Thursday, March 09, 2017


5 years ago I got a call from the USMC recruiters depot in Dallas asking me if I wanted to go see how Marines were made. He was offering me a free trip to Sandy Eggo so who was I to say no. It was only the day we were leaving VIA MILITARY ORDERS and with a uniformed escort that the full breadth of what was about to happen was revealed. "Oh did we say see? We meant show" that was how I found out that that the Marines have a sense of humor and putting civilians through their rigorous boot camp is how they show it. Day One: The bus and the yellow footprints

It is really hard to describe the shock and awe of the first day of boot camp

Especially when you are not a real recruit but on an accelerated program that on DAY ONE puts you in pants that are too small, a helmet that is too big and dragging a 40lbs rubber BAYONET across a tightrope and under concertina wire on an assault course trying not to die of abject humiliation and regretting every peanut butter cup you ever ate.

I also got hand to hand combat training, sniper training, live fire drills down Alpha range and went three stalls on The Crucible where I failed every miserable f*cking challenge and as penance was forced to run thru rocky mountainous terrain oddly with unevenly weighted ammo cans with a company commander twice my age and whose dust I ate multiple times. Seriously one ammo can was like 2lbs the other was at least 40 so I was not so much running as loping like a disoriented baby caribou

One night they took me to see a real intake process and I just stood there filming with my jaw on the floor.

This was the part where new recruits are given 30 seconds to call home to say they made it and goodbye for the next 90 days as they go thru the transformative process of becoming a Marine. There is so much yelling and chaos that I wonder what it must sound like from the other end of the phone and how stupefied the recipient must be to get a call like this

Even now watching the video leaves me gasping, incredulous and amazed at the intensity of it all

By the end of my week I was hoarse, bruised and had shinsplints from all the running. But I was strangely elated, energized and galvanized by the experience and sad that I would never measure up to be a real Marine. It was depressing to be a part of something so magnificent and have it end so abruptly. On the last day as we saw recruits fresh from the crucible go thru the parade and ceremony to become fullfledged marines we had a ceremony of our own. They were handing out awards and I hung back because I didnt expect to get anything for failing everything I had tried but then i heard my name and at first thought it was a mistake so didn't do anything. But the gunnery sergeant was yelling again and to my utter astonishment he handed me a challenge coin in the traditional way by holding out his hand as if for a handshake but palming the treasured coin to slip it to me mid shake.

I was receiving the honor for "dedication the likes we have never seen in this program."  I was utterly dumbfounded and still staring at the coin when the muffled sound of my name came into my consciousness again. I looked up and the company commander was saying my name and in his hand was a plaque on which they had nailed a combat boot. It was a MOTO award and I was getting that too for being "the most motivated recruit we have ever met in this program"

As I left MCRDSD I hummed a little something i learned from The Fewer The Prouder Lady Marines. A cadence that will stay with me to my last breath

"If you see me coming you better step aside, many men didn't and many men died. What's the sign of a devil dog WOOF WOOF what's that runnin down your face JUICY JUICY"