Happy 245th Birthday, Marines!

On November 1st, 1921, John A. Lejeune, 13th Commandant of the Marine Corps, directed that a reminder of the honorable service of the Corps be published by every command, to all Marines throughout the globe, on the birthday of the Corps. Since that day, Marines have continued to distinguish themselves on many battlefields and foreign shores, in war and peace. On this birthday of the Corps, therefore, in compliance with the will of the 13th Commandant, Article 38, United States Marine Corps Manual, Edition of 1921, is republished as follows:

On November 10, 1775, a Corps of Marines was created by a resolution of the Continental Congress. Since that date many thousand men have borne the name Marine. In memory of them it is fitting that we who are Marines should commemorate the birthday of our Corps by calling to mind the glories of its long and illustrious history.

The record of our Corps is one which will bear comparison with that of the most famous military organizations in the world’s history. During 90 of the 146 years of its existence the Marine Corps has been in action against the Nation’s foes. From the Battle of Trenton to the Argonne, Marines have won foremost honors in war, and in the long era of tranquility at home, generation after generation of Marines have grown gray in war in both hemispheres, and in every corner of the seven seas that our country and its citizens might enjoy peace and security.

In every battle and skirmish since the birth of our Corps, Marines have acquitted themselves with the greatest distinction, winning new honors on each occasion until the term “Marine” has come to signify all that is highest in military efficiency and soldierly virtue.

This high name of distinction and soldierly repute we who are Marines today have received from those who preceded us in the Corps. With it we also received from them the eternal spirit which has animated our Corps from generation to generation and has been the distinguishing mark of the Marines in every age. So long as that spirit continues to flourish, Marines will be found equal to every emergency in the future as they have been in the past, and the men of our Nation will regard us as worthy successors to the long line of illustrious men who have served as ‘Soldiers of the Sea’ since the founding of the Corps.

— from The Marine Officer’s Guide


Happy Birthday, Marines! 245 years old today. Semper Fi!

October 23, 1983. Semper Fi.

In early 1983, the 24th Marine Amphibious Unit was deployed from Camp Lejeune, North Carolina to Beirut, Lebanon. They were sent as part of the peacekeeping force originally inserted the previous year into the conflict raging there between Christian and Muslim factions.

On the morning of October 23, 1983, 37 years ago today, an explosives-laden truck driven by a suicide bomber destroyed the headquarters building of the 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, killing 241 Marines, Sailors, and Soldiers and wounding more than 100 others. Minutes later, a second truck drove into a barracks building housing French peacekeeping forces and detonated, killing 58 French paratroopers and wounding 15 others.

The bombing resulted in the highest single-day death toll for the Corps since the Battle of Iwo Jima during World War II, and the costliest day for U.S. military forces since the first day of the Tet Offensive during the Vietnam War. The harsh lessons imparted on that fateful Sunday morning in 1983 resonate today. They remain relevant even as American military personnel continue to stand in harm’s way around the world.

The following poem is cast in bronze at the official national Beirut Memorial near Camp Lejeune:


It does not stand in Washington
By others of its kind
In prominence and dignity
With mission clearly defined.

It does not list the men who died
That tyranny should cease
But speaks in silent eloquence
Of those who came in peace.

This Other Wall is solemn white
And cut in simple lines
And it nestles in the splendor
Of the Carolina pines.

And on this wall there are the names
Of men who once had gone
In friendship’s name offer aid
To Beirut, Lebanon

They did not go as conquerors
To bring a nation down
Or for honor or for glory
Or for praises or renown.

When they landed on that foreign shore
Their only thought in mind
Was the safety of its people
And the good of all mankind

Though they offered only friendship
And freedom’s holy breath
They were met with scorn and mockery
And violence and death.

So the story of their glory
Is not the battles fought
But of their love for freedom
Which was so dearly bought.

And their Wall shall stand forever
So long as freedom shines
On the splendor and the glory
Of the Carolina pines.

— Robert A. Gannon

Happy Birthday, Stars and Stripes!

One of the cool fringe benefits of volunteering at the National World War I Museum and Memorial here in Kansas City is that as I continue my learning journey about the war itself, I pick up bits of knowledge and trivia about all manner of subjects. Some are directly tied to the conflict, of course, and others have only tenuous connections. Even those serve to increase my understanding not just of the war but also the world and events which spawned it.

Among the little infonuggets I’ve happened across while perusing one of the many artifacts and didactics filling the museum’s galleries is this: Today, February 8th, marks the 102nd anniversary of Stars and Stripes, the first officially sanctioned military newspaper to carry that storied name.

Continue reading “Happy Birthday, Stars and Stripes!”

There’s no sandwich like a tactical sandwich.

On our flight from Tampa to Kansas City on Monday, I took a few moments to peruse the brand-spanking new copy of Spirit, Southwest Airlines‘ in-flight magazine. A one-page article highlighted one of the more recent innovations on the military meal front. Are you a soldier on the go? A Marine on a mission with no time for a full-blown sit-down MRE with all the trimmings? Uncle Sam has thought of you, too, GI Joes and Janes!

