A couple days ago, I was looking through some pictures from my Marine Corps days. Jeez did I look like a kid. That's when it hit me: our nation is protected by a bunch of men that look like kids.
What really got me thinking about it was watching some ESPN highlights during lunch. Have you ever noticed that even college football players look like men? They're huge and a lot of them are only 18! That's what I thought I'd find when I went into the Corps, but the opposite is true.
Most of us are of average height and average build. The guys that look like "The Swede" in Heartbreak Ridge wouldn't be able to stay within weight standards.
So what's that special gift? If a kid can't bench 500-lbs or kill a man by crushing his skull with his bare hands, what makes a hero?
It's heart. It's courage. It's grit. It's loyalty. It's kindness.
The United States military is comprised 99.99% with normal kids doing extraordinary things. Whoever says this country is dying only needs to look at them. They are the shining example of what Americans should be. Brothers 'til the end.
So today, as you're going about your day, trying to ignore the crappy news, thinking about what to eat for dinner, remember those baby-faced men who are out there on the front lines defending our freedom. I don't know about you, but I'd take a scrappy kid from the Louisiana bayou over a NFL wide-out any day.
I may have a couple drinks for them tonight.
Who's with me?
I went for a run today. Of course it was in the middle of the muggy heat. As I stretched on the back porch, my wife commented about how 'crazy' I was for running at the worst time of day.
It got me thinking.
Why, as current and former members of the military, do we push the red line? Why does it seem like we have a couple screws loose?
We Love A Good Challenge
You don't go into the military for something easy. We each look for a challenge. The great thing about being in the Marine Corps, Navy, etc...is that the Services give us plenty of challenges. One day it's a grueling hump, the next it's a pissy Major looking for the proper request form. We learn to live with the challenges and exceed our own expectations.
When we leave the military we don't change. The world wants us to assimilate, but we resist. I don't know about you, but I'm not about to turn into a lazy lump.
What makes us climb the last rung, hump the last mile or chug the next beer? It's that 'Screw It' mentality. As I was sweating my ass off on my run, I had a flashback of one of the many times I said "Screw It" much to the disgust of others.
It was the night before a 20-mile hike. My roommate and I had been designated Tail-End Charlies (you know, the guys in the back of the formation that kick the others in the ass and pickup any stragglers) since the beginning of training. At the time we really liked to push ourselves. This go-around we decided it would be fun to head down to the bar and drink a few pitchers of beer. You know. "Screw it!" As the night wore on our peers walked by asking,
"What are you guys doing?"
"Are you crazy?"
"What is wrong with you?"
We just laughed and said, "Just wait. We'll still kick your asses."
I have no idea how much we drank, but neither wanted to back down.
The next morning we formed up with the rest of our class and headed off. I'm pretty sure we smelled like a Coors brewery for the first five miles.
We obviously didn't feel one hundred percent, but we'd be damned if we were going to show it. Word got around and we just kept on smiling and pushed those in front of us.
It may not have been the smartest thing, but we didn't care. We were Marines. We were tough. We could do things harder and better than the others.
Today I just look back and laugh. Now I use my 'Screw It' attitude to do things that other people told me I shouldn't do. Here's a short list:
- You shouldn't be writing books.
- You shouldn't waste time helping others learn how to write.
- You should go get a real job.
- Why do you spend so much time with your family?
Sometimes you have to grab a pair and give the world the finger. Show it who's boss. I know you've all been there.
I'm proud to call you my friends. Know that I'm always here to push you like others have pushed me. You push me to write better and better stories. I thank you for that.
Now it's your turn.
What's your story?
When did someone say you couldn't do something?
Leave your tale in the comments section below.
Last night I was sifting through my Facebook feed, not really looking for anything, just killing time. Amazingly, I found three Marines I'd served with over ten years ago.
I friend-requested them, not really knowing what kind of response I would get.
The first response was from a Marine that always seemed to have his hand in some kind of mischief. He reminded me that the first time I was OOD I had to go to the hospital to pick him up after he got a couple teeth knocked out at a club off-base. I laughed just thinking about it. He's a good Marine that I remembered as someone who always pulled strings to take care of our company. He also helped to show a lowly lieutenant the ins and outs of how the battalion chain worked.
The second reply was from a Marine who, as a SSgt, I always thought was crusty beyond his age. One of those grunts that just got it. He knew how to take care of Marines AND accomplish the mission. Turns out he's still in the Corps and doing great. I laughed when he first replied to my friend request with, "You're a warrior not an author!" It felt like we fell into the old routine. I can't wait until I can fulfill my promise to buy him a beer. Between you and me, I'll be buying drinks the whole night.
