(CAUTION: LIGHTLY EDITED)
July 2nd, 2002
The haze from the burning pavement cast a mirage-like shimmer over the parade deck, as if tempting us to fall out, like a snake charmer taming his cobra. No wind, just the steady breathing of my companions.
Five Staff Non-Commissioned Officers (SNCOs) paced back and forth before our formation, some spitting tobacco juice onto the pavement, others just giving us dirty looks as we stood at attention. It must've been close to and hour by then, our muscles threatening to cramp, or even worse, give out. Twice they'd put us at parade rest and made us pound a canteen full of water each, all in the name of proper hydration.
This wasn't boot camp. Most of us had already been through Parris Island. There were only a handful of Hollywood Marines, those who'd enlisted west of the Mississippi River, sending them to basic training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot (MCRD) San Diego.
From our respective training grounds, after we'd received an MOS (military occupational specialty) the grunts in the bunch hopped onto buses or planes and headed to the School of Infantry East for further training as basic infantryman. After a subdued graduation, a couple of squirrely looking corporals transported us From Camp Geiger in a couple 5-tons to where we stood now, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
By that time, we all knew the history of General Lejeune, a legend in the Marine Corps, it had been hammered into us by our drill instructors, but not many of us had stepped foot on the base now holding his name. I had, years ago, but that's another story.
Now the officers showed up, mostly lieutenants, one captain. They conferred with their SNCOs about something, I couldn't hear what. One of the staff sergeants looked over his shoulder at us, motioning in the air to the captain. They all had a good laugh, at our expense, of course.
Suddenly, the crowd went serious again, the captain talking. The four SNCOs popped to attention and snapped salutes, crisply returned by the officers.
A moment later, they marched our way, fanning out as they went, highly-polished boots whose heels clapped on the pavement. I noticed the perfect creases in their cammies, all salty by the fading conveyed by hundreds of washes. These were Marines.
A Gunnery Sergeant walked from behind us and turned to face us, his face grim. "Marines, I'm Gunny Salvador. I'm your Company Gunny. Now, before I called out your names and assign you to your platoons, I need two volunteers."
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