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We wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas. We continue to keep ALL Marines in our thoughts and prayers and ask that you do the same.
Sgt Grit and Staff
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Play It Again
Christmas time is upon us again and the Christmas chorals are going strong. There is one song I still have trouble listening to, Silent Night. I the later days of December 1967, I was stationed in Viet-Nam, 2/9. I had been in sickbay for a back injury. I got carried away and filled over 100 sand bags in to short a time.
Anyway, it was a chilly night and a rather dark one. The time was about deep dark 30. Someone in another hooch had started playing a guitar. He was pretty good and soon started playing a selection of Christmas songs. When he started Silent Night I could voices from the darkness singing. It wasn't a large group, just one or two from a hooch here and there. The place was pretty empty for most of the unit was on Hill 881.
After the song finished there came a voice from off in the distance, "Play it again". This time it was slower and the voices seemed to crack at times. Myself, I had something in my eye and could not say the words. The silence after the song was over was unreal. Again, from off in the distance came a voice, " God Bless Us All. May We Live Through The Night". The song has never been the same since. I guess the meaning it had that night will never be repeated and I still have a hard time listening to it, even today. But like the voice said, " God Bless Us All. May We Live Through The Night"
You Did What!?
I came home from college on Christmas break in 1965. My Dad met me at the door, and was really glad to see me. I immediately announced to him that I had joined the Marine Corps. His beaming face turned to surprise and disbelief. "You did what !?... I thought you were smart!?", he growled.
You see, my Dad landed with the 1st Marine Division on Guadalcanal as a Pharmacists Mate (Hospital Corpsman). He lost his left arm while in the service. As a result of his island experiences, Spam and Pineapples were not ever allowed in our house. Aroma, the scientists tell us, is a very strong memory stimulus.
"Why aren't you going to finish college?", he implored.
"Dad, I am going to finish college.", I told him.
It was important to him that all his kids graduated college. (He never went to college.)
I had a full ride football scholarship and did OK my first semester. He couldn't understand why I would throw that away. I then explained the PLC (Platoon Leaders Class) program to him. Whereby, I could finish school and go to OCS/PLC during the summer. This soothed him but not completely. But enough. I could see he was very proud, but was, also, fearful. He new what Marines did... up front and personal. He never said it, but what he participated in during WWII, was, in his mind, to keep his children from ever having to participate in that horror show called war.
When my Dad died, before we buried him (He was cremated at his request) I happened to be at the Regional Marine Recruiting Office on business. I had a thought. I cornered a Gunnery Sergeant and inquired as to the possibility of having a Hospital Corpsman PO1C and a Sergeant E4 to present the VA flag to my Mother, at the grave ceremony we had coming up that week.
He said, "The burial ceremony detail was a volunteer detail from the nearby reserve base. I will give you a number to call but don't get your hopes up.", He added.
I told him about my Dad's service on Guadalcanal. The Gunny stopped writing the number, tore the memo paper from the pad, wadded it up and smartly deposited it into file 13.
He stood erect, looked me dead square and said, "It will be an honor and a privilege to send your Dad off." He stated, "I will handle this personally. You tell me when and where, and I will see that you have a fire team, a 21 gun salute, pall bearers and a flag folders with the appropriate presentation to your Mother."
I told him, "no... no, we don't need all that. There will be more of you than us there."
Long story - short.
At the grave site.
The Hospital Corpsman, PO1C and Sgt E4 showed up on time. In their dress blues. Presented the flag to my Mom with the proper presentation speech. The Corpsman was shaking as he held the flag that was, also, in my Mother's hands. His eyes welling and red. Taps was played on a Boom Box. Every one was teary eyed. They departed like Ghosts. Leaving just the family. My brother and I dug the grave. We placed the cigar sized box containing his ashes into the post hole sized grave. The rest of the family all helped fill the grave, My brother and I placed the VA marker on top.
Joseph Porter (Pete) Cawthon
January 8, 1917 March 10, 1995
For all that you have done.
And for all that you will do.
Well done - Carry on - Semper Fi
VC Mice Ran
You asked for a Christmas story and I have only one so here it is.
Very soon after coming in country, I was assigned mess duty at Camp Faulkner, RVN. Being a FNG sure had its disadvantages. ( is there an MOS for Mess Duty ? ) I caught mess duty for Thanksgiving and Christmas 1970.
