Deadly Mistakes

USMC photo by Sgt. Reece Lodder

USMC photo by Sgt. Reece Lodder


There’s the eerie singsong-like roar of a Drill Instructor.


There it is again. Shorter though. He’s getting impatient. Wait…whose name is he calling?

“RECRUIT CLARK!” He shouts again, finally breaking me out of my reverie and shoving me forward into the harsh reality of the situation. Drill Instructor Sgt. Vega is screaming. He’s shouting a name and it’s mine. Shit.

“Recruit Clark reporting as ordered, sir!”

The moment my feet snap to attention at a perfect 45 degree angle and my spine goes ramrod straight he turns to face me, and he smiles. A wicked, cruel smile curved and sharp like a Cheshire cat’s. This is bad. Drill Instructors don’t smile.

“What’s this Cahhhhllllarrrrk?” He asks, raspy yet soft and perversely intimate.

My M16 A-2 Service Rifle is clutched tightly in his right hand. It shouldn’t be. It should be locked. It wasn’t. Shit. Thoughts race through my mind like sprinters during the Running of the Bull, but each idea, excuse, and answer is punctuated by fuck, shit, damn or holy crap.

“Come here, boy.”

“Aye aye sir” I shout, trying to mask my fear with what I think is a booming bellow, but in reality is likely a quivering yelp.

“Look into my eyes, right into my fucking eyes, son.”

“Aye aye sir!” I look. They’re small, black and unwavering.

“I’m going to fucking break you. You understand me? You will never be a fucking Marine…Aye aye sir.” He says, and I repeat “Aye aye sir.”

As I’m ordered back to my rack he comes over and begins to sing, pointing his right index finger at my chest.

“Hey hey hey…finish it!”

“Gooohh-ooohhh-oood, byeeeeeee.”