By: John W. DeStefano
I would like to give one of my junior DI’s a plug. His name is CPL E.M. Mello, and he was anything but mellow. I was 17 years and 20 days old. He made quite an impression on me. Quite a few impressions. My first recollection of us getting close and personal was on our second or third day of forming. Our platoon was the first in the series so we had to wait awhile (9 days) for the rest of the maggots to show up. We were standing at attention in front of our racks reading our Little RedBook (not Chairman Mao’s).
My back was aching from standing at attention for so long; so I thought it would be a good idea if I leaned my shoulder against the rack. Bad idea. Cpl Mello appeared from out of nowhere, and informed me that I should not be leaning against my rack. That was my first introduction to “Thump Call”. There would be others. I kept waiting for the next 13 weeks for the DI’s to lighten-up and be our friends. It didn’t happen. We graduated on May 14, 1963 and the next morning was the day we were all so very anxiously awaiting. The Greyhounds were lined up in front of the barracks waiting to take us to ITR at Camp Geiger. The DI’s held-up the buses so we could all enjoy one more session of fun. Bends and Thrust. We were maggots and turds till the day we left. When we got to Geiger and a sgt got on the bus, and all we could think was here we go again. Instead he called us Marines. I’ll never forget how proud I felt. He then informed us that we would have 2 weeks of mess duty before we could start training. For the next 3-1/2 years I never saw our DI’s again, but I always kept a warm place in my heart for Corporal Mello. I rotated out of Nam in October ’66 to Okinawa for our reintroduction to the world. After a week we went to Kadena A B to get on a jet. We all had our embarkation numbers and were standing on the tarmac ready to board. An elderly career Marine with his clipboard in hand started barking out numbers. One of them was mine. We had just been bumped. I returned back to Camp Hansen, and that night I went into the Ville to let off some steam. I had never been so inebriated as I was then. I was staggering down an alley that ran behind the bars and fell thru the back door and landed in the back room of this bar. I was somehow able to stand and brush myself off and stagger out into the bar. I bellied up to the bar, got a seat, looked to my left and it was Cpl Mello. He was dressed in civvies, and he was now a 2nd Louie. After all those years the memories came flooding back. The anger just dissipated. I realized I owed him a great deal of gratitude for quite possibly turning a 17 year old kid into a Marine. I quickly dispelled any thoughts of doing anything stupid. He would have definitely kicked my a$$.
I can’t remember what I had for breakfast, but I’ll always remember Cpl Mello
John DeStefano Cpl AKA Duffle Bag