Wednesday, August 29, 2007
Jerrod and I lived together for six months in Iraq. So you can imagine when I read the article, "Marine Charged With 225 Counts of Abuse", I felt like someone punched me square in the stomach. I have not spoken to Jerrod since he and I hugged and shook hands at the airport in San Diego when I got back from Iraq in March of last year. Come on the bus with me as we head off to Marine Boot Camp. Please, read the above article first.
We have been driving around in circles for the past three hours. The sun set hours ago the chatter on the bus is lively and spirited. A few of us have high-and-tight's, but as we look around the bus, the majority of guys look like they just left their high-school campus. The bus slows noticeably and turns sharply right. "You all may want to sit down now", the bus driver yells with an ominous smirk on his face. A long stretch of straightaway....the chatter and laughing quiets...silence. We are all looking out the windows into the darkness, into the blackness of the swamp. Dim street lights now line the narrow two lane road. A small shack approaches in the distance. The bus slows as it approaches. Two Marines stand at the edge of the curb. They share a short empty glance with one another before they robotically wave the bus through the gate...
We are strangers in a foreign land. We have all been given a glimpse into a different world...a world where no matter where we came from, there is something greater than us. None of us know it yet, but in thirteen short weeks most of us will have accomplished more than we ever dreamed we could. Many of us will find what we came in search of. For a few, it was a choice made to be "the best". For others, it was the only service which would take them. We are a bus full of selfish individuals who would gladly trample the desires of the fellow sitting next to us in order to further ours. We have no concept Honor, Courage or Commitment. Many of us think we do, but in our lives, pure selflessness, an unwavering sense of duty and an unquestioning devotion to a cause are nonexistent. Soon enough however, we will meet the men who will take this busload of individuals and instill in each one of us these qualities...the qualities which have been trained into thousands of Marines who have stepped on the same yellow footprints where our feet are soon to tread. The means necessary to achieve this end, as every Marine will will attest to, are not pretty and at times, they hurt. The necessity of these means are also difficult to explain.
As I reflected on the purpose of this post, I realized that I will never be able to explain this transformation. It is an anomaly. It is something that is only going to be understood by those of us who have experienced the ultimate test of desire, will and determination. Let me share with you though, something that is going to cause you to shake your head in disbelief, but something that is also going to resonate with every Marine who reads this....I was hit by my Drill Instructors in boot camp. I was cursed at, at times spat upon, ridiculed, berated and at times threatened with bodily harm by these same men. Five short years later, I was being shot at and buildings were being blown up all around me. I was watching men blow themselves up yards away from me. I was hearing that unforgettable zing of rounds flying by my head. I was watching Marines being dragged out of the street after they were struck by the enemies bullets. I was being called upon to immediately and without question place myself in a position where I may give my life for the sake of the cause and my fellow Marines. Jump in a dang trash can? Have someone shove me in it? Hear me here...I prayed that the corner that I was crouching in in that shack in Husaybah would protect me from the car screeching toward us because I was not in a position to take it out and I feared it was going to take me out. I thanked GySgt Bodie for throwing that mattress on me and Bingo right before they blew that weapons cache. Marines follow orders because by following orders, we stay alive. How are we trained to follow orders? By being given strange orders to follow, and being made to follow than immediately without question. "GySgt Bodie, why should I keep this mattress over my head, and why should I jump down into this dugout?" You see what questioning orders can lead to?
Jerrod...thank you. SSgt Lorance, Sgt Casarez, Sgt Simms, thank you. You all did what was necessary to effect a transformation that only we can understand and appreciate. Hold your heads high....I am and will continue to do so because I know those lessons taught to me by the pain you inflicted, kept me and my brothers alive.