Sparky and Me

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.

Semper Fi!!!
MSgt Edd Prothro, USMC ’64-’84

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18 comments


  • John Hardell

    Edd
    Curious, when did you go thru boot camp and where.
    I was at PI Sept 64, Plt 184. Retired MSgt also, 64 to 84.

    Went home last week, to Marine Base, Camp Pendleton, where I retired in 84. Many good memories. My wife had fun also, she beat a young Marine in golf.

    jchardell@msn.com

    John Hardell


  • MSgt Edd Prothro, USMC Ret. 1964-1984

    James – Thank you so very much for your informative response to my story. Anyone who knew Sparky also knew that he would be exceptionally successful in any endeavor which he chose to pursue. Like so many career military people, there is a tendency to loose touch with others after you’ve been transferred. But people are never transferred out of your memories. As such, I wasn’t aware of his assignments after OSO duty. I retired from the Marine Corps in 1984 and returned to my adopted home of Tulsa OK. Thanks to you, now that I know where his location, I will try to make contact. Semper Fi!!! Top Pro


  • James Reid

    I met 2d Lt. John Sparks on the USS Guam when we both deployed with 1/8. After his OSO tour he went to UConn Law School. He went on to become a military judge and is now one of five judges on the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces. It is the highest court that hears military cases. Any appeal from there goes to the US Supreme Court. It was a pleasure to serve with him. We are still friends today.
    Thanks for the picture and the story.


  • MSgt Edd Prothro, USMC Ret. 1964-1984

    Eddie – Always nice to hear from a fellow OSO. You guys had one helluva lot of territory to cover. Bet you had just a little windshield time. Would love to hear those stories, drop me a line at edd_prothro@windstream.net. Semper Fi, Top Pro


  • MSgt Edd Prothro, USMC Ret. 1964-1984

    Robert – Nice to hear from you, and would like to hear more. Please feel free to contact me at edd_prothro@windstream.net. Last November my son-in-law asked me to lead the Children’s March at the Stillwater OK Community Band Veterans Day concert. So, I brushed off my MCL blazer and had a great time. Well, after the concert this lady comes up to me and asks if I had every been a recruiter in Connecticut. Turns out that I recruited her in 1980. Small world, Semper Fi!!! Top Pro


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