USMC

Happy Birthday, Marine Corps – 2010 (belated)

Eagle, Globe and Anchor

One of the things I’ve done here at Stone and Sea for the last couple of years is to include the birthday message from the Commandant of the Marine Corps that’s distributed each November. As my Corps’ birthday is actually 10 November I’m a little late, but I imagine he won’t mind. Ooh-rah, Jarheads…

 

Sixty years ago, the United States Marine Corps—as it has throughout our history—demonstrated its vital role as America’s Expeditionary Force in Readiness. Just weeks after North Korean Communist forces crossed the 38th Parallel, the First Marine Provisional Brigade landed in South Korea, forming the backbone of the perimeter around the city of Pusan. The efforts of the “Fire Brigade” at Pusan allowed for the daring amphibious landing at Inchon and set the stage for one of the most savage campaigns in our Corps’ history—the Chosin Reservoir. As we pause to celebrate our 235th Birthday, we pay special tribute to the Marines of the Korean War and recognize their contributions to our enduring legacy.

This past year marked the end of Marine Corps combat operations in Iraq. Beginning with the invasion in March 2003 and through the next seven years of fighting, our Corps acquitted itself valiantly in the Anbar province and throughout the country. Locations such as Fallujah and Ramadi have taken their place in the illustrious battle history of our Corps. Our efforts in defeating the insurgency helped to build a brighter future for all Iraqis.

For 235 years, at sea and ashore, Marines have succeeded in every clime and place . . . where hardship and adversity have often been the common thread. Today, in the rugged mountains and valleys of Afghanistan—and recently in earthquake-damaged Haiti . . . in flood-ravaged Pakistan . . . or off the coast of Africa—we continue to protect our Nation, just as we did 60 years ago in Korea.

To the Marines and Sailors deployed overseas, to those training and preparing for their next deployment and to the warriors who no longer wear our uniform . . . we honor your selfless service to the Nation. To our loved ones who endure the many difficulties that come with being part of the Marine Family, I want to extend my sincerest thanks for all you have done and all you continue to do.

Happy 235th Birthday, Marines!

Semper Fidelis,

James F. Amos
General, U.S. Marine Corps

 

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Happy Birthday, Marine Corps – 2009

Eagle, Globe, and Anchor

It’s 10 November, and today marks the 234th birthday of my Corps! My, does the time fly. For your reading pleasure, the Commandant’s message is below. Happy birthday, Devil Dogs… 

UNCLASSIFIED//
ALMAR 033/09
MSGID/GENADMIN/CMC WASHINGTON DC DMCS//
SUBJ/UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS BIRTHDAY MESSAGE – 10 NOVEMBER 2009//

GENTEXT/REMARKS/

1.  UNITED STATES MARINES REPRESENT THE BEST YOUNG MEN AND WOMEN OUR NATION HAS TO OFFER.  TO BE A MARINE IS TO BE A MEMBER OF AMERICA’S WARRIOR CLASS – TO BE ONE OF THE FEW WHO STEPS FORWARD WITH THE COURAGE AND CONVICTION TO FACE WHATEVER DANGERS AWAIT.  OUR NATION EXPECTS HER MARINES TO BE READY WHEN THE NATION CALLS; TO LEAVE FAMILY AND THE COMFORTS OF HOME BEHIND; TO MARCH INTO BATTLE AND THRIVE UNDER AUSTERITY; AND TO COME HOME UNDER A VICTORY PENNANT.

2.  FROM AL ANBAR IN THE WEST OF IRAQ, TO HELMAND PROVINCE IN THE SOUTH OF AFGHANISTAN, OUR CORPS OF MARINES CAN ALWAYS EXPECT TO BE FOUND WHERE THE FIGHT IS TOUGHEST.  SUCH IS OUR HISTORY.  TODAY, AS WE WRITE THE FINAL CHAPTER ON OUR VICTORY IN IRAQ, WE WILL INCREASINGLY TAKE THE FIGHT TO THE ENEMY IN AFGHANISTAN AND ADD NEW PAGES TO OUR LEGACY IN PLACES CALLED DELARAM, NOW ZAD, AND GARMSIR. ONE DAY, WE WILL RETURN TO OUR NAVAL HERITAGE AND PATROL THE HIGH SEAS WITH OUR NAVY BROTHERS.  SUCH IS OUR FUTURE.