The last Marine to write me back was one of those 'Poster Boy' Marines that we all hear about before hitting the Fleet. He's probably about six feet tall, smart, good looking, and a physically fit as they come. I remember checking in to my battalion and thanking my lucky stars that he'd be one of MY Marines. As seems to happen in the Corps, he left my platoon too soon. We had a great conversation as well. Turns out he did a much better job at keeping in touch with some of the old guys than I did. I also realized that there was some of my main character, Cal Stokes, in the Marine. It brought a grin to my face.
As I put my iPhone down and got ready for bed, I replayed the conversations in my head. They took me back to the days when it was all about the Marines around me. Part of me really misses those days. Thankfully, we now have technology that allows us to reach out to old comrades and reconnect.
It also made me realize how much of THEM is in my books. I say it often: I WRITE FOR THEM.
I'd never realized how much I'd missed my Marines.
C. G. Cooper is author of the Corps Justice Novels
The great thing about the Marine Corps is that the bonds of brotherhood never end. As Marines, we've all been through similar experiences. Whether it's boot camp, OCS, Okinawa, Camp Lejeune, Camp Pendleton or war, there's always a common bond. Most importantly, we are Marines.
I had the distinct pleasure of bumping into two former Marines in the last three days. One is almost forty years my senior and the other probably a couple years younger. I met one because he needed help with his rental property, the other because we met at a networking event.
Well, as soon as the conversations started, everything else stopped. I spent almost three hours talking to the Vietnam Marine and tuned out a room full of friends to talk to the other. Why? Because we had a bond that goes deeper than being mere acquaintances. The fact that we were each stamped by the press called The Corps, led us to have an instant bond.
We skipped past the usual barriers typical of when you meet a new person. We usually put up walls until we get to know someone. It's important to build that trust. But there's something about meeting a fellow Marine. It allows us to open up. Have you ever had the same experience?
I treasure the times I make new Marine friends. Sometimes it ends with a great conversation. Sometimes it leads to a great friendship. Either way, you get to walk away feeling like you, once again, got to experience the bond that is so unique to our Marine family.
So what made you want to be a Marine? Was it the uniform? Was it the discipline? Did you have nowhere else to go???
Everyone's story is different. I come from a family of military men so I grew up in the service and had it in my mind that a stepping stone in life, before setting off to the civilian world, was to serve in the military.
The other part of me didn't know what else I SHOULD do. Did any of you feel the same way? I was looking for something...and I found it in the Corps.
The Marine Corps taught me how to be a man.
The Marine Corps taught me how to work through adversity.
The Marine Corps taught me that life isn't always easy.
The Marine Corps taught me that you need to EARN a fellow Marine's respect.
The Marine Corps taught me how to be a leader.
The Marine Corps taught me how to make the tough call.
I learned a lot in The Corps and I'll bet you did too. It wasn't always easy and it wasn't always fun. But we can all look back on that time with pride and say we did something that most other humans could never do.
That's the beauty of the Marine Corps. There is no race. Background doesn't matter. It doesn't matter what brought us to The Corps. We're all green. We fought for that title. We are a family, The Marine Corps family until the day we die.
Although we all bitch and complain about our time in The Corps (we've all heard terms like The Crotch, Big Green Machine, etc..), as Marines we really love it. We love the challenge. We love the pride. And most of all we love the camaraderie.
Leaving the Marine Corps is tough because your brothers are no longer there with you. It can be a really hard pill to swallow.
If there's one thing I really miss it's the guys I served with. Through good times and bad your fellow Marine was always beside you. Remember those days playing hurry up and wait? Your Marines waited right there beside you. We did a million and one things to pass the time: sleep, play Spades, smoke a cig, throw in some dip or chew, talk about nothing...you remember.
It's funny that I find myself thinking about those boring times just as much as the hard times. How about the weird and sad times?
I remember company field training at the base of Mt. Fuji when all of a sudden a freak downpour and lightning storm pounced on us. We hunkered down to try and stay dry (you all know how well that works) when a bolt of lightning struck not fifty feet from our command hooch. The lightning hit one Marine and branched off and hit a few others. That poor Marine didn't make it.
That's another thing we learn to deal with. Death. I remember seeing my Marines cry for the first time at their brother's memorial service. It's a scene we've seen played out too many times in the past ten years. You think of Marines as rough and unshakable. We're all human. To do what Marines do doesn't just take strength and courage. It takes compassion for your fellow man as well.
Think of all those troops overseas right now. Maybe you're one of them. A lot of them aren't firing their rifles. They're helping the civilian population rebuild. It's a strange duel role that, I feel, Marines are perfectly suited for. One minute you're firing at the enemy; the next you're giving out candy and helping to build a school.
So to all our Marines out there in the field: we miss you.