Who were these strange boys with southern draws? Somehow we were linked though not quite yet. I remember trying to figure out lanky Gregory’s dip puckered lip or Damon’s short stature as we headed off to the same destiny- becoming men. Gregory, though having the appearance of a tired giant, and Damon seemed filled with a familiar darkness. It would be no more than 2 years and I would see that darkness unbound upon the lives of Iraqis. Me, I was from New York, which came with its own stigmas—most of them untrue to me. Sure, I couldn’t fight the long accent when saying words like “wawta” (aka water) and I couldn’t resist the requests from my brothers to impersonate quotes from Sylvester Stallone. “I am the law”. I’d later learn that this accent would both make and break acquaintances. One thing was for certain. We were all just boys on the fast track to manhood. It’s a funny thing to contemplate, now that I am a man, the idea that 3 short months of rigorous training would somehow catalyst 18 years of youth into manhood and prepare us all for war.
On the 3rd day God said let there be light but on the first day of Marine Corps boot camp Drill Instructor Staff Sergeant Smith said stuff that light deep down in your belly and let your darkness shine. There is no smiling, no laughing, and no individuality for a Marine, especially a Marine Grunt. Don’t believe me? I’ve got the memory of being water boarded in Paris Island to prove it—not that I even knew what water boarding was until years later (courtesy of Rambo-another salute to Stallone). Apparently making another Marine laugh in boot camp warrants this type of punishment—although the kid who ratted me out (so much for comradery) got away Scott free. However, this was not the last taste of hypocrisy I would see during my blink in the service. Marines will fight Marines, they will have each other’s backs and each other’s wives . The idea of integrity as a naturally occurring manifestation by way of joining the corps, faded into a facade over time. It’s a difficult balance chanting, “killing babies, eat me up” on one hand, and then being expected to behave better than those “nasty” civilians on the other.
There was one thing for certain the Government could do, and that was getting the Marines to do it for them.