Shortly before Christmas, I became ill with a stomach virus and had one heckuva time. I was not released from my job because at the time , I was in the pot shack and had no contact with food. While on mess duty, I had to move my foot locker to a tent near the mess hall where all fellow messers were quartered. I had the fortune to receive a care package from home filled with home made goodies. Of course, I could not eat these with my bad stomach, so I stashed them in my foot locker. Now all of this pogey bait drew mice from all over to my tent. I was having a particularly bad night with no sleep and these mice were running around the perimeter of my locker like so many itty bitty chariot racers. All that scratching and noise really set me off, so I got up and picked up my locker about waist high. When I did, the regiment of VC mice ran toward the center of the newly opened space. I then dropped my foot locker and crawled back to my cot to get some badly needed rest.
I didn't say it was gonna be a good story.
L/Cpl 2531, Nam 1970-71
So Far Away
Yuletide in Hilo , 1944.
We corpsmen of 5th Med Batt were giving shots and operating a mini-dispensary for our Marines in preparation for what would change all our lives the following 19 February . Rains thundering onto our tin-roofed barracks sent us all out under the eaves with soap to shower. At night we lay listening to our officers in an adjacent barrack, censoring letters home. Lots of laughing to be heard . Someone nearby was playing a new song over and again -- Bing was crooning " White Christmas . "
I don't know about anybody else, but I've never since felt, so far away from home as we all were, its deserved affection for that classic recording.
--John G. Kessel , PH.M.3/c
The Night Of The Ball
I served from 1966 to 1969 as an 0311/0341 from Camp Pendleton to camp Lejuene, Guantanamo Bay Cuba, Okinawa, And in Viet Nam served with Charlie company 1/9, " The Walking Dead." Then it was back to Pendleton and out. My Most Memorable Marine Corps Birthday occurred last year, 2004, when I attended the Ball as the guest of Honor in Tokyo, Japan.
By virtue of our local recruiter being sent to Camp Fuji and being on the ball committee he suggested my name, among others, as their guest of honor and I was chosen, much to my surprise as these are spots usually given to Generals and the like. This whole thing was an honor for me, and to think that FINALLY after 37 years I was getting that R & R to Japan!
Well, I have to say how nice everyone was and that I did get to see some of the sights. We rode the train all over Tokyo, went to shrines, parks and also hit some Museums. The night of the ball I never had to buy a drink and really felt at home with all these young active duty Marines, except for the fact that they are all so young. Man did I feel old!
I was further honored to sit at the head table with the C.O. of camp Fuji, the SGT Major, Generals of the Japanese military and other local Japanese political dignitaries.
Then it was my turn to give a SHORT speech and the theme encompassed the Idea of " Once a Marine Always a Marine", and that the Marines of today are the legacy of every former Marine and of the Corps. I avoided war stories in that most of these young men and women have either been to Iraq or are on their way. They will have plenty of time to forge their own. They presented me with a fantastic plaque with Mt. Fuji in the background of the Camp.
I will never forget how well I was treated, and how honored I felt to be among these Warriors of today. Rest assured that the Marines of today have everything well in hand.
One Sgt. said it best when he said, " You had your time and now its our time, our time in the Corps."
Semper Fidelis and Happy Birthday Marines
Cpl Tim Haley
Charlie company 1/9, 60 mm mortars
Pan Am Flight
RLT-7 left the states in may 66. 2/7 & 3/7 went straight to Viet Nam. 1/7 went to Okinawa until Aug 66. We landed at Chu Lai in time for Operation Starlite. MAG 12 was already in country with their A 4s and MAG 36 was at the sand ramp. During the Bob Hope show the roof of a 4 holer caved in because too many people were on the roof. In Jan or Feb after the other two Battalions joined us. Some drivers from Golf Batty were written up by the Seabee's of Mobile Construction Battalion 1 for stealing the last defenses of the Chu Lai Beachhead.
Just had to set Cpl Hubler straight. In March 66, some one figured out that everyone was going to rotate at the same time.
Does anyone who was at Chu Lai in Mar 66 remember the Pan Am flight that flew over Chu Lai looking for Da Nang? That was scary for those of us familiar with Chu Lai. We were returning from R&R in Tokyo.
