Tag Archives: Marines

Weekend Liberty Lecture

During my time in the Corps, I heard an untold number of weekend liberty announcements, and latter as a senior Marine had written several for the generals for whom I worked, However, I have never heard, nor seen one quite like this one from the CG and Sgt Major of the Corps’s Combat Center at 29 Palms, CA. And I believe I am on safe ground to say that neither have you. It is a must watch; it’s even filled with humor. I just love watching the Sgt Major do what Sergeants Major do best; so will you, I guarantee it! Enjoy!!

 

John is My Heart

I have received this many times over the past several months, and each time I stop what I am doing and read it again. Wonder why that is? Any thoughts on that?

A well-written article about a father who put several of his kids through expensive colleges but one son wanted to be a Marine. Interesting observation by this dad.  See below.  A very interesting commentary that says a lot about our failing and fallen society

John Is My Heart

By Frank Schaeffer of the Washington Post

“Before my son became a Marine, I never thought much about who was defending me.  Now when I read of the war on terrorism or the coming conflict in Iraq, it cuts to my heart. When I see a picture of a member of our military who has been killed, I read his or her name very carefully. Sometimes I cry.

In 1999, when the barrel-chested Marine recruiter showed up in dress blues and bedazzled my son John, I did not stand in the way.  John was headstrong, and he seemed to understand these stern, clean men with straight backs and flawless uniforms.  I did not.  I live in the Volvo-driving, higher education-worshiping North Shore of Boston I write novels for a living. I have never served in the military.

It had been hard enough sending my two older children off to Georgetown and New York University. John’s enlisting was unexpected, so deeply unsettling.  I did not relish the prospect of answering the question, “So where is John going to college?” from the parents who were itching to tell me all about how their son or daughter was going to Harvard.  At the private high school John attended, no other students were going into the military.

“But aren’t the Marines terribly Southern?” (Says a lot about open-mindedness in the Northeast) asked one perplexed mother while standing next to me at the brunch following graduation.  “What a waste, he was such a good student,” said another parent.  One parent (a professor at a nearby and rather famous university) spoke up at a school meeting and suggested that the school should “carefully evaluate what went wrong.”

When John graduated from three months of boot camp on Parris Island, 3000 parents and friends were on the parade deck stands.  We parents and our Marines not only were of many races but also were representative of many economic classes. Many were poor. Some arrived crammed in the backs of pickups, others by bus.  John told me that a lot of parents could not afford the trip.

We in the audience were white and Native American.  We were Hispanic, Arab, and African-American, and Asian. We were former Marines wearing the scars of battle, or at least baseball caps emblazoned with battles’ names.  We were Southern whites from Nashville and skinheads from New Jersey, black kids from Cleveland wearing ghetto rags and white ex-cons with ham-hock forearms defaced by jailhouse tattoos.  We would not have been mistaken for the educated and well-heeled parents gathered on the lawns of John’s private school a half-year before.

After graduation one new Marine told John, “Before I was a Marine, if I had ever seen you on my block I would’ve probably killed you just because you were standing there.” This was a serious statement from one of John’s good friends, a black ex-gang member from Detroit who, as John said, “would die for me now, just like I’d die for him.”

My son has connected me to my country in a way that I was too selfish and insular to experience before.  I feel closer to the waitress at our local diner than to some of my oldest friends.  She has two sons in the Corps.  They are facing the same dangers as my boy.  When the guy who fixes my car asks me how John is doing, I know he means it.  His younger brother is in the Navy.

Why were I and the other parents at my son’s private school so surprised by his choice?  During World War II, the sons and daughters of the most powerful and educated families did their bit.  If the idea of the immorality of the Vietnam War was the only reason those lucky enough to go to college dodged the draft, why did we not encourage our children to volunteer for military service once that war was done?

Have we wealthy and educated Americans all become pacifists?  Is the world a safe place?  Or have we just gotten used to having somebody else defend us?  What is the future of our democracy when the sons and daughters of the janitors at our elite universities are far more likely to be put in harm’s way than are any of the students whose dorms their parents clean?

I feel shame because it took my son’s joining the Marine Corps to make me take notice of who is defending me.  I feel hope because perhaps my son is part of a future “greatest generation.”  As the storm clouds of war gather, at least I know that I can look the men and women in uniform in the eye.  My son is one of them.  He is the best I have to offer.  John is my heart.

