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It was a balmy ass September morning in 2007, and I’ll be totally honest, I didn’t sleep a wink the night before because I was trying to figure out what the hell I had gotten myself into. I Jumped out of bed and went out for one last run around the town that I grew up in, and that was it. I said goodbye to mother, and she attempted to say goodbye to me, but was blubbering like a 5-year-old who just dropped her ice cream cone. The next thing I knew I was in Quantico and three lunatics named Coons, Rivera, and Aspiazu ruled every waking moment of my life, and I’m still not sure how to thank for what they did. They made me a Marine.
After that I headed down the street to TBS. If you haven’t been it’s 6 months of the most fun I never want to have again. The mornings are early, the nights are late, and the workload is robust. The weekends however are another story. There’s nothing quite like 48 hrs of boozing and chasing tail to take the edge off after a week of land nav, BAMCIS, JJDIDTIEBUCKLE, and sword manual. I made some great friends and some awful memories at The Big Suck.
Engineer school was a blast…Demo range by day, Driftwood by night because cheap bud light, Marlboro Reds, and ‘dancer perfume’ are the fuel that unit PT runs on.
Orders out to Oki came next, but two weeks into my tenure they bounced me back to the states. Landed down at Pendleton and started a workup with a reserve grunt battalion. They already had an engineer platoon commander so I got sent over to a line platoon. It’s amazing how the Marine Corps managed to cram its worst base and its best base within a couple hours of each other in southern California. We finished our workup at 29 Palms and off to Iraq it was.
The first thing you notice is the smell, the second thing you notice is that there is way too much American fast food available for a Middle Eastern combat zone. I’m reasonably certain they didn’t have mango smoothies at Belleau Wood. It was a tame deployment and contact was light. One of our corporals had a close call…and by close call I mean he survived a sniper round to the dome. The MRAP I was riding in one afternoon went up in flames because a white star cluster fell from the machine gun turret after one of the locals threw an RKG at our patrol…that was intense.
One day we were out at a patrol base with some Kurds. I was sitting around with my NCOs eating beef jerky and cheese whiz, drinking some delicious soda that I haven’t been able to find anywhere in the west. All of a sudden rockets came flying in. Intel said they think it came from a grid coordinate in the desert. Out we go, and what do we find? Some goats and a super pissed off farmer who wanted to know why we were at his house in the middle of the night, but not a single weapon…such was life in al Anbar province.
I returned home in late September and basked in the delightful, cool, autumn air…I also invested a nice piece of that deployment pay in bar tabs…money well spent. Finally back out to Oki, and a trip to Taipei for Thanksgiving. You know what happens in Taipei? In Taipei you laugh your ass off because a group of prostitutes steal your buddies credit card…you laugh even harder when he has to run over to medical a couple weeks later to have something ummmm ya know checked out.
Cobra Gold introduced me to Thailand. I can never figure out why people always threaten to move to Canada if such and such candidate wins the election. Screw Canada it’s way too cold. Go to Thailand. Thailand is amazing. I trained, made new friends, and experienced one of the friendliest most welcoming cultures in the world. Believe you me; there are few better ways to kill an afternoon or an evening than with some Singha, a plate of pad thai, a few buddies, and some Pattya bar girls. If there is a heaven that’s what it look like. I had the privilege of heading out to the land of a thousand smiles three times, someday when I own a private jet I’ll fly out once a month.
I spent my last year on the rock as a company commander. Those 12 months were one of the best learning experiences I have ever had. I made amazing friends, ate mounds of soba and gyoza, punished my liver with Orion and habu, and sang more karaoke than I care to admit.
And then like that it was over.
I knew going in I only wanted to do 4 years. I couldn’t have made a career of it, I’m only capable of following so many rules, and 4 years is really pushing my limits. I got off of active duty in May of 2011, and have thought about the Marine Corps for at least a few minutes every day since. They say Marines aren’t happy unless they’re complaining, and it’s true Marines do everything 150 percent and that includes bitching.
But bitch as we might, I will say this; there are few more important periods of my life than the years that I spent on active duty in the United States Marine Corps. Earning that title and serving with every one of you hard charging motivators will be something that I always look back on with a great deal of pride. Thank you all for your service, happy birthday and Semper Fidelis!
P.S. If you didn’t wear white socks in Iraq you’re a boot.
This contributor is a Marine veteran that has served in the Middle East. Due to the sensitive nature of his current job, he has requested to remain anonymous.