Enjoy the news letter. Just some of the crazy stuff that happened so long ago.
Thanksgiving and Christmas on Bougainville 1943
I was on the Piva Trail Roadblock November 8th, 1943 and in a water filled foxhole for 16 hours, when the Japs would fire their knee mortars we would duck under the water. Sgt. Ignatius Gorak was killed during the night and several boys were wounded. We had a handful of turkey on the evening of the 24th, on the 25th Thanksgiving day we had a little turkey to eat on the front line. On the 26th we had a helmet full of turkey for the nine of us who were left of our ten man squad and it tasted good. We came off the front line November 28th to a rest area. December 3rd we carried rolls of barbed wire up to the front by the volcano to build an A-Frame with a machine gun at each end. Then back on the front line in a few days. We were on the front line Christmas Day 1943 and didn't even realize it was Christmas. December 26th Jim P. Trent was wounded, December 27th James P. Kelso and Charles J. Cain were killed by artillery shells on the front line at the foot of the volcano. The Raiders established a beachhead so an airfield could be built. The Japs that weren't killed were left there until the end of the war. I carried a BAR November 1st, 1943 until January 12th 1944.
Ray (Louis Raymond) Merrell - 2nd Marine Raider Bn. - Company H - 1st Marine Brigade on Guam July 21st, 1944 37mm Weapons Company - 6th Marine Division on Okinawa April 1, 1945 Weapons Company - Japan August 30, 1945 - Home December 13th, 1945 - Married April 21, 1946 for 60 years next April!
Much Has Been Said
Much has been said already of the 26th Marines & 1-13 being in the 3rd Mar Div with 1-13 in the 12th Marines and then the units transferring to the 1st Mar Div in Sept 68 with 1-13 going to the 11th Marines. Well along with the 26th & 2-13 was also Kilo 4-13, a M109 155mm SP battery. I am not sure if Kilo was considered part of 1-13 or linked to 4-12 & 4-11 during its stay. Kilo has its own web site. Kilo should also appear on the great 12th Marine Assn web site.
Snuffy (Joe) Jackson
One evening, I and some other "boots" were summoned to the Drill Instructor's Quonset hut for questioning on some forgotten matter. As I was waiting for my turn to enter the closed door, I noticed that the recruits before me had trouble knocking on the door loud enough to satisfy the DI.
"I can't hear you," a voice would shout from inside the hut. This was after the recruits had each in turn had pounded on the door repeatedly.
As my turn to knock on the door approached, not wanting to pound on the door until my knuckles hurt, I picked up a good sizeable rock from the side of the walkway and proceeded to pound on the door with extra, added force.
Without any hesitation whatsoever, the word "enter" was bellowed out by a voice from within and I immediately entered the DI's hut where I finished my business and in quick order and then left as fast as I possibly could. No mention was ever made of the extra loud pounding, or the severe beating that the door had taken at my expense.
Early in the beginning of my "boot" camp training, I found out that improvising is a time-honored and necessary trait in the Corps, and I was quickly learning how to work the system. Robert Ortega
Sgt USMC 1951-54
A Veteran Marine To My Rescue
I was in the Marine Corps for not that long, eleven months and fourteen days to be exact, before being medically discharged honorably. I endured the task of boot camp, the dreaded crucible, AIT, and even made it through my MOS training. The bad experiences came after my discharge though. I started working at a moving company, and my boss, against everything, kept picking on me telling me that I wasn't a Marine because I didn't make it that far or serve a full four years. Well one day we went on a moving job that took four hours to get there and pulled up at this ragged old house. The cool thing is that inside this guy had a lot of military stuff everywhere, but according to job guidelines I couldn't say anything. Well that is, of course, until I saw his license plate on his vehicle that said he was a purple heart Marine veteran from the Vietnam war. I couldn't refrain myself from informing him that I was a fellow Marine myself. We said our Semper Fi's and talked until my boss cut in the conversation and said "You ain't a Marine, you didn't even make it that far into it." That is when the Marine said, "that is where you are wrong, Marines come in all shapes and sizes, and a lot of misfortunate things happen to those who are willing to serve. This man did what he had to do to join the elite and earn the title Marine, just because he couldn't help getting hurt and getting discharged when he did doesn't mean he isn't a Marine." From that day forth my boss never picked on me about not being a "real" Marine anymore. I am glad that I was able to join such a elite family, just disappointed that I couldn't do more for them.