Faith is not about everything turning out OK;  Faith is about being OK no matter how things turn out.”

Oh, how I wish so many of our younger generations could read this article.  It makes me so sad to hear the way they talk with no respect for what their fathers, grandfathers and great grandfathers experienced so they can live in freedom.   Freedom has been replaced with Free-Dumb.

 

 

 

Fifty-nine Years Ago Today

Teddy Wood (now deceased) and I boarded a train at around 0900 headed south. That day is permanently etched in my brain housing group, never to be forgotten. Here’s a sneak peak at my book as to what happened as the day moved on.

Chapter Two (Excerpt)

I had been entrusted with a large, sealed manila envelope. I was to deliver it to someone in charge when we arrived at our destination. He informed the group that I was in charge—my first responsibility as a future Marine.

I don’t remember much about the train ride except that we were assigned to a specific car where we were told to remain for the entire trip. I recall that some of the boys brought along a considerable amount of beer smuggled in their baggage. They shared with some of the others, but I was much too nervous to do any drinking. I remember one of the bigger boys boasting as to how he was going to breeze through this training—he wasn’t about to take any guff from the drill sergeants.

With each stop along the way, our car became more crowded with more boys on their way to this infamous place with an exotic-sounding name—Parris Island.

Most of us were asleep when the conductor shouted out that this was our stop—Beaufort, South Carolina. I stepped off the train with a cigarette in my mouth. The next thing I knew it flew off somewhere into space with what I thought were a few of my teeth. This cantankerous Marine fellow, wearing a hat I’d last seen on a bear with a shovel in his paw on National Forest Service posters, was screaming for us to do something. I had no idea then how symbolic that hat was nor that I myself would someday wear it.

Everyone was running in circles, bumping into each other, falling down. The greeting Marine was screaming, “MOVE! MOVE! MOVE!” which we were certainly doing, but had no idea where to. I heard someone crying out for his mother. Another boy was screaming for help—surprisingly, it was the one who bragged about not taking any guff from the drill sergeants.

It was unbelievable. Absolute chaos ensued. Finally, after several minutes of the Marine shouting at us, he pointed to a building. We all ran towards it, jamming the doorway, attempting to get through it and out of the way of the wrath we had encountered.

Inside the building were steel beds stacked two high and bright lights in the ceiling, shades hanging over them. We were told to get in a rack. What the hell is a rack? we wondered. I didn’t recognize anything that might be a rack, so it was sheer chaos again as we all tried to figure out what exactly it was this fellow was directing us to get into.

Finally, someone jumped onto one of the steel beds whereupon we all followed suit; some beds even had two boys squeezed together. The Marine yelled, “FREEZE!” There was total silence except for the springs of the steel beds squeaking slightly as we all lay very still. He turned out the lights, and slowly paced up and down the center of the room while telling us we were shit, slimy civilian shit. We were in for one hell of a time when morning came, he warned, so we’d best get some sleep since it would be the last time we’d sleep for the next four months.

Welcome to boot camp!

I don’t know how long I slept or if I even slept at all, but suddenly the lights came on and a loud banging sound awoke everyone as a Marine was screaming at us to get in front of our racks. The large metal trash can he’d thrown was still rolling around the floor as we scrambled from our supremely uncomfortable beds—now to be known as ‘racks’. We were then herded outside onto a greyhound-type bus. I had no idea what time it was except that it was pitch black and cold.

As I was boarding the bus, I remembered the manila envelope, which I had absent-mindedly left lying on my rack. I was to have surrendered it to the appropriate person upon arrival—my first responsibility as a Marine and I’d blown it. I really did not want to approach the Marine in charge, but I had no choice since I had to retrieve that envelope. I reluctantly approached him to tell him that I “needed to go back into the building to ….” I never finished the sentence. He was screaming and spitting saliva in my face. I had no idea what he was saying, but I sure wasn’t going to ask him to repeat it. He shoved me towards the building. I ran in, found the envelope, and scrammed back outside. By the time I returned to the bus, I was the last one to board thereby forcing me to sit up front next to the ill-tempered, Smokey Bear hatted Marine. I developed goose bumps as I took my seat, so close to this fearsome devil that I was expecting him to chew my head off just for kicks.