3.  AS WE CELEBRATE OUR CORPS’ 234TH BIRTHDAY, WE FIRST PAUSE TO REFLECT AND PAY TRIBUTE TO THOSE MARINES WHO HAVE GIVEN THE LAST FULL MEASURE IN DEFENSE OF FREEDOM.  WE EXTEND OUR DEEPEST GRATITUDE TO OUR MARINE CORPS FAMILIES – THE UNSUNG HEROES WHO ENDURE HARDSHIP AND SACRIFICE SO THAT WE ARE ABLE TO GO FORWARD AND ACCOMPLISH ANY MISSION.  WE EXTEND OUR APPRECIATION TO OUR COUNTRYMEN WHO HAVE ANSWERED OUR EVERY NEED.  AND WE CELEBRATE THE MAGNIFICENT MEN AND WOMEN WHO WILLINGLY AND SELFLESSLY CONTINUE TO GO INTO HARM’S WAY TO PROTECT THIS GREAT NATION.

4.  TO ALL WHO HAVE GONE BEFORE, TO THOSE WHO WEAR THE UNIFORM TODAY, AND TO THE FAMILIES THAT GIVE US THE STRENGTH TO FORGE AHEAD – I WISH YOU ALL A HEARTFELT HAPPY 234TH BIRTHDAY!

5.  SEMPER FIDELIS!  JAMES T. CONWAY, GENERAL, U.S. MARINE CORPS, COMMANDANT OF THE MARINE CORPS//

How to pump it up

 muscles, weight lifting, venice beach

Do you ever find yourself thinking, “Self, I wish I were better at (insert at will)?” I certainly do. The things I’d like to be better at are many and varied, but I think it’s fair to say that most of the time my little wish, usually said quietly in the back of my head, is as far as I go to actually do anything about it.  

I’m thinking I’m probably not alone in this.

My friend Tim, who might be steadily becoming absolutely wearyof being mentioned here, has talked with me about this a number of times; generally about this blog. But first, as a few people (to include my mother) have requested I do so, I present you with a Boot Camp story:

Before I joined the Corps I’d discharged a firearm only twice in my life. Once, and even now I shudder at the stupidity, I and a handful of other knuckleheads fired shotguns into the air on New Year’s Eve. The second time occurred when my father and I went on our (only) duck hunting trip. That time I fired another shotgun into the air (hitting nothing except perhaps one of the eight million mosquitoes in the area) and shortly after we called it quits. As I didn’t enjoy hunting, or (at that time) spending time with my father, I was more than ready to get back to the safety of my room and sink into the melodies of a Yaz or Depeche Mode album through my headphones. 

And yet it’s generally the guys exactly like me, those with little or no experience with firearms, who perform the best on the firing range once trained. Instructors say it’s because we don’t have a mass of bad habits that we need to break. There’s probably a post about that idea (Tim, Russ – the gauntlet is thrown) but that’s for another day.

And while I’m certain the lack of bad habits had something to do with it, I’m more than convinced “Snap-in” was actually the key to my success with an M-16.

You see, Boot Camp provided two weeks of rifle training – one week of position training (Snap-in), and another week of live-fire practice and testing. While going through it, Snap-in was horrible: five days, eight hours a day, of sitting or lying on the ground, holding a rifle and staring off into the distance, imagining your target floating between the sights.

What I didn’t understand at the time was that I was building muscle-memory in those five days. That because of standing up, sitting down, kneeling, or lying in a the prone position, over and over, I was teaching my body the correct way to get my trunk, arms, and legs out of the equation when it came to tracking, targeting, and eliminating a target.   

When week two finally began I was a “natural.”

Okay, so how does that apply here?

