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.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

The Small Stuff

I consider Jessie to be a close friend of mine and someone with whom I share a kindred spirit. Jessie and I went through the Police Academy together, we endured Field Training together and we now have the fortune of patrolling neighboring zones within our city. Between the shooting, rape and numerous fights-in-progress calls that we backed each other up on last night, we had the opportunity to discuss some really important issues in our society. Jessie, while he is still very much a young man, has an unusual amount of maturity and an uncanny sense of level-headedness that far surpasses those within his age group. Last night, while he and I were parked "window-to-window" we pondered our society's undoing. I shared with him what I believe to be a major contributing factor. I told Jessie that a fundamental truth that my eight years as a husband, and six years as a father have taught me is that as a husband, don't even think about sweating the small stuff (actual incidents...(A) "Yea, I hit her. She wore my shoes the wrong way, so I punched her." (B) "I said no lettuce. What did I get? Lettuce. She doesn't want to listen to me, so I helped her listen.). As a father however, there is no such thing as small stuff. Every word and every action of my children are crucial to their development. He and I see it almost everyday and it sickens me.

He and I have both been on calls for service where parents are completely and totally at wits end as a result of the actions of their children. It's truly sad because I know, and what I have tried to show Jessie, is that there is a certain point where these kids are gone; the opportunity and privilege of forming and training their precious personalities and lives is lost. Their parents have travelled so far down the slope of parental remission, laziness and selfishness that the only person who can change these children now is the children themselves. In the beginning it was a tantrum at bedtime in defiance that was catered to. "No" was heard by the child as "keep on asking". Later as their poor souls regressed and as the battle continued, these young children stood their ground as seasoned generals while their Dads and Moms retreated; their patience, wits and bodies wracked by the wounds of the workday. Lessons of respect for authority and for adults have been abandoned. "Ma'am" and "Sir" have become archaic jargon lost somewhere-post baby boom.

Let me tell ya' folks, when I was coming up, my sisters and I feared my Dad. Granted, Mom was bad, but only because when you wronged her, you wronged Dad too. My school teacher's pen was the devil's instrument...not because she wielded it, but rather because my Father would eventually read it's damning words. Get in trouble in school or at a friend's house meant you were guaranteed double jeopardy when you got home. I remember whispering in my buddies' ear as they answered my Father's questions; "Say yes sir", because I had been taught from toddlerhood that was the only proper way to answered my Dad. At the time, did I understand the bigger picture that he was teaching me concerning respect for authority? Not hardly. Do my daughter's understand it now? Not hardly. But you know what, just as I understand it now, one day they will too. There is no such thing as small stuff when it comes to my girls. I love them unconditionally, and I make it a point to ensure that they know this. But I also love them enough to teach them right and wrong. As Gov. Mitt Romney stated, ”...there's no work more important than what goes on within the four walls of the American home." My home is no exception.