Bob "Preacher Man" Polick
You Need A Ticket
Charlie Company 1/5 had been acting as reaction force at Liberty Bridge about 20 miles sw of Danang. It was Christmas Eve and we were getting ready to move back to our position on Hill 65. Before leaving the position at Liberty Bridge, where we'd been for a about 10 - 12 days, we were policing the area, burning trash, etc. a grenade that had probably rolled under a pallet after a patrol "cooked off" putting a small piece of shrapnel in my shoulder. Although not serious, it did require a medivac to 1st Med in Danang. I got a chopper from Hill 65 to Danang on Christmas Day. Being the intelligent Lieutenant (I know...that's an oxymoron) that I was, I decided to go to the Bob Hope Christmas Show at Freedom Hill PX before going to the hospital. With my arm in a sling and with some discomfort, I hitched a ride to Freedom Hill and up the road that went up the mountain behind the PX. I got off there and sat up on the hillside (you needed a ticket to get into the seating area) in the blazing sun, far from the stage, a couple of hours before the show was to start. Just before the Golden Girls came out on the stage, up pulled a bunch of busses dropping off patients, in their nice blue pajamas, from the hospital (where I was supposed to be.) Of course, they were all seated in the front rows. I did enjoy the show, as much as I could see and hear of it. The really embarrassing part was when I finally got to 1st Med and, after checking in and being assigned a bed, having all the guys on the ward talking about the Bob Hope Show and asking if I had gotten to see it. Just goes to show...never try to out-wit the Marine Corps.
The (Original) Night Before Christmas
As this poem, which was written by a Marine in Okinawa, has been pirated by the Army, it's time to get the original back out there. If you use it, please use this version:
'Twas the night before Christmas,
He lived all alone,
In a one bedroom house
Made of plaster and stone.
I had come down the chimney
With presents to give,
And to see just who
In this home did live.
I looked all about,
A strange sight I did see,
No tinsel, no presents,
Not even a tree.
No stocking by mantle,
Just boots filled with sand,
On the wall hung pictures
Of far away lands.
With medals and badges,
Awards of all kinds,
A sober thought
Came to my mind.
For this house was different,
It was dark and dreary.
But inside I found a Marine,
Once I saw clearly.
The Marine lay sleeping,
Silent and alone.
Curled up on the floor
In this one bedroom home.
The face was so gentle,
The room so serene,
Not how I pictured
A US Marine.
Was this the hero
Of whom I'd just read?
Curled up on a poncho,
The floor for a bed?
I realized the families
That I saw this night,
Owed their lives to Marines,
Willing to fight.
Soon round the world,
Childern would play,
And grownups would celebrate
A bright Christmas day.
They all enjoyed freedom
Each month of the year,
Because of Marines,
Like the one lying here.
I couldn't help wonder
How many lay alone,
On a cold Christmas eve,
In a land far from home.
The very thought brought
A tear to my eye,
I dropped to my knees
And started to cry.
The Marine awakened and I heared a rough voice,
"Santa don't cry, this life is my choice,
I fight for freedom, and don't ask for more.
My life is my God, my Country, my Corps."
The Marine rolled over
And drifted to sleep,
I couldn't control it,
I continued to weep.
I kept watch for hours,
So silent and still,
And we both shivered there,
'Er the cold nights chill.
I didn't want to leave
That cold, dark night,
This guardian of honor
So willing to fight.
The Marine again rolled over,
With a voice soft and pure,
Whispered,"Carry on Santa,
Christmas day, all's secure."
One look at my watch,
And I knew he was right.
"Merry Christmas my friend,
And to all a good night."
Semper Fi and Merry Christmas!
Help keep FREEDOM IN AMERICA, by letting the military people, know we appreciate their efforts to KEEP US SAFE!
Read this entry in the newsletter:
All three operations were also in 1975. None of these rates the NDSM. So if we had Marines (Service members) in Vietnam after March 1973, and the last issue date on the NDSM for the Vietnam War was 14 Aug 1974. Should these Marines rate the VSM / NDSM?
