NOTES: Okay. Heart on the sleeve time.
Today's installment is the most personal I've written to date. One of the characters/influences I'm about to introduce to you was, in fact, a very close family member, my hero, my grandfather, LtGen C. G. Cooper, USMC. The story I tell in this chapter about the Band of Brothers concept is paraphrased but true. I decided to let you into my world for a moment because the day I published Disavowed, December 19th, 2014, we lost my grandmother, Carol Cooper. I know she's with Gpa now, so everything's okay on that end, but part of why I started write in the first place, was to ensure that his legacy lives on. So as I struggled to come up with an answer for our fictional Commandant, the beginning of the solution came.
This will give you some good insight into why I write the way I do, and why I believe good always triumphs over evil, especially when Marines are in the mix :)
I won't try to tell you his story (you can actually see his memoir HERE), but I did want you to know that the eleven conceptual points in this chapter are what I grew up on and what I tried to live by as a Marine. I wasn't always perfect, but at least I had an example to look up to.
He was a Marine's Marine, a true leader, a trusted friend. Not only that, he was a loving grandfather who could tell a story better than anyone I've ever known. His laugh was infectious and his hugs were bear-like. I imagine my grandparents as they walk hand-in-hand through the Pearly Gates, nodding to the Marines standing their eternal post. Grandpa's probably telling another tall tale and Grandma is chuckling dutifully like a proper Southern lady, finishing with, "Oh, Charlie".
I'm thankful for everything they taught me, and promise to never forget the lessons that I learned.
Here are a couple pictures. You should be able to click on them to zoom in. The first two are the actual laminated card that he gave me in 2000. It's posted in my office where I see it every day. And the bottom picture is a hand-drawn sketch done for him before his retirement.
Now back to the story...
(CAUTION: The following contains unedited material that may be unsuitable for the grammatically inclined. Keep in mind that I don’t review what I write until after the first draft of the whole novel is done, so please keep your spelling and grammar fixes until the Beta Reader rounds.)
Camp Lejeune, North Carolina
7:47am, December 6th
The Commandant of the Marine Corps waved goodbye to the formation of outside of 3rd Battalion 2nd Marines. They’d invited him for morning PT, and although he was three times the age of some of them, he could still more than hold his own. There was something about being with a Marine infantry battalion that got his blood flowing, reminded him of what it was all about.
He needed that on this day more than ever. The infantry Marine, grunt, knuckle-dragger, ground-pounder, was the core. Every other specialty, from supply to intelligence, supported the infantry. Even Recon Marines and their elite brothers in Force Recon were technically tasked with supporting the lowly grunt. It was the way it had always been.
As an infantry officers in his earlier twenties, Winfield had the privilege of leading Marines from every walk of life. They came in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes they were such a challenge that you wanted to wring their necks, but in the end they were family. You took care of family.
As they pulled away from 3/8’s headquarters, Gen. Winfield reflected on his new mission. He was somehow supposed to save the Marine Corps from the worst fate imaginable: extinction. And with what? A handful of trusted advisors and a former staff sergeant.
While he didn’t doubt Stokes’s abilities (he had come recommended from none other than President Zimmer himself), he was beginning to seen the tidal wave forming on the horizon.
First came the tremors, the warning from Gen. Ellwood. Then came the rumble, Gen. Ellwood’s death. And just this morning he’d found out about the FBI raid on the Marine offices in Dulles. The head of the liaison section, Col. Pearce was now under questioning.
He’d fielded thirteen phone calls from politicians on both sides of the aisle, some wanting answers and some looking for blood. It felt like the enemy was coming from all sides, attacking in the dead of night, then slinking back in the mist.
What he needed more than ever was a shred of hope, a clue as to where the next attack would come. It wasn’t like he could close ranks and tell his Marines to seek cover and be at the ready. No, this was a nefarious foe who’d already shown a penchant for surprise.
His mind wandered as he gazed out the window, Marines going about their morning routines as they had for hundreds of years. What would they think if they knew what they were up against?
They passed by a set of pull-ups bars. The sight of a Marine attempting to do a one-armed pull-up reminded him of an old friend, one of his mentors who’d taught a young bitter Marine captain what the Marine Corps should be.
