This isn’t a story, really. It’s an observation, and I guess a gripe. In September 1967 I arrived in country on the day that my recruit Platoon Commander (MCRD San Diego, Platoon 356, April 1966 ) GySgt Robert C. Roper was killed on Con Thien while serving as company gunny of H/2/9. Gunny Roper was the inspiration for the current DI Statue on the edge of the grinder at MCRD. Then SSgt Roper was the poster quintessential image of a Marine, an infantry veteran of Korea who enlisted in the Corps at 17, and the first Marine I saw at 2100 hours when I stood on the yellow footprints and began to wonder what I had gotten myself into. I write this to draw attention to a situation that to my eye, is all to prevalent in the way Marines of today present themselves in any uniform other than utilities. Call it bitchy if you wish, but here it is: we learned, well, we were forced to learn, that pride in the uniform we were about to earn the honor of wearing was paramount in how we viewed and would present ourselves as Marines. We shined our brass every day, and spit shined our boots every day, and, when we were given them before graduation, spit shined our dress shoes, and the visor of our barracks cover frame. Our gig lines, when first standing final inspection in, for me, the tropical uniform, was perfect, from the platen of the tropical shirt, through the belt buckle, and through the fly. I recently attended a “welcome home Vietnam veterans” ceremony at the DLI in Monterey where I observed two Marine sergeants, recruiters, both of whom had gig lines that made me cringe. Then, in the recent edition of Leatherneck, the Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps appears on the cover with his belt buckle completely off the gig line. GySgt Roper is spinning in his casket, and I, for one, long for the day when the one thing, in garrison, that caused us to stand out from all the other services was the absolute perfection in the appearance of our uniforms. we had no anodized anything, including decorations. It was a difficult mindset to reacquire, after returning from Vietnam where we shined and polished nothing, and wore no rank insignia except on our soft utility covers, and of course never bathed, but reacquire it we did. I guess the old Corps is gone forever. Why? Stateside Marines are supposed to be perfect in uniform, from the Commandant on down. That is apparently not the case any longer. Do current Marines find that acceptable, or am I just an old fart learning for another era?
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