Surfing for Dolphins


Eat the apple, fuck the corps.

Regarding drugs… Part one of several

Prior to deploying to Iraq, my roommates (shitbags) were smoking dope. My new command thought I was a shitbag, so they bunked me with shitbags.

I told these druggies that I didn’t care that they did drugs, but if I thought in any way it might get me in trouble, I would turn them in my self.

To their credit, I never saw them do drugs again. But one day I did hear a massive crash and crunch sound coming from the bathroom that was shared by our room and the next one. Much much later, after deployment, I learned the noise was the sound of the guys taking their pipe (presumably glass or ceramic), and throwing it into some sort of service hatch in the bathroom wall to dispose of it.

After we came back from deployment. One of my former roommates popped on the piss test. Also went UA for the fourth time. Then cried when he told the superiors that he wanted to stay in. But that is a separate story. I’ll tell you more about him some other time.

I don’t get why a guy would take a phallic shaped pipe, put it in their mouth, and suck on it. Seems kinda gay to me.

If someone told me this next story, I wouldn’t believe them. So I don’t expect you to believe me. That is fine.

When you were in, how often did they do drug tests? It varied drastically for us. Between quarterly and weekly. We didn’t get tested while we were deployed, but it was threatened a couple of times. I did get tested once during a field op, we suspected that we were so dirty that any tests would not be valid.

Back to the story.

At one point our state side training unit got some new guys that had recently returned from a combat deployment. It was cool having some real combat vets with us now. It ended a bunch of a bullshit that previously was going on. The guys who had been in the fleet kept telling us we weren’t real marines since we hadn’t been to the fleet. Well these combat vets show up and when they overheard the former “fleet” marines saying this crap, these guys chime in with, “You’re not a real marine unless you have seen Combat.” They didn’t feel that way, but saying it shut up the better than thou attitude from the former “fleet” marines.

One of these new guys, let us call him Cpl. 8Ball, was a hard charging, motivated, role model marine. War hero, squared away, etc. A great person all around. I was proud to be in his fireteam, and I wanted to be more like him. His leadership was excelling, and that was helping me improve as a marine and a person. He had just reuped, and was loving life.

Like the rest of the marines that came to our craphole of a unit, I got to witness his decent into hell. His was worse than most. His young wife was expecting their first kid. They bought a house, he was now safe in a non-deploying unit. Everything was looking up. A bright and glorious future awaited them.


His wife got miserable. Wanted to be elsewhere. Anywhere else. He became miserable. Tried to get orders anywhere else so that he could get his wife away from the place that was only associated with horrible memories now. Corps told him that he was stuck here. He requested to be sent anywhere else, any duty station, any job. Corps laughed at his misery, reveled in it.

This guy went from living sunshine and roses to the deepest pit of despair. I watched him go from being the perfect marine to one of the worst shitbags in our unit. Then, to top it off the office made him the office bitch.

*A tangent, when I use the phrase “office bitch” I mean no disrespect to all the amazing secretaries and administrative assistants. They often are doing vital work. In this case, we used that term to refer to how the command treated the person they had helping and working in the office.

I learned why later the command made him work in the office. One day he was allowed to leave the office since they didn’t have secretarial or demeaning work for him to do, and he was at the barracks hanging out. He confided in me that he tried to get kicked out. That he invited the company commander and the first sergeant over and did a line of coke in front of them. Asked to be drug tested, so that he would be kicked out. Instead, to punish him, they made him work in the office. That way they could keep an eye on him, and force him to do what ever punishments they saw fit.

I didn’t believe him. I didn’t believe him until we went six months with out a drug test.

Six months with out a drug test. Then I believed him.

An outsider might argue that the command did this to keep a good marine from ending his career and give him a chance to work things out. Said outsider would have no idea how this guy was treated. How we were all treated.

This is my marine corps.

Let me share another story about drugs from my corps.

There was a Sgt with cauliflowered ears. I heard he wanted to become an Olympic wrestler. For some reason or another it didn’t work out so he wanted to join the usmc wrestling team. Recruiter told him he had to go in a normal MOS then we would get to apply to join the team. Once he was in, his various units never let him apply. Or something along those lines. I don’t know the exact details. But this guy was a monster of man, and I mean that as a strong complement.