SpiritMag.com: The Numbers – Barbecue Sandwiches

Basically, we’re talking about a pocket sandwich designed with packaging that – with proper storage – has a 2-3 year shelf life. Your mouth’s watering already, isn’t it?

After doing a little research, I discovered that in addition to the barbecue beef and chicken options cited in the article, there also are bacon cheddar and Italian sandwich variants, as well as something called “Pepperoni Stick.” Pass the Tums, please.


Having consumed my share of — we’ll just call them “prepared meals that have passed their freshness date” — in years past, I’m pretty sure I know what to expect after biting into one of these bad boys. Translation? I’m both leery and oddly curious at the prospect. MREs have improved by leaps and bounds since my day, so while I’m sure these new jobs might not represent the finest military dining experience, they’ll keep our boys and girls in uniform moving.

(Their bowels are a whole other story, though….)

And if they could come up with a variant featuring Gates sauce? I’m so there, dudes.

Any of my brothers and/or sisters in uniform who’ve eaten these things care to comment?

ReWard: “Singin’ lo-righta-lay-ho…”

Earlier this evening, I Tweeted about the sauna that was my daughter’s Taekwondo dojang:

The A/C at my kid’s Taekwondo studio is broken. The main room smells like parboiled armpit, with a hint of old jockstrap.

This generated a handful of comments from my friends on Twitter and Facebook, including this one from friend and fellow word-pusher Rich White:

I was thinking that should make you nostalgic for boot camp.

To which I replied:

I can’t imagine anything making me nostalgic for boot camp. When folks say they’d do it over again given the chance, I just look at them and imagine what they’d look like getting a 2×4 across the face.

So, nostalgic for boot camp, I ain’t. 🙂

However, I’m often nostalgic about other aspects of my time in uniform, which made me think of a post I’d written a couple of years ago. In this case, I had been asked a question if there was something particular I missed about my military days. After pondering that query for a short while, I offered up my thoughts in a blog entry originally posted on May 22, 2011 on my old LiveJournal blog: “Singin’ lo-righta-lay-ho…”

I had an interesting conversation today with one of my Facebook friends, during which the topic of my time in the service came up. She asked me a question that I’ve fielded more than few times: “What do you miss?”

The answer varies very little; I missed the travel, of course, and the opportunity to learn and do things I likely would never have done had I opted to pursue a different path than joining the military. First and foremost, though, I miss the people with whom I served. Well, most of them, anyway. Military friendships are an odd thing, given that most of the time you go in knowing that it’s understood to be — in large part, at least — temporary, and I’m not even talking about one or both of you dying in combat or anything like that. Sooner or later, one or both of you is going to be transferred somewhere else, and though you might end up at the same place at some point down the road, more than likely you’d never see each other face to face again. Back before the internet, e-Mail, webcams, Skype, and all that jazz, the latter scenario was the more prevalent one. On the other hand, the introduction of those things into the mix have allowed me to reconnect with people I’d not talked to in years. Another thing about military friendships? When you do finally get back in touch, it’s like no time at all has passed.

Anyway, those were my answers, but my Facebook friend wasn’t letting me off the hook that easy. I couldn’t get away with the simple, predictable answers. She challenged me to name something else – something unexpected – and I had to think about it for a minute. Then it came to me.

I miss the singing during formation runs.

If you’ve never done it, you’ve likely seen it on TV or in a movie (the boot camp scenes during Full Metal Jacket, for example). A group of soldiers or Marines is running in a group, with one guy singing a ditty (or song, or chant…whatever you want to call it), one line at a time, and the group repeats what he says. Repeat. The whole idea is to provide a cadence to keep the unit in step, running at the same pace, and motivated throughout the run’s duration. If you were able to take your mind off of maybe puking all over your shoes, that was a bonus.

I used to love that shit.

Not always, you understand; it was something I learned to appreciate. During my first duty assignment at Camp Pendleton, I would be running with the group while senior NCOs sang the cadence and we barked it back as loud as we could. By the time I moved on to my next assignment on Okinawa, *I* was one of the NCOs expected to do that sort of thing. So, I learned fast, taking pointers from those who did it better than I did, and in short order I began piecing together my own little batch of songs to sing as we did our regular early morning runs. It didn’t take me long to figure out that I really wasn’t all that bad at it. More importantly, I really dug doing it.

As I moved to later duty stations, my relative seniority among my unit’s NCO cadre saw to it that I was one of those tasked with leading PT (physical training) sessions, and if I wasn’t the one who started us off on one of those runs, then it didn’t take long for me to get called out to sing my little songs. By this point, doing the cadence on a run was something I anticipated and even relished. A typical run of this sort normally was three miles, and I had enough material to cover about half that distance if push came to shove. The idea was to spread the wealth, though, so I’d sing for a bit then call someone else. Still, there were occasions where I’d be called out again during the same run.

What I really got a kick out of was when I’d get tapped to lead things as the unit ran into a populated area like down the main street on base or in public as we took part in some kind of parade or other function. For whatever reason, I was always able to kick things up a notch and really get the group singing loud and ornery, to the point where I’d swear we were rattling windows as we ran past. Though our specific unit never numbered more than 50-75, it was when we got to run with the company or battalion that the fun really started. There’s a definite rush to having your every word repeated by several hundred Marines as you run down the road, the songs echoing off buildings or hillsides or whatever you happen to be passing.