Tim told me a story a few months ago about a Comic Book artist who, when asked by an aspiring artist how to get into the business, suggested that the inquiring individual draw 10,000 sketches. Yup, not a typo – that’s four zeroes. 10,000 sketches and you’re going to know your way around a drawing, was the idea. “Chops,” you could say.

So I wonder – out of all those things, those wishes that we’d like to be better at, just how awesome would we be after a week of Snap-in or 10,000 practice swings? Want to get in shape? Start tracking the miles you walk or run. Or the number of push-ups you do. Seriously – imagine how your arms or chest would look after ten thousandpush-ups. What will this blog look like after 10,000 posts?

Of course, it’s far, far easier to look into the air and wish we knew how to do this or had more talent at that and chalk it up to genetics or talent. Which will you choose?

Image by RightIndex

The land of the free, unless you’re gay

Lt. Dan Choi

The last week or so I’ve seen quite a bit of activity on Twitter about him; most being requests to electronically sign either a petition to the Army or a letter addressed to Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, on Choi’s behalf.

If you’re unfamiliar with the name, check out this link for Courage Campaign. In essence, the story is this: Lt. Choi, a West Point graduate and decorated Army veteran, is being discharged for violating the “Don’t ask, Don’t Tell” Policy.

You see, Choi, during an interview on the Rachel Maddow show March 19th, admitted to being gay and a few weeks later received a letter informing him he would be dismissed from the Army in accordance with DADT. Both the letter and petition circulating on Twitter and the Web urge the repeal of that policy as well as a request to allow Lt. Choi to continue his service.

I agree with half of it.

tribal2

Repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

For those of you that don’t know, once upon a time I served in the Marine Corps. Four years of active duty, stationed from California to Japan, and during my tour I received quite a few commendations, medals, and other nice bits of this and that that let me know I didn’t suck when it came to being a Marine.

So there’s that.

And during that time, I can tell you with absolute certainty I served with quite a few gay men and women. They were, all of them, good people who served their country proudly and passionately and in my experience their sexuality hindered their ability to serve, perform, or lead not in the slightest.

That the guy to my left had a boyfriend mattered absolutely zip in his ability to set a perimeter, navigate through unfamiliar territory, or apply the three or so pounds of pressure it takes to fire an M-16, is what I’m saying.   

So there’s also that.

“Don’t ask, don’t tell” was crap from inception – an olive branch to Gay America that the Right could live with – but it really didn’t change much in regard to how the military operated from day to day. Before the policy, gay men and women would simply lie if they were asked. Now they just weren’t asked.

But either period would see a discharge if the truth came to light, and in addition to the immediate aftermath of frustration, humiliation, or depression, your discharge status is something that follows you the rest of your life.

In short, DADT isn’t just, doesn’t work, and ignores the fundamental problems with DOD policy. But it was, I think, a first step in the right direction. And in my humble opinion, it’s time to take the next. 

tribal2

The Good Lieutenant

Lt. Choi is a different matter entirely. While his discharge is a tragedy – this is a guy who’s an Iraq War Vet, a West Point graduate, and an Arabic translator (which we clearly need all we can get) – I have to say I think he must still be discharged.

You see, Lt. Choi is a man who accepted his commission, honorably served his country, and then publically came-out on television – but did each well aware of the military’s policy regarding gay men and women in uniform as well as the ramifications of breaking that policy.

In other words, he knew the rules, broke them, and is now crying foul. And while I appreciate and respect his desire to serve, a well-ordered military doesn’t operate that way. A well-ordered anything doesn’t work that way.

A far better approach, I think, is for Lt. Choi to work diligently to repeal DADT and then petition for reinstatement if and when the policy has changed. He, and the countless other Marines, soldiers, Airman, and Sailors who have been discharged under the policy, could then have the opportunity to serve again when they’re most needed.

And needed they are. As of this week, 4,308 United States military personnel have died in Iraq and 710 have died in Afghanistan. And I’d bet all the money in my pockets against all the money in yours that there’s more than a few gay men and women in those two lists.

Thoughts?

