Regular People

I have a story that I am certain every Marine can understand how exactly it was we felt. I am currently deployed with the Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines with a group of 23 Marines from 12th Marines Regiment in Okinawa, Japan. We are a small unit and don’t see any action, just supporting the command and the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police. Thanksgiving day rolling around for us means a good meal at the chow hall (one that’s not either microwaved or fried) and an extra 6 hours spent out on the road escorting some “Distinguished Visitors” from the US Congress. (I know most people probably have never heard of OEF-Philippines. But its real, Google it.)

As one of the few NCOs down here, I am proud to say that me and my Marines executed flawlessly, as we always do. It’s no Iraq or Afghan here, but spending long amounts of time in up-armored vehicles in 90 degrees with 90% humidity, along with full body armor and combat loads seems to make me think of another war in the Marine Corps’ history. We get the DVs to our compound and disembark to get some chow, hopefully a good meal. None of us rush in to get food, though, we make sure our weapons are clear and functioning and that nothing has happened to our trucks while we were out.

By the time our weapons are put up (no weapons in chow hall here) and gear and trucks secured, the party of “D.V.s” is seated and eating their Thanksgiving dinner. We walk up to the door and are turned away by an Army E-8 saying we are not allowed to eat right now. Nearly appalled (and pretty p!ssed because who in the h&ll is this hooah to deny my Marines a Thanksgiving meal!?), I ask the MSgt why; “Regular people aren’t allowed in while the DVs are in there. You guys can come back when they are finished.”

I calmly explained that we were there security escort, and as soon as they finished we had to take them back out, could we get food to go? Nope, guess not. I tell my guys to hold on, and I go find Gunny with a major WTF? Look on my face. (Note: Last Christmas in Okinawa,I recall Marine Colonels and Generals serving their Marines food, not taking over the chow hall for themselves.) Gunny gets it arranged so we can get a quick bite to go before we head back out, but on thanksgiving a turkey sandwich and a can of cranberries just doesn’t cut us. But not once, NOT F’IN ONCE, do I hear any of my Marine gripe or complain, they simply step off, suit up, go Condition 1, and head back out to our trucks

We prep the vehicles and wait for our DVs to come out, tummies with just enough in them to make a man mighty angry. Everyone’s out, missions go, we move out, one hand on my M9, one on the wheel. After a few stops at designated “Visit Locations,” the DVs are out and back on the plane. We head back to the compound, but games not over yet. We still got 15 mikes outside the wire. Our shoulders relax a little with the DVs out of the target area. We get back and all non-USMC personnel rush out of the convoy to eat for the second time.

Not my Marines. We clear our vehicles, secure hatches, check and double check our weapons. Brush off our armor, and then head to the chow hall. Almost closing time, but we make it in. Not a soul in sight in there except for our buddies the Filipino cooks. What a pleasant surprise. After hours in the heat totally tac’ed up in gear, being denied chow because we are just “regular people,” and some crazy driving through the streets in the Philippines, we Marines can sit down and eat a real Thanksgiving dinner with just each other. We go through the line sticky, sweaty and worn the h&ll out; get some cold turkey, some mashed potatoes that aren’t quite as squishy as they probably were when the hooahs got to eat, some dressing crumbs, and, well, we all know what happens to gravy when it gets cold. The cake is droopy by now, all the pies are gone, there isn’t even any d*mn ice cream left.

We sit down with each other, and I realize that as sh*tty as the end of the stick is that we got today, this makes it worth it. We don’t care about feeling important and eating with important people, it’s that every single one of us got back and are able to sit down and eat thanksgiving dinner with each other. Some days I regret enlisting, like everybody does, and I am certain that I am only doing 4 and out, but this camaraderie, this family I have developed with my Marines cannot be found anywhere else. This is what makes it worthwhile. As we finish our meals, one of the workers, who is grinning from ear to ear, comes out and sets a fresh baked pumpkin pie down right in front of us. Not sure why they saved it for us, but my advice to every Marine out there, make friends with your chow hall workers.

Today my Marines did their jobs, and they did them d*mn well. We didn’t expect much, but we didn’t expect to be denied Thanksgiving dinner because we are just regular people, but I guess that’s how the army does it. We knew we weren’t going to get a thank you or a job well done from anybody but Gunny and maybe the TF Commander (Army O-6, but he’s a h&lluva guy, for a hooah). But we did get a fresh pumpkin pie and we got to eat it together. And brothers, we are what it is all about. I couldn’t care less what a US Congressman thinks of me or my guys, because the only thing that matters were the guys eating Thanksgiving dinner with me.

