I am never really sure what to say during holidays, but I do know that it irks me when I hear someone say, “Happy Memorial Day”. I have a boss that used to say that until I pointed out that it is probably the wrong greeting for the day.
I generally don’t like to talk much about my time in. My experience was negative, but to be fair, I am a negative person. I did like a fair percentage of the Men I served with.
I remember a Brazilian named Barbosa. Well former Brazilian, he became a U.S. Citizen while he was in. His ancestors served in the military, and he wanted to also. I remember one night I saw him sitting on the barracks picnic table looking rather despondent. I started talking to him and he commented that I was going to go to heaven. That he liked to drink too much, cursed too much, and sinned to much while I didn’t do any of that. I rejected that argument quickly, telling him that I’m pretty sure someone needed to believe in heaven to be qualified to go there. What I remember most about him were all the times we were so very miserable and I would see him standing near the top of the stairs looking down them. One of our mutual friends, someone who was closer to him than me, told me that he confided that during those moments he was considering throwing him self down the stairs. He never took that easy way out, but that sure planted that tempting idea in my head. Cpl. Barbosa died in a humvee roll over.
There was a guy I didn’t know well. Clark. We were in the same platoon but we didn’t interact much. I remember him always been upbeat, cheerful, and ready for more. Role model Marine. The polar opposite of me. He was a mortar man tasked the degrading job of working as a rifleman. There was one day I was working on the radios, as opposed to every single other day I was working on the radios. On this particular day I needed to change all the batteries, clean all the contacts, update the time and crypto. As opposed to all the other days I did that. I had collected up all the radios and organized them next to my rack. I took the first one, cleaned and updated it, and then did a radio check on the company channel. Now that we had a known good radio it, I flipped it over to the platoon channel, and was going to use it to check all the other radios against. Right at this moment Clark walked past my squads room (the entire squad was bunked in the one room) and saw me, by my self, in there with the radios. He asked me if I needed help. Mind you, this is completely out of character for a Marine, shows how he was special, better than the rest of us. I explained what I was doing, and asked him to take the known good radio so I could call in a radio check to him with each other radio as I serviced them. He pointed out that he eventually wanted to be in charge of a mortar section, so he suggested we practical our indirect fire calls. I would call in a practice fire mission on each radio I updated and he would practice the proper responses. It was a great idea. Clean and update a radio, call Clark who was in the next room over, his squads room, with the known good radio, and I would call in a fire mission to check the radio and practice our procedures. Laying on my back in my bunk, I would pull a radio onto my belly, do the necessary work, and then make a call. Our squad leaders, platoon sergeant, and our platoon commander were walking by my squads room as I started calling in one of these fire mission, “This is Charlie Four Alpha requesting IMMEDIATE SUPPRESSION on grid WON TOO TREE FOO-ER FIEFE SIX, how copy, over?”. My superiors, aghast, in the doorway and went, “WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING?”. In my most childlike naive voice I could muster, I reply, “I just called for immediate suppression on grid 123456?” They reply, “YOU CAN’T DO THAT!”` The radio crackled back, “This is Charlie Mortars, IMMEDIATE SUPPRESSION, GRID ONE TWO THREE FOUR FIVE SIX, OUT.” “I turn my head to my chain of command, while still lying on my back, once again using that naive childlike voice, “But I just did.” Oooo, fun times. On his second deployment, Lance Corporal Clark died from a non-combat gun shot wound. Take from that what you will.
There are a few more Men I was going to talk about, but I find I have run out of words.