Yeah, that was a lot of fun.

I’ve given thought on more than one occasion to assembling some kind of book filled to overflowing with such chants, with sections for each of the services (as much as typing that might make me twitch ;D). I’ve seen one or two such books over the years, and found them lacking. Then the idea gets filed as I move on to something else, and I forget about it. Ah, well. Maybe one of these days.

Anyway, there’s a bit of ramblin’ for a Sunday night.

The best Marine Corps recruiting poster. Ever.

After posting the picture my sister sent me the other day, I started thinking about Parris Island, and boot camp, with one thought leading to another as I bounced around the web looking for pictures and whatnot. Then, I stumbled across what still is probably my all-time favorite Marine Corps recruiting poster, and my vote for best such poster, ever:

Anybody who’s ever been to boot knows that look.

This poster was actually the first to employ the well-known “The Marines are looking for a few good men” recruiting slogan, which was used on pretty much every poster, pamphlet, and bumper sticker the Corps produced from 1971 to 1984. I remember seeing it and several others adorning the offices where my father worked as a Marine recruiter in the 1970s. There also was a version with a female Marine drill instructor and the captions “We don’t promise you a rose garden, either,” and “The few, the proud, the women Marines.” While I do have copies of a few favorites, I haven’t seen either of these in years. I may have to hunt down a copy of the original one…perhaps when I take that tour of Parris Island I’ve been promising myself as research for a future book.

Speaking of which: while poking around the intrawebz, I discovered some cool infonuggets. The D.I. from the original poster, former Sergeant Charles “Chuck” Taliano Jr., worked for several years as manager of the gift store inside the base museum at Parris Island, decades after his original tour of duty and following a 30-year career in the publishing business. Apparently, you can buy copies of the poster there, and he signed about a bazillion of them over the years once people started recognizing him. I was saddened to learn that Mr. Taliano passed away just a few years ago, though I couldn’t help smiling as I read that his services were held at the Recruit Chapel at Parris Island.

Semper Fi, Chuck.

Remembrances of Thanksgivings past.

Everybody get enough to eat today?

A few posts on Facebook and Twitter are reminding folks to keep in their thoughts the men and women in uniform who can’t be with their families today, as they’re either serving abroad–perhaps in harm’s way–or just stationed somewhere and unable to take leave to get home. So, tip your hat to them, along with the cops, fire fighters, EMT’s and lots of other fine folks answering a higher calling which precludes them from taking the day off. Or, maybe they’re elderly with no other family, or in need of a helping hand.

Such posts also caused me to think back to a few Thanksgivings where I, too, was unable to be with family because Uncle Sam had seen fit to plop my bony ass down somewhere else, or I simply didn’t have the money or leave to be able to travel home for the holidays. Despite that, we still found ways to observe the tradition as best we could, just as we had taken time out to recognize the Marine Corps Birthday and Veterans Day earlier in the month. This happened whether we were heading to the mess hall for chow, accepted the invitation of a married Marine who had opened his or her home to us young bachelor/bachelorettes, or what have you. I recall one Thanksgiving where we were in the field, and we were allowed to un-ass our gear and whatnot long enough to scarf down dinner. What was on the menu, you ask?

No, this isn’t a picture of the actual meal I ate, but it’s the same configuration/contents. I actually swapped with a buddy whatever it was I’d drawn from the box so that I could eat the still-unidentified substance that passed for turkey in the little vacu-packed pouch. I think I had ham slices, or something similar. One of the things we used to do for equitable distribution of MREs among our group would be to open the box of twelve meals and shuffle them around. Back in those days, there were only the twelve different meals from which to choose, and they’ve thankfully continued to expand and improve the selections over the years.

For us, though? Twelve brown bricks per box, each with their entree and varying assortments of freeze-dried fruits, faux-cakes or cookie or brownie, along with crackers and cheese or peanut butter, the latter two items fully capable of bonding an armor plate to a tank, or fusing your digestive tract to the point that you’re soon shot-gunning bottles of Dulcolax. Since the twelve meals were ordered and packed the same way, savvy folks in theory always could grab the “best” meals if they were quick enough. So, we shuffled them to keep things fair.

During one deployment, I drew Chicken ala King seven times in a row.

Seven. In. A. Row.

Nothing but Chicken ala King for seven straight meals. I couldn’t trade it; nobody wanted it. Chicken ala King was the leper of the MRE menu, circa 1986-1990, and known by its more popular designation, “Snot with Vegetable Kibble.”

To this day, I fucking HATE Chicken ala King.

While that particular Thanksgiving observance may have been lacking so far as the eating part was concerned, I still remember sitting around the fire and joking with my buddies, our friendship helping to lessen the sting of not being home for the holiday. I think the surprise beer delivered to us by our C.O. later that evening may have greased the skids a bit, too.

So, for those of you who observe Thanksgiving, I hope you had a fine meal in the company of family and/or friends, and I hope you’ll take a moment to wish a safe holiday to those who can’t be home today.