What do you think!
SSgt USMC 1974-1985
I understand that a recent SecNav 1650 has extended eligibility for the VSM to 30 Apr 1975, with a designated 18th campaign star for the actual Eagle Pull/Frequent Wind operation. The NDSM has not been extended beyond its 14 Aug 1974 expiration, so a Marine who entered the Corps after that date and participated in the evacuation of Saigon would rate the VSM but not the NDSM.
GySgt USMC (ret)
I Know Now Why
At this time of year I will always remember the Christmas of 2001 after the attack on America. My son Sgt. Casey L. Collins U.S.M.C. a forward Observer was in Afghanistan. On the night of 9/11 while they were enjoying their liberty in Australia all of the Marines were rounded up and advised of the attack and loaded on to the U.S.S.Pellilieu and sent in. We did not hear from Casey until we received his only letter on Christmas Eve 2001. I now read his letter every year at this time to remind everyone how lucky we are because of Marines like him.
His letter reads this way. " Please excuse the dirt on this paper it was all I could find. I heard that all of the flags are at half mast in America. "Get-em- Up" until I get home because we'll get the job done. I know now why I became a United States Marine. It is very cold so forgive my poor writing and the sun is down and I cannot use a light. I am hear in a war hole and was thinking about home this Christmas and remember all of the Christmas' before and the wonderful time as a family we had. I may never see Mom or you again but I want you to always remember I love you and " this Christmas I want all of you to wrap up in your blanket of freedom that we are in the process of repairing," and dream of me.
We did not hear from him on until I received a note on the back of an M.R.E. box on the week of Easter the following spring. Casey Spent 28 days in that same war hole spotting targets and eliminating them. He returned home safely, thank God, and was again sent in on the original attack of Iraq and once again God looked over both our family and Casey to safely return him home from that conflict as well. As a Navy Corpsman Form 1968-1975 my son and I now reflect many times over our duty with the Corp and together we thank God for our fellow Marines and the duty they have pulled... May God Bless them all this Christmas.
HM3 Keith L. Collins
Camp Matthews - September 1959
No doubt this was not a one time event, but for those of you that may have missed it....
Picture the outdoor movie theater, dusk, seated, show about to start, when another platoon of recruits approaches.
The Sgt. commands his troops, 'Whoa, mob', and then continues, 'Alright, I promised you people a movie, so you're going to get a movie'. At this point, he marches his charges into the rows of benches, gives them 'About Face.....Reverse Covers ....Ready, Seats'. The recruits are now facing away from the screen. He has them fold their arms behind their backs.
In the light of the movie screen, I must admit, it looked like they were indeed watching the show. As their luck would have it, about 15 minutes later, the sky split open and a California monsoon erupted. As we dashed to the street and were double timed in the downpour to our tents for cover, we heard their Sgt commanding, 'Okay, as I said, I promised you people a movie, and you're going to get a movie'.
Not much else in boot camp was as funny......Boot Camp....like the movie 'Stand By Me'.....One of the great memories of our lives!
May God bless all of our uniformed men and women!
MCRD Plt. 259, (1959-1963)
Memories Of Our Docs
Sgt. Grit: At this time I just to says "Thanks" to all the "Docs" that were assigned to the Marine units. All too often we forget about the good old "Doc' who was always there when needed. I have many good memories of our "Docs". There were there right with us thorough h&ll and also with us for the good times. These trained "Docs" were our life lines if and when needed. Like any Marine we placed our lives in their hands. They comfort us, told us we would be okay, and if possible stayed with us as long as they could. This is a Merry Christmas to all the "Docs" who have served and who are still serving with the Marines. No matter where you went you always knew your "doc" was there ready to do his thing which was to comfort and save lives to the best of their ability. As long as I breath "Doc" will be in my heart and mind. God bless you and the service you have provided to the Marines throughout the world. There was always a saying between us that "Doc" is great but we pray that he will not be needed this time around but if we had to use his services we sure was glad it was our "Doc".
Remember The Family Dog At Christmas
A happy pup indeed, I am! I have a family that loves me, all the food and water I need, and a comfortable place to stay. Who could ever want more?
My job is protecting my family, and I love my job! It is an honorable task and it suits my character well.
