Memorial day, typically a 96 Weekend. (96 meaning the hours you get off from duty/work in the Corps for most holidays). For every one else typically a three day weekend.
For most of us that served its a weekend where we get together with fellow service members and family, grill, drink some adult flavored beverages, remember the old times, swap lies and war stories, and salute those whom are not or could not be with us.
Recently I was watching AMC’s Memorial day weekend specials, and they where doing a short about people and why they enlisted. Got me to thinking about why I did what I did.
I was once told I couldn’t do anything. I’ve showed them wrong many times. Including becoming a Marine.
Well for those of you who haven’t figured it out yet I joined the Marine Corps right out of Highschool. Graduated in 1998, was in boot camp less then thirty days later. Alot of people know that portion of my history.
I actually volunteered for the Marine Corps when I was still a Junior in Highschool, I was 17 actually when I signed the dotted line. That in and of itself is a rather humerous story.
The whole military service idea started who knows when. I really didn’t get serious about it until around my 16th Birthday. See I was always interested in the military, but I wasn’t exactly your ideal candidate for it. I had Asthma, I weighed close to 200 pounds and I was about 5 foot nothing. Confidence was not a strong suit, I had never been allowed to play any sports outside of a couple seasons of baseball because of the Asthma.
Hell honestly I don’t think I even could run more then five feet with out having an asthma attack. At least thats what my mother always told me. You see I was so afraid of her, I never tempted fate and tried to run to see if the Asthma would honestly effect me.
So back to my 16th birthday. It passed like most of my other birthdays, with little todo, and I’d grow fine with that. Less preamble about it the better. Hell most the time that was a good thing. The less attention i drew to myself in the house the less I had to worry about.
Well recruiters where making their rounds and I decided I wanted to join the military. No idea why, it just hit me that moment and I started talking to the Army Recruiter. Things where looking good, I took my ASVAB and he said based off my scores I could pretty much do what ever I wanted in the Army.
Cool go me right? Well I’d been looking at Cav Scouts. This really appealed to me. Well the day came that he HAD to talk to my parents. I’d dreaded this day for some time. I knew my mothers anwser before it would even happen.
“Arthur You are going to stay at home, help take care of you younger brother and get a job at the mine.”
Ahh.. Not really interested. But that was the plan she had for me. So the recruiter shows up at the house.. and nothing against my brothers and sisters in the Army but this guy had bathed in Whiskey and was floating still.. I mean I could smell it from inside his car. No thank you. My father was an alcoholic when I was young don’t need this. And it did not present a message of professionalism in my mind. See still had that romantic-ed image in my head and all at that point in time.
Well that made up my mind in a hurry I didn’t want to go Army. If this was how their Representative was going to behave, wasn’t interested. And I actually enjoyed listening to my mother tell him flat out no. she would not sign the early enlistment papers and if thats what I wanted to do I’d have to wait till I was 18 and she would kick me out of the house on the day I did.
So he left told me to wait till 18 and try again. One time in my life my mothers abusive nature was a win.
But my path to the military didn’t end there. Looked into the Navy. Hey I live in Wyoming, I’ve never seen the ocean. Boats are cool. wait.. I’ve got to wear that goofy hat and bell-bottoms? No thanks.. Sorry Brothers and Sisters in the Navy, but the uniform didn’t sell me on this one. I have no idea why I never talked to the Air Force. I think the Marines got to me before they did.
The Marine Corps showed up to the school and asked any one interested in attending the ROTC program. I didn’t know what it was, but I figured last chance at the military why not. So I went to the assemble and listened to the Staff Sergeant explain about ROTC and signed up to take the initial exam for acceptance.
You want a kick in the pants? Well I sure as hell got one when my score came back as passing for ROTC for the Marine Corps Officer Candidate school. HUH!? Apparently I scored high enough that if I choose to go to a college with an acceptable Naval or Marine Corps ROTC Program not only would I get a college education, but be commissioned an officer in the United States Marine Corps.
Well how freaking cool is that?! So I spent more time talking to the Recruiter. He asked what I’d be interested in doing in College. See I’m a band geek, Music saved my life in school and life in general, so the Marines have one hell of a band. So I put that down as my first choice. Infantry second, and I think I put down Tanks or Artillery third. Well first choice was accepted and we started working up letters of interest for a few college’s etc.
Now see the cool thing about all this is technically I was enlisting in the Marines, hanging out at the recruiting station going to Poolee functions etc. and I hadn’t signed a bit of paper yet. and the Recruiter didn’t have to talk to my parents. Winning!
I turned 17. Hadn’t heard back from any colleges and things where not looking that good. I started looking into scholarships etc. My grades where good, but not good enough to compete with some of the other students that had sports under their belts. Didn’t give up hope and my Recruiter kept working with me.