He pulled out his military ID card from his wind-breaker pocket. It was wrapped in a rubber band. Winfield flipped it over and pulled a frayed laminated yellow card out from behind his ID.
The card had a faded note on the front next to the FMF-PAC (Fleet Marine Forces Pacific) Command logo. It said, “Keep that candle high and you’ll always have your troops with you.”
Below the logo was a simple title: Band of Brothers. The card’s content had been written long before the popularity of the Band of Brothers book or movie. It was penned from a military hospital in 1951 by a wounded Marine second lieutenant who’d just been told his wife had given birth to a healthy baby boy. It had started out as a letter to his newborn son, sort of a “this is how to live you life” thing that a father should pass on to his children.
But the birth wasn’t the only reason the lieutenant wrote it. He’d also been told that he would be forever paralyzed from the waist down, never to walk again. His Marine Corps career was over.
And so he’d written the letter to his son, trying to imagine what life would be like without his beloved Corps, without the ability to walk like a man, like a warrior. Something about the simple act of writing emboldened him, it made him realize that the fight was not yet lost. The thought of seeing his son only heightened his resolve.
He wrote his rules to live by and secretly enlisted the aid of his hospital ward compatriots. The mission was simple: he would walk again.
And walk he did.
Despite the intelligence and prognoses of a dozen doctors, that Marine lieutenant shuffled to the hospital door with a box of cigars in hand, shouted the announcement about the birth of his son down the hallway as he tossed the cigars in the air, and then passed out cold.
When he came to, the lieutenant was surrounded my medical staff demanding to know how he’d done it, how he’d walked despite his wounds.
He would go on to win the Silver Star for his exploits in Korea, and he would go on to serve thirty five years in his beloved Corps.
Captain Winfield had met LtGen. Charles G. Cooper when he was at a crossroads in his own career. He was bitter about where his tour was headed, and the caliber of Marine officers in general.
Gen. Cooper had seen the pain on his disgruntled face. He’d requested to see Winfield and they’d taken a short walk along the coast in Kaneohe Bay. The general didn’t say much, he mostly listened. He trudged along asking questions, and for some reason, Winfield poured his guts out.
When they finally reached a point overlooking a beautiful slice of the shining Pacific, Gen. Cooper reached into his pocket and pulled out a yellow card. He told Winfield the story about how it came to be, and the solemn promise he’d made to God should he be allowed to walk again. “I told God that I would spend the rest of my life giving our young Marines the kind of leadership they needed and deserved.”
Gen. Winfield, now the Commandant of the Marine Corps, wondered what his now-deceased former commander would say if he what Winfield was facing. He knew what the Mississippi general would say. He’d tell him to keep his candle lit and live by the words on that tattered card.
Winfield smile and read it:
BAND OF BROTHERS
1. All Marines are entitled to dignity and respect as individuals, but must abide by common standards established by proper authority.
2. A Marine should never lie, cheat, or steal from a fellow Marine or fail to come to his aid in a time of need.
3. All Marines should contribute 100% of their abilities to the unit’s mission. Any less effort by an individual passes the buck to someone else.
4. A unit, regardless of size, is a disciplined family structure, with similar relationships based on mutual respect among members.
5. It is essential that issues and problems which tend to lessen a unit’s effectiveness be addressed and resolved.
6. A blending of separate cultures, varying educational levels, and different social backgrounds is possible in an unselfish atmosphere of common goals, aspirations, and mutual understanding.
7. Being the best requires common effort, hard work, and teamwork. Nothing worthwhile comes easy.
8. Every Marine deserves job satisfaction, equal consideration and recognition of his accomplishments.
9. Knowing your fellow Marine well enables you to learn to look at things “through his eyes”, as well as your own.
10. Issues detracting from the efficiency and sense of well-being of an individual should be surfaced and weighed against the impact on the unit as a hole.
11. It must be recognized that a brotherhood concept depends on all members “belonging” - - being fully accepted by others within.
The Commandant closed his eyes and said a silent prayer of thanks. He knew the coming battle wouldn’t be easy, but he had the answer once more.
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