Even when the kids like to make fun of me, I know that deep down they love me and I show it in every way I can.
Sometimes, when you are weak or frustrated, you take it out on me. Even when you kick me and beat me, the love I have for you is so strong, it would take a terrible deed to make me turn on you, and one I do not seek.
Besides, when those people attacked the family awhile back, I was quick to react and even hounded them back into their hole. Although they hit me, and I thought for awhile there I would die, I never let up for a minute, because it is my FAMILY that is in need. And that's my lot in life; no matter what, don't quit, even if it means my life, because there is nothing more important to me than my family.
Although my space is small, I am comfortable curled up in a ball, keeping warm as I stay alert in my hooch for any threats to my family. Besides, I know some other dogs that don't have anywhere near what my family provides for me, so they must love me, right?
Sometimes you can't tell when I'm really hurting inside, but I never let that lessen my need to protect you from all harm.
When we are away from home, remember how excited I get as we come back home? I can hardly contain myself, and I show it as much as I can.
When you take me out to show me off to others, after I have accomplished some impossible feat in protecting my family, I love the attention I get. Even though it is short lived, I live for those moments. Nothing makes me feel better than a warm pat on the head.
So, my friends, when you are feeling a bit stressed out from all your Christmas shopping and visiting, I ask that you remember the family dog too this Christmas.
Your faithful unto death United States Marine.
SGT. Grit, With Xmas almost upon us I have special memories of the Xmas I spent in Nam. It was Xmas of 68. I was with 1st. Recon at Camp Reasoner. I think it was Xmas eve. Can't remember why I was awake at the time. Might have been Sgt. of the guard. But around midnight the sky lit up around the DaNang area with what seemed like hundreds of red, green flares. It was quite a site to see. I still have pictures I took of the incident. I remember the next day the word came down from Division that this will not happen again on New Years eve. All the units in the area must have shot up thousands of dollars in pop flares.
Steve Fisher Former SGT. of Marines. 66-69 Semper Fi.
Hey Sgt Grit
Was talking on line with some friends and we were talking about the Christmas's we were deployed, One funny moment we all recalled was Christmas eve 1983, we were in Beirut and we were on post at the west end of the compound and one of the guys was griping about being here over Christmas, he missed seeing all the decorations, then as if on que, the hadji's in the hills started firing on each other, they tended to search by fire until the bad guys returned fire.... and then you had these long lines of red and green tracers arching back and forth, I don't recall who said it, but he said what do you mean, there are the red and green lights...we all had a good laugh and watched the light show.
Wall Street Journal
December 15, 2005
Mightier Than The Pen
By Matt Pottinger
When people ask why I recently left The Wall Street Journal to join the Marines, I usually have a short answer. It felt like the time had come to stop reporting events and get more directly involved. But that's not the whole answer, and how I got to this point wasn't a straight line.
It's a clichÃ© that you appreciate your own country more when you live abroad, but it happens to be true. Living in China for the last seven years, I've seen that country take a giant leap from a struggling Third World country into a true world power. For many people it still comes as a surprise to learn that China is chasing Japan as the second-largest economy on the globe and could soon own a trillion dollars of American debt.
But living in China also shows you what a nondemocratic country can do to its citizens. I've seen protesters tackled and beaten by plainclothes police in Tiananmen Square, and I've been videotaped by government agents while I was talking to a source. I've been arrested and forced to flush my notes down a toilet to keep the police from getting them, and I've been punched in the face in a Beijing Starbucks by a government goon who was trying to keep me from investigating a Chinese company's sale of nuclear fuel to other countries.
When you live abroad long enough, you come to understand that governments that behave this way are not the exception, but the rule. They feel alien to us, but from the viewpoint of the world's population, we are the aliens, not them. That makes you think about protecting your country no matter who you are or what you're doing. What impresses you most, when you don't have them day to day, are the institutions that distinguish the U.S.: the separation of powers, a free press, the right to vote, and a culture that values civic duty and service, to name but a few.
I'm not an uncritical, rah-rah American. Living abroad has sharpened my view of what's wrong with my country, too. It's obvious that we need to reinvent ourselves in various ways, but we should also be allowed to do it from within, not according to someone else's dictates.
But why the Marines?
