Sunday, June 14, 2009

War Letters: Part 1

Sometimes, my thoughts and memories of events build up in my head, and I feel that if I don’t write them down I will go fucking nuts.

The following is an unfinished narrative I wrote and enclosed with a personal letter to my wife. Copies of this narrative were distributed to family members.

My younger sister, Teresa (Tess), a grade school teacher, read it to her class. Later, I would receive many humorous pieces of mail from the school kids voicing their support and well wishes for my comrades and me.



December 1990

Indianapolis, Indiana

I always imagined the scene…the soldier going off to war and saying his goodbyes to his wife and loved ones. I thought it was a romantic scene. I imagined myself as that soldier…bravely leaving behind everything he cared about. It was a part that I thought I wanted to play, with everyone saying how brave and tough I was.

Well…one very cold and snowy December morning, the romantic scene became a reality. Lee Greenwood singing “Proud To Be An American…” My wife of only seven months, and my mother and father…sitting in the crowd.

Up to that point, I had already dealt with Lynda’s frequent tears, but the look on Dad’s face was something I’ll never forget. I knew Mom would be a wreck. Dad, though, was another story. He was crying as we were ordered on to the busses. I rushed over to them and said some last quick farewells. I couldn’t look at Mom and Dad for more than a few seconds for fear that I too would tear up.

I was one of the last Marines on the bus. I was able to kiss Lynda once more, and I then boarded the bus. We got an escort from the Indianapolis Police Department to the airport. We all commented that we only get treated decently when something really bad is on the horizon.

We had to load the plane ourselves. Packs were falling apart all over the tarmac. Half of these guys can’t even pack their trash securely. How in the hell are they going to perform in a combat situation? Someone’s bolt from their weapon fell out of their sea bag and on to the ground. Oh boy! (This was a commercial aircraft. We had to remove the bolts from our weapons and stash them in our sea bags in the luggage/cargo area of the plane so that we would not have access to them in flight.)

The plane was finally loaded, and we boarded. As the plane taxied away from the area, the Inspector/Instructor staff was all doing flutter kicks in our honor. These Marines are our active duty counterparts…sort of like our teachers. Most of them had tried many times to go with us. Such is the mind of a good Marine. If there’s a fight, Marines want to be in on it.

Our craft was given clearance for takeoff. It lurched forward and became airborne. My adventure had started. As I watched Indiana disappear into a snowy bank of clouds, I began to think…

“Goodbye, Hoosierland. I hope this isn’t the last time I get to see you”

Marines like to think about the first and last times they do or did things.

“This is the last time I’ll get a home cooked meal.”
“This is the last look at Mom and Dad.”
“This is the last time I’ll make love to my wife.”
“I won’t need my car keys anymore…at least not until I get back.”

Everything hasn’t been all doom and gloom, however. The gallows humor abounds. One guy is constantly reminded of the fact that he was due to be discharged from the Marine Reserves. He was rather bitter at first, but he has gotten over it.

I keep reminding anybody that will listen that I’m “non-ob” also. “Non-ob” means, “not obligated,” which is a status that a Marine gets when he fulfills his initial enlistment.

Well…I had done that and extended for a year. I was due to get out in April of 1991. I could have checked out and become a civilian at anytime before that date. Uncle Sam has a way of changing your plans sometimes…

“Wait a minute! I don’t have to do this! I’m non-ob!”

Not any more you ain’t!


December 1990

Camp Lejeune, North Carolina

We finally arrived at Camp Lejeune and got settled in. We’ve been going to classes that are designed as refresher courses in various subjects. The classrooms aren’t typical…usually outside…rain or shine. It’s been cold and rainy lately. There are a hundred or more Marines in attendance…Marines with many different jobs:

Engineers—they go out and find and defuse mines.
Communications—our unit.
Recon—bad asses who snoop and poop.
Cannon cockers—artillery.
MPs—military police.

We all have the best unit, and there’s a lot of good-natured rivalry.

Somebody’s always falling asleep or not paying attention during the classes.

Will their lack of discipline get them or someone else killed? Maybe…and it really makes me mad. Some of these guys don’t seem to realize what the hell is going on here. It seems to me that they can’t grasp the fact that this isn’t summer camp. This isn’t a game. There isn’t time to train in-depth.

Listen. Pay attention. Do the right thing.

In a month, we’ll be in a potential combat zone. By the time the bullets start flying, it’ll be too late to worry.

I want to slap some of these kids who are screwing around.

Kids…that’s how some of these guys are acting.

Christmas is approaching fast. Lynda is coming down from Indiana to see me. I’m very happy about that. I don’t have much Christmas spirit though. I’ve never spent a Christmas away from home. I received a letter from Mom telling me about their Christmas tree and everything. She doesn’t have the Christmas spirit either. She’s taking this very hard.

I hope she’ll be OK.

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