Kenna, month one

In just a few days Kenna will be one month old and, not surprisingly, the last four weeks have absolutely flown by. During that time there’s been a lot of playing, a lot of snuggling, and a lot of thinking about both of my lovely daughters and what’s to come. And thinking, too, about the past.

Things are different now – think Iraq or Afghanistan – but when I first joined the Marine Corps (many moons ago) there was really only one thing on my mind: What would Boot Camp be like?  

It was always there; huge, slightly out of focus, and in many ways something I had difficulty even defining what answers I was looking for, let alone the actual questions. But it was also something I’d chew on at some point, every day, for more than a year and a half.  

Like most guys who planned to join the Corps directly after HS graduation, I actually got the paperwork rolling my junior year. A combination of the recruiting office working like hell to hit their numbers and an angst-ridden teen looking for any clear path into a new reality; signing up early was a win-win for both. The down-side was it gave me plenty, and I mean p-lenty, of time to think about what was going to happen just days after I threw my cap into the air.

Were the Drill Instructors as vile as they seemed? Would I even make it through? Could my body handle the punishment that would come? Keep in mind, in those years a solid breakfast consisted of a package of Twinkis, a can of Jolt Cola, and Marlboro. Would I make it to the top of the legendary Mount Mother-Fucker? Finally, would I, could I, become a Marine?

I’d lie awake at night, taking bits and pieces of information from things I’d been told or read in the literature, random images from brochures, posters, or propaganda recruiting videos I’d seen, and weave them together in my mind in an attempt to understand what the experience would offer.

The reality of Boot Camp is something I’m happy to write about at a later date if anyone is interested (let me know in the comments), but the important thing is this: it just didn’t matter.

You see, I was focused on the wrong thing entirely. What I (and most other new recruits) couldn’t wrap my mind around was that Boot Camp was only three months long. Just three short months out of a four year commitment, and after those brief moments I’d have miles to go in a land just as unfamiliar and challenging as Boot Camp, with no roadmap or guideposts to help me along.

All that to say, it wasn’t entirely dissimilar from having children.

When Ellie was born Sarah and I (like most expectant parents, I imagine) had a thousand questions about the birth process. We had every kind of book imaginable. We toured the hospital. We had endless Q&As with our OBGYN. Sarah had list after list of things to do and even had all of our bags packed months before Ellie’s due date.

And then, a few days after her birth, we found ourselves at home with a new baby, looking like deer in headlights. Us, not the baby. I can’t speak for Sarah, but I can say with absolute certainty I didn’t give that little aspect of pregnancy due consideration.

Me: Um, babe?
Sarah: (sleepily) Yes?
Me: Is your mom taking her when she leaves?
Sarah: …
Me: Babe?
Sarah: shakes a finger at me and mouths, “go away…”

Like Boot Camp, birth and the hospital are only the beginning. And with this situation it’s quite a bit more than four years – it’s the rest of our lives. Clearly, there’s less freaking out wondering what the hell I’m supposed to do when the baby does this or that. But those situations are far less important than the many quiet moments I look into Kenna’s face as she sleeps in my arms and wonder what she’ll be like in 3 months, or three years, or even 30.  

More important still is that both Sarah and I are looking ahead to those moments, smiling, and I can not only see those questions, I’m ready to ask them.

Random Image Project: 3-9-09

This is the first installment of a project using imagery, constraint, and more than a little tenacity.
gull

Look on the third row of the bookshelf in my study and you’ll find a novel I’ve purchased easily dozens of times. No kidding. Dozens. For years it would be my answer to birthdays, stockings, or those odd and wonderful moments over a cocktail when I realized a friend and I had been talking about a thought or idea that was now just about singing from between the pages.

I first discovered it while on leave from boot camp and have loved it, literally, from the very first sentence:

There was a Master come unto the earth, born in the holy land of Indiana, raised in the mystical hills east of Fort Wayne.

It makes me smile just seeing it on the screen.   

The book is called Illusions and it’s written by a gent named Richard Bach. That’s the same Richard Bach who wrote Jonathan Livingston Seagull, by the bye, and if you haven’t read that one before I’m telling you with no hesitation you’ve done yourself a great disservice. One of my happiest Half Price Books moments was finding an old, beat-up, 1st edition copy of Jonathan a few years ago. Bliss.

