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Sparky and Me
By: MSgt Edd Prothro, USMC Ret. 1964-1984
August 1978 to November 1981 found me on recruiting duty with the Officer Selection Office, RS Hartford CT. We recruited candidates for the Platoon Leaders Class & Officers Candidate Class from 72 colleges and universities in Connecticut, Rhode Island and western Massachusetts. To say the least, adapting to the culture and language of college students and northerners was not an easy task for a farm boy from Mulvane KS with 14 years Marine Corps service. In the early summer of 1980 a new officer joined our station, 1st Lt. John Sparks. Lt. Sparks was an 0302 Infantry Officer, Naval Academy graduate from Maryland, and had been selected for Captain. He and I were assigned together as one of two officer recruiting teams.
Once per quarter the 1st Marine Corps District meeting was held at a different recruiting station to allow for introductions and networking. As fate would have it, Sparky and I were sent to represent RS Hartford that quarter at the meeting in RS Bronx NY. We decided to drive down, which turned out to be a really dumb decision. Of course, we took the wrong exit (GPS didn’t exist then) and found ourselves in the blight of inner New York City. Remember, it was 1980 and there was a national recession, plus NYC was in the midst of an economic melt down. The area looked like a war zone, littered with trash, old furniture and cars on cinder blocks. Here we were, in undress blues, driving a government car with a big “U.S. Marine Corps Recruiting” sticker on each front door. Sparky was driving and I looked over at him and said, “Damn, Lieutenant, I’m glad I’m with you!” He in turn gave me a side-ways glance and with a shit-eating grin replied, “You talk’in to me white boy!” Naturally, we were late for meeting because the only parking we could find was over a mile away, and we had to take a cab to the recruiting station. We were forced to endure much ridicule and became the butt of many jokes. From then on we always took the train if we had to go to The Big Apple.
That incidence became the essence of our relationship for the next year and a half. We soon acquired the moniker of “Salt & Pepper” as we fought, scratched and clawed to make our annual quota of new candidates. I showed Sparky how to pad the next years quota with college bound HS grads and Freshmen, and he became my safe harbor as I began to suffer the affects of PTSD from my time in Vietnam. Recruiting duty was not by choice, but it was one of the most challenging and rewarding assignments of my time in the Corps. This picture was taken at the late-term commissioning of 2nd Lt. Thomas Vinsky at his home in Amherst MA. His father (on right) was a retired USAF Lt.Col. and his older brother and sister were both USMC officers on active duty.
MSgt Edd Prothro, USMC ’64-’84