NOTES: Hope you all had a great weekend. It was hard for me to stay away.
I'm glad you agreed with me on the decision to keep Cal and the gang OUT of the Marine Corps. While it sounded great at first, after thinking about it there was no way I could make it work and sound credible.
In case you missed it in the Comments, here's one of our top readers, Don Hoffman, giving his explanation on why the concept of this book is entirely feasible:
Congress controls the funding...period. If they defund a program it stops in its tracks. It works the same way with a branch of the Service. The Congress passed the National Security Act of 1947, which created the Department of Defense. The Congress can also defund a whole branch if it so chose. In 2010 then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates made waves when he ordered the Pentagon to take a hard look at the Marines to determine what, if any role they would play in the future of warfare.
And now back to the story...
(CAUTION: The following contains unedited material that may be unsuitable for the grammatically inclined)
M&T Bank Stadium
4:02pm, December 4th
The score was tied 7 to 7 at the half. It looked liked Army was fighting hard to settle the score from the shellacking the Navy Mids had put on them the year before. As it stood, Navy had twelve consecutive wins in the always popular Army-Navy Game.
Exuberant fans cheered as their teams headed to the locker rooms. Maybe it would be a close game for a change.
The two man watched the changeover on the field, each remembering their time at the Naval Academy. They’d been roommates as plebes. Now, almost thirty five years later, they sat and watched the new generation of officers.
“You going to the funeral?” asked Rear Admiral Joseph Gower, USN, adjusting the bill of his Class of 1979 ball cap.
Major General Duane Mason, USA, snorted.
“Do I have a choice?”
Gower sipped his non-alcoholic beer, frowning.
“We owe it to Doug.”
Another snort from Mason.
“It was your idea to use him, and now you want to go to his funeral?” Mason took a long drink from his own beer. He let out of belch. “Then again, I wouldn’t mind seeing Cassy again. She’s still a looker after all these years.”
Gower turned to face his friend. “Don’t be an idiot. We need to keep up appearances. If you don’t come to Quantico with me….”
Mason put up his hands. “Okay, okay. I was just kidding around. I won’t even make a pass at Cassy.” He chuckled and returned his gaze to the row of female midshipmen below.
Adm. Gower stared at his friend. Even after all those years, sometimes he still couldn’t decide whether Duane was pulling his leg. Hell, he hadn’t believed him when he’d told him that rather than getting his commission in the Navy, he was going to raise his right hand as an Army officer. It happened occasionally, but it still rankled the career Navy officer that he hadn’t seen it coming. Duane had never gotten his sea legs, but Gower thought for sure he’d make it work.
But instead of speeding off to the fleet together, Duane Mason entered the Army pipeline, first as an infantry officer, Ranger tabbed, and then on to special operations, even Delta Forces.
He remembered the night they’d stayed up watching the news, the reports about Soviet incursion and subsequent expansion. They’d gnashed their teeth at the weakling President Carter, then rolled their eyes at the actor turned politician who promised to take the fight to the Soviets.
It wasn’t the first time they’d been wrong. In fact, Reagan was a personal hero to both men, although for different reasons. Gower appreciated Reagan’s resolve backed up by his never-ending cold calculation. Mason admired the man for his moxie, for giving the Russkies the middle finger and then backing it up with force.
Reagan’s actions would help define the careers of both officers. While Mason ran around in jungles and jumped from the clouds, Gower endured months-long patrols under the Arctic and every ocean on earth.
They’d kept in touch, always making it back for the Army-Navy game when deployments allowed. Mason would wear his Go Army shirt and Gower the Go Navy. The winner got to keep both. Gower was racking them up.
Between duty stations, they vacationed with their families, and when nearly concurrent divorces happened, they vacationed as roommates. Sometimes there’d been a third. Another classmate from the Academy days.
Douglas Ellwood had played tailback for the Mids. They’d met when the Navy football coach assigned his star running back to the studious Gower to help raise his flagging grades.
Gower had at first thought that Doug was a simple-minded meathead. All he knew was football. But as their sessions progressed, Gower was surprised to find that Doug Ellwood was no moron, he’d just never learned how to learn.
Ellwood had returned the favor by introducing the socially handicapped Gower to his near-constant entourage of college co-eds. Their friendship grew and soon Mason was added to the trio. Whenever they had a free weekend, the three bolted from campus and conquered the surrounding colleges.
For four years they studied and partied. Despite the rigors and rules of the military academy, they made the best of their time together.
For a moment Gower thought back to those times, to when they’d nearly been equals. As much as he hated to admit it, he’d always been jealous of Doug, even when he walked in that first day with that stupid grin on his face. The trusting fool.
Time had not lessened Gower’s resentment. He remembered when the letter had come from the Marine Corps (Ellwood had listed Gower as his next of kin), informing him of 1st Lt. Douglas Ellwood’s wounding in Grenada. There had been genuine concern for his friend in that moment. Months later Doug would receive the Silver Star for his exploits on the small island.
So as Gower moved from subs to shore duty and back again, always choosing and receiving the best career-advancing posts, Doug Ellwood played Marine and kept falling into a pile of rose petals. Dumb luck.
Gower never let his covetous yearnings show, always congratulating his friend on his accomplishments, even when Ellwood had been selected to be the Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps, one step away from the throne itself. That had been the last straw.
It hadn’t taken much to enlist Mason. He hated the Marines and their incessant swagger. To him the Army was more than equipped to fill in whatever puny void the Marines left behind.
Together they made a good team. Gower had the contacts and Mason owned the muscle. Gower hadn’t known how much they’d need the muscle until now.
He sipped his beer, wishing it was of the alcoholic variety. Maybe after this was all finished. Just a nip.
“Everything’s set on your end?” he asked.
Mason answered without taking his eyes off the cheerleaders.
Gower nodded and slunk back into this chair. Things were finally coming together. He could almost taste victory. It was no longer the consolation prize for not picking up a third star. This was it, his new path.
He knew his days in the Navy were numbered, and he’d come to terms with that. Now he looked to the future. It seemed much brighter than it had a year before, thanks to the recently deceased Gen. Ellwood. He almost chuckled as he remembered the look on Doug’s face when he’d realized how much he’d hurt his own service. The fool was still the same blubbering jock from 1976.
As he watched the opposing team retake the field, his aspirations took their customary hold in his subconscious. After all, what better way to start your political career than to be known as the architect behind the Marine Corps’ undoing?
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