I’ve a dear friend who does something similar even now, albeit with a different book. And while his gift, Donald Miller’s Blue Like Jazz, is about a man’s exploration and discovery of Christianity and mine is, well, decidedly not, the two books have far more in common than you’d think. 

So, my challenge to you: pick one of the three books above and read it in the next month. They’re all fairly light reads, so not a huge investment. Once you’ve done so, come back here and tell me what you thought. With any luck we’ll both learn something new and have a good time doing so.

Photo by i5prof

Seven things…part two

Assuming part one didn’t bore you to tears, here’s part two…

Four
My first duty assignment in the Marines was with the 3rd Combat Engineer Battalion, 3rd Marine Division, Camp Hansen, Okinawa. It was at that unit I learned, thanks to a large block of the substance thrown into my chest, that C4 is one of the more stable explosives. For anyone whose familiarity with Okinawa ends with Karate Kid, it’s an island, a prefecture (state) of Japan, and one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. I’ve often considered going back as a civilian and spending a couple of weeks getting reacquainted. If for no other reason, in a little hole-in-the-wall kitchen called “Mama’s Cooking,” you’ll find absolute bliss in a bowl: Taco Fried Rice with Cheese.

Five
After the Marines I worked my way through college bartending and, in addition to my coursework,  learned the difference between ale and a pilsner, the proper use of a Muddler, and the art of the thirty second conversation. Far too many stories, too many interactions, too many moments, to try and choose one that stands out here. Maybe a series of posts another day if anyone’s interested. Instead, I have a question. This occured easily twice a week and in all the years behind the bar I never came up with a good explanation. Just what the hell prompts people to have sex in the bathroom?

Six
After graduation I had some truly great clients as a freelance writer, but without doubt the darkest, most grueling experience during those years was developing a campaign of print ads for a local funeral home. No kidding. I’m an immersion kind of writer when it comes to advertising. Meaning, I try to learn as much as I can about the company, product, service, and so on that I’m writing about. And having that kind of information rolling around in my head for months was just plain rough. Add to that the almost weekly on-site client meetings and I don’t think I’ve ever been as grateful to see a job finished.

Seven
As a writer, I have the good fortune to have  job that’s challenging, pays a decent wage, and I love to do. But the reality is that in many ways, it’s still a job. That’s part of the reason for this blog, by the bye – it gives me the opportunity to stretch and have fun with writing in ways I just can’t do at work.

But when I really want to get creative and shake off the cobwebs I actually shut the computer down. Instead, I stand up, change clothes, then go out to the garage. And build things. Taking a few pieces of oak and shaping and molding and coming away with a piece of furniture friggin’ rules. The picture below (an Amish style step stool) is the current project. A little more sanding and  some finish work and she’ll be good to go.

dsc_0526

Right. So that’s seven things you may or may not have known about me. Now, according to the MEME, I’m supposed to give you the opportunity to learn seven things about seven other folks. The problem there is I just don’t know 7 bloggers who haven’t already participated. So, four will have to suffice. What the list lacks in quantity it more than makes up for in quality.

Sarah – What’s on my mind
Designer extraordinaire, Sarah is one of those people who does a great job of mixing professional insights with personal stories, and does so with a sweetness that’s decidedly hers.

Dan – Post Thirty Post
Fairly new to blogging, Dan still knows how to turn a phrase and bring a smile to my face. He’s an old friend, a fellow UT grad, and one of the infamous Thursday Night Boys. I look forward to seeing how his blog evolves.

Rob – Rob Lifford
A former Hooverite, Rob is sharp as a tack and always provides great fodder for thinking. From what’s going on in the industry to what’s happening in the economy, Rob likes to keep us on our toes.

Jennifer – Jenamonkey
Jennifer is one of those ladies you just can’t help but admire. Passionate, driven, and always looking for an adventure, Jennifer’s blog is a glimpse into the life of a wicked-smart woman who squeezes the tasty goodness from life. And devours it.