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do I look like a four-legged (date) to you?

March 12, 2011

Day One of Marine boot camp started when my dreams of Munchkins and torna-

does were blown away by the drill instructor in my face suggesting I arise.  “Get

out of the (comfy) rack!’, he cajoled us.  All but one of us complied.  The non-

complier immediately attracted the D.I.’s laser-like attention.


“Would you care to join us?”, he said quietly, with simmering rage.  The recruit just

smiled.  The D.I. smiled back, then pulled over the metal bunkbed the recruit was

on top of.  Our peer decided in mid-air to join us.


After an hour of calisthentics and a hearty breakfast, our Marine education began

in earnest.  First we learned not to call the D.I. a “D.I.”  He was always “the drill in-

structor”.  He was never addressed as “you”.  I made that mistake and he grabbed

me in a choke hold.  “Ewe?”, he yelled.  “Do I look like a four-legged (date) to you?”

He, in point of fact, did not.  I never missed the distinction again.


We ran a lot that day.  To testings, to medical appointments, to class, to meals.  We

were so good at running that we always had to wait a long time when we got to our

destination.  By the time we got back to our (comfy) racks that night, we were just

about asleep vertically.  I don’t remember any dreams.


The days got easier as we got in better shape.  We could catnap during the training

films if we dared.  (I didn’t dare.  I pinched myself bloody.)  We actually had fun on

the obstacle course.  I discovered that it helped to scream when planes from the

San Diego airport roared just overhead.


We enjoyed the classes because it meant we weren’t running.  We learned world

history from a Marine perspective, and that perspective was: Marines have been

at the centre of every great global event since November 10, 1775.  Leathernecks

alone won all the American wars.


My favourite Marine hero was Smedley Butler.  He was a Major General who twice

won the Medal of Honor and was the most decorated jarhead ever when he died in

1940.  He wrote a booklet in 1935 called War Is a Racket and gave talks warning the

public of the military-industrial complex 25 years before President Eisenhower

coined the term in his farewell address.  Butler said that war “is conducted for the

benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many.”  He described himself as

“a high class muscle man for Big Business . . . a gangster of capitalism.”


But even Smedley’s spirit couldn’t keep us from the systematic harrassment of the

D.I.’s.  They told us straight out that they’d prefer we crack in boot camp rather

than in combat.  After one class, about 10 of them stood in front of the instructor

with arms folded as he said, “anyone who doesn’t want to buy a U.S. bond come see

me.”  Danged if they didn’t get a 100% sign-up.


One day Sgt. Lynch found a sweatshirt on the floor of our hut.  He shook it in my

face and asked if it was mine.  The last four letters of the stenciled name on the

back matched mine.  He shook it again and it loosened enough for me to read the

full name.  It wasn’t mine.  I told him it didn’t belong to me.  He asked me how this

could be.


“Sir!”, I offered.  “Perhaps the drill instructor is mistaken, Sir!”  Sgt. Lynch then

took time off from his hectic schedule to explain that his breed is never mistaken.

He emphasized his point by grabbing my neck in a grip that would nearly make me

pass out.  As I’d start to crumple, he would yell me back to attention and start over.

Once I regained enough oxygen I conceded the point and never challenged his

authority again.

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