Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Happy Birthday Marines!!

The year was 1965 and I was the fresh faced, smart alecky hard head who thought he was really tough. I had failed to graduate from high school and was working in the oil fields in the Gulf of Mexico, when I received the notice to report for my physical prior to induction in the Army.

I knew I didn’t want to be drafted, so I began investigating the other branches of service and settled on the Air Force. I had my airplane ticket to Lackland Air Force Base in Texas for recruit training when I was visited by a Marine Corps Recruiter. Before he left my home, I was singing “The Marine Corps Hymn” and preparing to catch a bus to Birmingham, Alabama where I was sworn in along with about twenty others. Then it was on to Parris Island, South Carolina.

My recollection of that first few days remains somewhat foggy, but I remember waiting in the very cool night air outside the gate for a bus to take us to our orientation area. Once inside the gates of Parris Island, all civility ceased. The sergeant, who had been so courteous and gregarious outside the gate, instantaneously metamorphosed into a hideous antagonist seeming intent of destroying every iota of self image we possessed.

We learned quickly that we were the scum of the earth hardly worth the taxpayers money expended in a probable ill fated attempt to transform us into Marines. We were relieved of our clothing and personal belongings, and issued Marine Corps skivvies which were sufficient clothing for us to fill out what seemed like reams of paperwork. Then we were marched, in skivvies, to another building where we received ill-fitting utilities and boots.

As dawn broke upon us we were herded, what we did was certainly not marching, to the mess hall to partake of our first real Marine Corps meal. Over the years, I’ve become convinced that the first meal is especially designed to so repugnant that future meals will be appreciated.

The day was spent outfitting us and explaining a few rules: like “if you mess up my Marine Corps, I will personally give you a vertical butt stroke.” I had no idea what a vertical butt stroke was, but I was pretty sure it wasn’t good.

Night time was anticipated in much the same way a starving man anticipates food. We were emotionally and physically exhausted. Eighty plus men in our squad bay fell instantly asleep.

At 4:30 A.M. a short Corporal named Sparks started beating on the metal G.I. cans in our squad bay and screaming that we had fifteen minutes to be dressed and lined up outside so that we could get a little exercise before breakfast. I’m not sure how far we ran, but I was grateful that I was in pretty good shape.

So began my love affair with The United States Marine Corps. I learned to never give up on myself, my country, and The Corps. I learned that the whole is much stronger than the parts which make up the whole, and I learned to really love this great country in which we live.

I entered the Corps, a snot nosed, immature, boy. After Boot Camp, ITR, specialized training, thirteen months in Vietnam, and my terminal assignment in Yuma, Arizona; I left the Marine Corps as a man committed to impacting society for good. I thank my God regularly that He so orchestrated events as to place me in The Corps.

It was during my tour that I regained that lost love of learning which continues to press me to study today. It was during my tour that I married the love of my life, who has been a positive influence upon my life. And it was during my tour that God directed me to the First Southern Baptist Church of Yuma, Arizona where He spoke clearly to me about the life work to which He was calling me.

Semper Fi!!!

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