I came home from Jazz band practice one night 5 minutes late because I had to fuel up my truck. Now. I’ve danced around this subject a bit, but as you probably could tell my relationship with my parents, wasn’t the best.
I’ve had most state I was abused growing up. Verbally, mentally and physically. Text book answer to this is yes. I was. My thoughts on this now. Don’t really care. Its done its over. I don’t have to deal with them any more ever again.
But I came home 5 minutes late. My mother was waiting for me and started yelling at me as soon as I got in the door. I’d inherited the temper of my father, mixed with my mother and I was still growing and learning and I let fly right back at her. I’ve never once ever hit a woman. I never laid a hand on my mother no matter how much I wanted to.Yelled at her yes. but who hasn’t yelled at their parents. I’m not justifying a thing. Just putting out the truth. She scared me. But my father scared me more. and I was sitting in the middle of the floor in fear when he came home from work at the mine at midnight. I was promptly put in my place, and sat in a puddle of my own blood from my broken nose till 4 in the morning when he and my mother finished berating me about respecting my mother. I then spent the next two hours cleaning up the mess on the floor, showered, got in my truck and drove to school. Tried to do my homework from the night before in between classes. My band teacher let me sleep in a practice room for the whole period of band and talked to my Business Law teacher and let me sleep through that to.
I had an appointment to talk to my recruiter right after school. I had to tell my parents it was a Jazz band practice called special. See I wasn’t allowed to do anything that was not school related. So I was sneaking to see my Recruiter more times then not. When I walked in he asked what happened. I told him I wanted to enlist. Open package. He blinked shook his head and asked if I was sure. I told him the soonest date I could get to be sent to Boot Camp. At the same time I started spilling my guts.
My recruiter started the paper work. About that same time my middle brother decided that Mountain View’s school district was way to difficult so he transferred to the school five miles away Lyman. And the first time in my life I was picked up by a Police officer from Lyman, taken to the station and interrogated about some graffiti that had appeared on the back of the school. Specifically the words “I hate my mother”. Thanks little brother for that. Was an eye opening experience and I’ve never ever wanted to be arrested or interrogated again. Scared me straighter then straight and I didn’t even do it. Well at that point in time, things had gone from bad to worse at the house and I was being locked out and kicked out every night. I either slept in my truck, or at a teachers house whose son I was friends with.
Now before you ask, Yes the police where called, see the problem was since the town I lived in was not actually a “Town” the sheriff department would have to field the call and during that time other matters where often more important then “supposed child abuse”. I don’t blame the Sheriff Department I know what they have to deal with on a daily basis and my mother is one hell of a liar.
So the Lyman police department calls my recruiter. I’m thinking I’m done. My recruiter shows up speaks to the Police and takes me home. He asked me flat out if I did it and I was honest, and told him no.
He believed me and said to have a travel bag packed for an over night trip this weekend. I asked him for what and he just told me to do it. So I did.
Saturday morning shows up and I’m sitting in the Recruiting station in Salt Lake City Utah. now remember I’m still 17. A Master Sergeant walks in that looks like he could bench press a Buick walks over and thumps down a roll of duct tape on the desk.
“Son you ever been duct taped briefed?”
He smiles and shakes his head and pulls a piece of duct tape off the roll and slaps it on my mouth. He then flips some papers around and slides them to me, and points at the x.
I blinked looked at the papers and signed the papers.
“Congratulations Poolee, you have just signed your enlistment papers. We’ll be taking you over to MEPS to do the final processing, physical and oath of enlistment”.
My Eyes got as big as silver dollars and I sat back in the chair and blinked. in my head its screaming but but.. my parents didnt say yes..
He reached over pulled the duct tape off and looked me in the face.
“Your ass now belongs to the United States Marine Corps. Your Parents ever do anything to you like they have been. Your Recruiter will come get you and we’ll put you up some place till you graduate and can ship to boot. You still want open package?”
I blinked again and squeeked literally I wanted Infantry. I’ve only seen a Master Sergeant Grin at me like that Once. And that was the day.
“Done. now, I am also sending a official letter to your parents, don’t worry it wont get you in trouble but it should ease things at home till you leave for boot.”
I graduated in 1998, stepped on the yellow foot prints for Boot Camp at MCRD San Diego on June 7 1998 and I’ve never regretted it since.
My Marine Family took care of me. They started when I was sixteen years old. I’ve owed my life to a Marine more then once. So on memorial day I remember those Who have Gone Before me, Those who stand the line now, and those who will follow in my foot steps.
More information then most of you would truly have wanted to know, but we all have our reasons.