A year ago, I was at my sister's house using her husband's laptop when I came across a video of an American in Iraq being beheaded by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. The details are beyond description here; let's just say it was obscene. At first I admit I felt a touch of the terror they wanted me to feel, but then I felt the anger they didn't. We often talk about how our policies are radicalizing young men in the Middle East to become our enemies, but rarely do we talk about how their actions are radicalizing us. In a brief moment of revulsion, sitting there in that living room, I became their blowback.
Of course, a single emotional moment does not justify a career change, and that's not what happened to me. The next day I went to lunch at the Council on Foreign Relations where I happened to meet a Marine Corps colonel who'd just come back from Iraq. He gave me a no-nonsense assessment of what was happening there, but what got to me most was his description of how the Marines behaved and how they looked after each other in a hostile world. That struck me as a metaphor for how America should be in the world at large, and it also appealed to me on a personal level. At one point I said half-jokingly that, being 31 years old, it was a shame I was too old to serve. He sat back for a second and said, "I think I've still gotcha."
The next morning I found myself roaming around the belly of the USS Intrepid, a World War II aircraft carrier museum moored a few blocks from Times Square, looking for a Marine recruiting station and thinking I'd probably lost my marbles. The officer-selection officer wasn't impressed with my age, my Chinese language abilities or the fact that I worked for one of the great newspapers of the world. His only question was, "How's your endurance?"
Well, I can sit at my desk for 12 hours straight. Fourteen if I have a bag of Reese's.
He said if I wanted a shot at this I'd have to ace the physical fitness test, where a perfect score consisted of 20 pull-ups, 100 crunches in two minutes, and a three-mile run in 18 minutes. Essentially he was telling me to pack it in and go home. After assuring him I didn't have a criminal record or any tattoos, either of which would have required yet another waiver (my age already required the first), I took an application and went back to China.
Then came the Asian tsunami last December.
I was scrambled to Thailand, where thousands of people had died in the wave. After days in the midst of the devastation, I pulled back to Thailand's Utapao Air Force Base, at one time a U.S. staging area for bombing runs over Hanoi, to write a story on the U.S.-led relief efforts. The abandoned base was now bustling with air traffic and military personnel, and the man in charge was a Marine.
Warfare and relief efforts, as it turns out, involve many skills in common. In both cases, it's 80% preparation and logistics and only a small percent of actual battle. What these guys were doing was the same thing they did in a war zone, except now the tip of the spear wasn't weapons, but food, water and medicine. It was a major operation to save people's lives, and it was clear that no other country in the world could do what they were doing. Once again, I was bumping into the U.S. Marines, and once again I was impressed.
The day before I left Thailand I decided to do my first physical training and see what happened. I started running and was winded in five minutes. The air quality in downtown Bangkok didn't help, but the biggest problem was me. I ducked into Lumpini Park in the heart of the city where I was chased around by a three-foot monitor lizard that ran faster than I did. At one point I found a playground jungle gym and managed to do half a pull-up. That's all.
I got back to Beijing and started running several days a week. Along the way I met a Marine who was studying in Beijing on a fellowship and started training with him. Pretty soon I filled out the application I'd taken from New York, got letters of recommendation from old professors and mentors, and received a letter from a senior Marine officer who took a leap of faith on my behalf.
I made a quick trip back to New York in April to take a preliminary physical fitness test with the recruitment officer at the USS Intrepid. By then I could do 13 pull-ups, all my crunches, and a three-mile run along the West Side Highway in a little under 21 minutes, all in all a mediocre performance that was barely passable. When I was done, the officer told me to wipe the foam off my mouth, but I did him one better and puked all over the tarmac. He liked that a lot. That's when we both knew I was going for it.
Friends ask if I worry about going from a life of independent thought and action to a life of hierarchy and teamwork. At the moment, I find that appealing because it means being part of something bigger than I am. As for how different it's going to be, that, too, has its appeal because it's the opposite of what I've been doing up to now. Why should I do something that's a "natural fit" with what I already do? Why shouldn't I try to expand myself?
In a way, I see the Marines as a microcosm of America at its best. Their focus isn't on weapons and tactics, but on leadership. That's the whole point of the Marines. They care about each other in good times and bad, they've always had to fight for their existence -- even Harry Truman saw them as nothing more than the "Navy's police force" -- and they have the strength of their traditions. Their future, like the country's, is worth fighting for. I hope to be part of the effort.