I distinctly remember the bus passing through a gate and seeing the Marine sentry smiling as we drove past. It was a long ride from the gate through swamps on both sides of the road. I could see nothing out the window—no lights—nothing that gave a hint of civilization.

We finally came to some buildings whereupon we were herded off the bus into a classroom filled with school chairs, the types that have a small desk attached to them. There were several other Marines waiting there for us.

After much shouting for us to find a seat and sit our slimy asses in it, they had us fill out a post card addressed to our parents. We were told to write them that we had arrived safe and would write again later. Then they hurried us into another part of the building where we went through a line with a metal tray held out in front of us while someone piled food onto it. We ate in total silence. When we finished—mind you, this was not as leisurely a breakfast as we had been accustomed to at home—we were herded back into the classroom.

The sun was just rising on our first morning as recruits—literally as well as symbolically.

 

PS. From this day on my life changed forever!

 

Seventy-Two Years Ago

Iwo Jima: a volcanic island 660 miles south of Tokyo; 2 miles wide by 4 miles long. Today, seventy-two years ago U.S. Marines invaded Iwo Jima after months of naval and air bombardment. The Japanese defenders of the island were dug into bunkers deep within the volcanic rocks. Approximately 70,000 U.S. Marines and 18,000 Japanese soldiers took part in the battle. In thirty-six days of fighting on the island, nearly 7,000 U.S. Marines were killed. Another 20,000 were wounded. Marines captured 216 Japanese soldiers; the rest were killed in action. The island was finally declared secured on March 16, 1945. It was one of the bloodiest battles in Marine Corps history.

As I do every year, I received an email Commander Victor H. Krulak, USN, Chaplains Corps (Ret) who was our battalion chaplain in Second Battalion, Seventh Marines at San Mateo, MCB, Camp Pendleton, CA in the early 70’s. He said:

As is my wont again on this 72nd anniversary of the landing on Iwo Jima, I am sending the remarks of Rabbi Gittelsohn at the dedication of the 5th Division Cemetery at the end of the battle as a reminder of the great cost of this battle that is so much a part of the legacy of the Marine Corps.

S/F, Vic

Rabbi Roland B. Gittelsohn at the Dedication of the 5th Marine Division Cemetery on Iwo Jima.

This is perhaps the grimmest, and surely the holiest task we have faced since D-Day. Here, before us lie the bodies of comrades and friends. Men who until yesterday or last week laughed with us, joked with us, trained with us. Men who were on the same ships with us, and went over the sides with us as we prepared to hit the beaches of this island. Men who fought with us and feared with us. Somewhere in this plot of ground there may lie the man who could have discovered the cure for cancer. Under one of these Christian
crosses, or beneath a Jewish Star of David, there may rest now a man who was destined to be a great prophet — to find the way, perhaps, for all to live in plenty, with poverty and hardship for none. Now they lie here silently in this sacred soil, and we gather to
consecrate this earth in their memory.

It is not easy to do so. Some of us have buried our closest friends here. We saw these men killed before our very eyes. Any one of us might have died in their places. Indeed, some of us are alive and breathing at this very moment only because men who lie here
beneath us had the courage and strength to give their lives for ours. To speak in memory of such men as these is not easy. Of them too  an it be said with utter truth: “The world will little note nor long remember what we say here.” It can never forget what they did
here.”

No, our poor power of speech can add nothing to what these men and the other dead who are not here have already done. All that we even hope to do is follow their example. To show the same selfless courage in peace that they did in war. To swear that by the grace
of God and the stubborn strength and power of human will, their sons and ours shall never suffer these pains again. These men have done their job well. They have paid the ghastly price of freedom. If that freedom be once again lost, as it was after the last war, the unforgivable blame will be ours not theirs. So it is we the living who are here to be dedicated and consecrated.

Too much blood has gone into this soil for us to let it lie barren. Too much pain and heartache have fertilized the earth on which we stand. We here solemnly swear: This shall not be in vain! Out of this, and from the suffering and sorrow of those who mourn this, will come — we promise — the birth of a new freedom for the sons of men everywhere.

God Bless them all, each and every one of them. These events are all but forgotten to the youth of today’s America. Our new educational system rather teaches worldly events of no value or consequence to our own country. I pray that will change with the new leaders!