Phil Stover
Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines
SOCPAC/ 3rd Bn 12th Marines 3d MarDiv

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20 thoughts on “Regular People”

  1. It’s sad DVs forget the “little guys” watching their six. Thirty years later after leaving the Corps, I remember an NCO’s responsibility to take care of your troops. So few people know what Leadership really is, nor do they care. Know that many others respect what you do. Semper Fi.

  2. Corporal, you’ll remember your brothers for the rest of your life. That’s what is important and those that never experienced what you have will never understand. Just recently spent celebrating The Birthday with 2nd Anglico Marines in Wilmington NC. In attendance was a buddy that I hadn’t seen since 1970 in Danang. Had a blast!!

  3. I served with the 12th Marines in the Philippines in 1957. I have tried to stay current with my old regiment over the years but they are always on the move and hard to keep up with. While based in Hawaii they still move around on a lot of deployments which are unknown to the general public which is as it should be. Regardless of regiment or division our Marines serve in they are all brothers in arms and our best and last chance to hold on to our republic. God bless all who serve under the Eagle,Globe and Anchor.

  4. Great job Corporal. It’s a good thing Marines were not hosting the event. The Army E-8 at the entrance would have been shown the exit as well.

  5. To tell you the truth I would prefer to eat dirt with my brothers ( and have) then set down to steak dinner with someone who does understand how the Marines are and have no respect for those who think themselves so important and above others without earning it . I think of you all lucky not to have to set down with these assholes! You’re Marine, that tells me everything I need to know to call you my friend and brother and would share my last bit of food with you and be greatful to do it .

  6. Next time, if any of the DVs are members of Congress, blow by the Doggy E8 and tell the Congressmen your situation. Make sure though that the Congressman knows you know his name. You’ll get that well deserved meal. Hell, in RVN (1969-70) we had Thanksgiving meals in shifts. SF

    1. That’s why the Army E8 was at the door guarding the chow hall, he wasn’t good enough to guard the DV’s!!!! That’s why they have the Marines do it!! OORAH MARINES!

  7. Three years in the PI you get to know the people. You got the pie because your Marines. The real people that matter know what Marines are and what they do. Proof that the Marine Corps hasn’t changed. Semper Fi!

  8. I remember washing F4 Phantoms on Thanksgiving of 1971, my last year in the Corps. There were a few more of us in that detail that had managed to piss somebody off. My infraction was the length of my sideburns displeased the Major performing some inspection during the month. I was only guilty of being truthful when he asked me if I was trying to look like a civilian! I mean come on, I was a short timer plus I was also attending a civilian college in Anaheim! The OIC in charge of the detail was an F4 Pilot that had been grounded for doing a “down and dirty” flyby! Translated that is an aircraft flying very low and very fast over the air station without clearance to do so. No harm done but it does scare the bejeezes out of anybody on the ground! Anyway at lunch time the Captain rolls up to the flight line with his wife in their station wagon. That big boat of a car was loaded with a big azz turkey and more fixins than we could eat including pies and cake! We had an actual picnic on the flightline under a shiny clean Marine F4 Phantom with the Captains name on it. Best thanksgiving of my 4 years, will never forget it and those “sh*tbirds” on that detail!

  9. Have a blessed Christmas Marine and thank you for protecting the freedoms and liberties that I enjoy each and everyday. I loved the times I spent at Cubi Point, PI as a 0311 Corporal with 2/9 Blt in 1970-1971. Semper Fi, Bern Ketelsen

  10. The so-called “important” folks should have been honored to eat with you, if not, serve your Thanksgiving Day meal. Thankk God that we have Marines such as you protecting us!Father Richard Gorman

  11. I was in Subic as part of the Marine Detatchment of an aircraft carrier in 1974. And again with an Arty Bn. In 1984. My thanksgiving meal one year was lobster in Subic City. With the Bn Staff. Another time was turkey aboard the carrier while in the Indian Ocean. Will never forget! RA Aikman.Lt Col USMC Ret.

  12. Awesome story. Gave me chills and made me think of the times and all the great Marines I served with. I’m 60 now and miss it all the more (or maybe just my youth). Semper Fi all!!!

  13. The extremist threat in the P I has always been prevalent. Was there in 92 with 3rd Bn 3rd Marines. We saw a car load of locals “shwacked” by the N P A.

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