push ups, squat thrusts, leg lifts, repeat ad nauseam) by my drill instructors for screwing up, being out of step or just bumbling about.
So that leaves field training. I did just fine with most of the field training; I was a great hiker. I could carry another recruit’s and my own equipment. I handled the gas chamber without panicking. Being outside in nature didn’t bother me at all. The rifle range, however, was the ultimate measure of a Marine. Every Marine is a Rifleman. The Marine Corps prides itself on this aspect of training. You must qualify with the rifle to graduate boot camp. I failed on my first attempt. You get one chance to re-qualify, and if you fail again you get held back to the next platoon. I made it on my second go round. Whew….by the hair of my chiny-chin-chin.
I graduated; so like the medical student with the lowest GPA, I can claim the title of Marine. One of the few and the proud. Once a Marine, Always a Marine. The Marine Corps motto is Semper Fidelis, Always Faithful, leading me to one of my goals.
Our country is at war, whether we realize it or not. Marines, Soldiers, Sailors, and Airmen are in harms way everyday. I don’t care about the politics that got us there. I care about our service members. An alarming statistic for you, since the beginning of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq more service members have killed themselves after returning home than have been killed by the enemy in either conflict. If you want some grisly statistics, go here .
What can I do about it? I am going to raise money for the Wounded Warrior Project. Read about it. I am going to organize a run on or about Saturday, November 10, 2012, which is the Marine Corps Birthday and the day before Veteran’s Day, to benefit the WWP. I have never organized a run before, but I I can pull it off. I am a Marine; I can do anything.