Mr. Pottinger, until recently a Journal correspondent in China, is scheduled to be commissioned a second lieutenant tomorrow. He spent the last three months at Officer Candidates School in Quantico, Va. As of early December, his three-mile run was down to 18 minutes and 15 seconds.
About 20 Minutes Later
55 years ago this December I walked, crawled, ran, jumped and slid over 50 miles from Yu-damni to the sea during the Chosin Reservoir campaign. I was an artillery Lt. with a "platoon" of cooks, bakers, mechanics and typists. I didn't know them and they didn't know me. After a 20 minute orientation we moved out. Our first fire fight was about 20 minutes later. There was never a problem knowing who the enemy was. And there was enough of them for everyone to shoot at. I just thought it was tough then. I take off my hat to our Marines in Iraq. They REALLY have it rough. Trying to figure out who is friend or foe puts a lot of pucker into the equation.
Lt. Gee Korea 1950-51
Still Have Marines
This will be my first posting to you and I would like to say thank you for the great things you do to promote the Marine Corps and it's family. I have been reading the newsletters as I read them I see a lots of people talking about the Marines in Iraq but lets not forget those of us stationed in the other countries and areas of operation we still have Marines in the Horn of Africa, and Afghanistan . I am currently stationed with 7th Communication Battalion, Okinawa Japan. The situation here is no were near as bad as Iraq. So I ask during the holidays that we keep in our minds the Marines that are not in harms way but may be away from their family for the first time. We are doing great things here in the past year we deployed to the Philippines, and Thailand in support of tsunami relief, Pakistan to aid in relief for the quake, and also the 31st MEU returned from Iraq. These are just a few of the things that we do over here. I wish you all a happy holiday season and new year from all of us here in Okinawa (The Rock) Japan Semper Fi
SGT Denison, Nathaniel M
Radio Data Team
7th Comm Bn C. CO
Please pass the WORD! I need to have all Marines and Corpsmen that served with the 26th Marine Regiment, during WWII and Vietnam contact me about a book that is being written. Also, any Marines and Corpsmen that participated on Operation Meade River (Nov-Dec) 1968. Thank you and Semper Fi.
Former Sergeant of Marines (240) 344-1545,
usmcgman74 @ aol.com
Hey Sgt Grit!
God Bless you my friend, and Merry Christmas! Marines don't pride themselves in what they say; but what they do! The "air is never safe to breathe, until the ground is safe to walk on!" SEMPER FI my "Brother"!
Bob Beskar, U.S.A.F. Vietnam War Veteran 68-72
May I wish all you people "across the Pond" and around the world a safe and merry Christmas and a happy New Year.
From: David I Lazenby, WO2 Royal Marines (Ret.)
Fellow Teufel Hunden,
I know its a bit late but I just wanted to share with you the fact that I got a real treat this year for the Marine Corps b- day. My son was born on November 10, of 2005! Ooorah! I promise that he will be brought up in the ways of the warriors that have gone before him (including his dad!). He may not follow in those footsteps but he will at least have a knowledge and respect for those warriors. Semper fi, stay safe, Happy Holidays, and give 'em h&ll boys!
In fact, the 1st Marine Division began to arrive in Vietnam 23 February 1966. Wellllllllll... I was a Corpsman with "E" Co., 2/1 and it has been my understanding that we landed in March of 1965 as the SLF.
2nd Plt., "E" Co., 2nd Bat., 1st Mar
I want to be politically incorrect and send the following message to all of our Marines - Merry Christmas and God's blessings always! Thank you and your families for your service and sacrifice. May you always feel His face shining upon you in all you do.
Sue Ostrowski, Mosinee, WI
The link is to a great review of Iwo Jima and provides a compelling perspective to how the media reports, or should I say tries to influence, the news today.
Thanks for the forum. I esp appreciated Doc Cavender comments. I am a Viet era vet who never had trigger time and have known others like me. We can't help but feel shame or loss that we didn't share the dangers of our brothers whom we admire and love so much. S/F Steve Bollinger, LtCol, USMCR (Ret)
December 16, 2005, 9:55 a.m.
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