Despite looking like he could pick up Hulk Hogan and rip him in half, this Sgt. seemed like a hell of a nice guy to me. From the very limited interaction with him.

One evening I was walking along near Battalion HQ, and saw him walking up to the HQ. I rendered him the greeting of the day when I saw him, “Good Evening Sergeant” and went along my way. He did not acknowledge me at all. As I pass him, I saw corporal chevrons on him. The next day I asked some of my buddies what happened.

The Lance Corporal Underground knows all.

Sgt. Atlas here was on liberty, out a party, and some girl slips a drug in his drink. Possibly ecstasy. He immediate leaves, makes sure he is ok, and contacts command and reports the incident. Commanding officer tells him he is ok, don’t worry about it, it was good he told them so they can take care of him. Not that exact language, but this is what the office bitch reports was said. Our guy here comes in to work, and -BAMCIS- surprise drug test. He pops positive, and gets busted down in rank.

Now, in hindsight, Charles Atlas here should have gone straight to the ER when he realized he was drugged, and filed a police report. That would have saved his rank, and it would have been the right move when ever anyone drugs you. Never trust your command if they tell you they will take care of you, they never do.

I really hope he understood that I didn’t know he was busted down when I ran into him that evening (presumingly as he was checking in for restriction) and that my greeting him as a sergeant was because I thought he was one, and I meant no disrespect or slight by calling him the wrong rank. I genuinely liked and respected the guy from the little bit of interactions I had with him. Also I know that if I pissed him off he could pick me up and work me over like a Stretch Armstrong.

This is my corps. This is how we take care of marines.


  1. Howard,me mum was a psych at a VA for many a decade,the stories she would tell without naming patient names was pretty sad and eye opening.Her dad was a 20 plus year Army veteran with WW2 and Korea under his belt and my uncle(her brother)a Vietnam vet and also a 20 year man,why she choose working the VA over more lucrative job offers.That dedication was to trying to help was rewarded in the end by bean counters deciding they needed younger folks for the vets coming home and letting her and other senior staff go.

    I had one of me friends do the first go around in the mid-east in the Corp.He told me a little of what went on and ended living on me couch off and on a few years.The upside to this is he thru me mum and others found some folks to talk to /be with and now is doing pretty damn well in life,really feel good about that and am pissed royally at bean counters who do not take the big picture into focus.

  2. Howard you’ve mentioned a few times that the officers you deployed with didn’t seem fond of you. Any particular reason, or were they just those sort of people?

    • I typed up a long response, but then when I was switching between tabs it got lost. So here is a shorter more elegantly written version.
      There are a number of ways I could answer that question, and a bunch of embarrassing details I could say, but I wont.
      I wasn’t a good marine. I didn’t fit in with my peer group and I had no interest in fitting in with them. I think and work in a way that is different than the way the corps wants a marine to think and work.
      There was something that I always managed to pull of, never intentionally, but it always happened. When I would get to a new unit, I would fuckup bad. Get my self labeled as a shitbag. Then after a bit I got used to the unit and how things worked, and then I was able to perform well, excel sometimes. A major, unintentional, side benefit was that my higher ups now thought that they fixed me. That their awesome leadership is what made me good now. So then they would like me. I could give many examples of this. Here are a couple of quick ones.
      I got sent to a unit in the mountains. Shortly after getting there we had a boots and utes and flak run. I was not acclimatized to the altitude and I could not breath. I fell out of the run (instant shitbag status). So they had a Sgt run with me every day to train me to run. As soon as I got acclimatized I could out run him. This Sgt must be the best trainer ever.
      I was the worst radio operation in the corps, until I got shot. They had three marines replace me, and they didn’t do as good a job as I did. Suddenly when I got back I wasn’t a bad radio operator any more. Somehow, getting shot made me competent. I wonder how that works?

      • Thanks Howard – sounds sadly like the Corps doesn’t like initiative in it’s grunts, as I have a hard time believing that you weren’t committed.

        I would have thought an effort was someone who didn’t make an effort, as opposed to someone who was taking time to get up to speed.


  3. I was at a high power rifle match today and another Viet Nam vet and I got to talking a little, the old where was you at and when was you there stuff vets of a similar age ask each other, and for some reason afterwards I got to thinking about how many of the commissioned orificers I served under or around who were worth a shit.

    The number was three……..two O-2’s and one O-3. The rest were memorable for other reasons.


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