Re-education

USMC photo by Lance Cpl. Francisco Abundes.

USMC photo by Lance Cpl. Francisco Abundes.

In the back of the dimly lit squadbay, the afternoon sun glimmers off the dustless shimmering deck – the Drill Instructor's Highway, where cold eyes and hard faces travel.

Forty United States Marine Corps footlockers are arranged as if in an amphitheater where the audience sits with baited breath awaiting the show. The footlockers that are being used as benches are the only spaces that Recruits can actually consider their own, until a Drill Instructor decides to empty them out in the center of the squadbay, eviscerating any illusions of privacy.

The eighty-five United States Marine Corps Recruits are in class; sitting two or three to a footlocker with their feet locked together with right hands on right knees.

At the front, like a conductor before an orchestra stands Drill Instructor Sgt. Grimmer. He’s a man with bulging eyes, sunken cheeks and pursed lips whose jaw, nose, and mouth are perpetually pale while his bald, shiny head and neck are forever scorched red from long sunny days out on the PT field. 

I have a memory of him that will never leave me. We were exiting the chowhall and forming up, as we did each day with the precision of an OCD lunatic on a cocaine binge. Standing still in the hot sun we were waiting for one of the drill instructors to address the platoon. Five minutes, and then ten. Still no sign. As our heads began to swivel furtively, I heard an odd sound. Cling. Clang. Thump. Then again, but faster, and louder. Cling-clang-thump! CLING-CLANG-THUMP!

And there he was, about fifteen yards away, standing in front of a light post, his back to us. Punching it. Bare-knuckled. Cling-clang-thump, CLING-CLANG-THUMP! Again, and again and again. Until finally he stopped, and turned to face us, breathing heavy with bloody knuckles, with a pale face and a smile that would rattle Death himself – Sgt. Grimmer. Or, as we called him – the Grimm Reaper.

He is our teacher today and he is lean, hard and perpetually tensed. He is giving a lesson on the rules of land warfare.

“Appropriate targeting ya’ understand?”

“Yes sir!” is our coordinated and sharp response.

“So, back in WWII, there was an Army General fighting in Italy, ya’ hear?”

“Yes sir!”

“So this Army General is fighting and the enemy is using the Leaning Tower as an observation post. Now we know that makes it a target, right?”

“Yes sir” in unison.

Bad guys are inside, so that means we can blow it up, simple enough reasoning I think to myself. As much as I don’t like the reasoning, part of me – another part that I never wanted to listen to until now. That part tells me it makes sense.

This is has become our rational. They shoot at you and hide, you destroy whatever stands between you and your target and move on. In doing so, you have the benefit of an impressive light show as several bombs transport the surrounding area to the Stone Age.

National treasures, innocent civilians, cute kittens and lost puppies will all be buried under the limitless supply of our coordinated artillery barrages, air strikes, small arms fire, missiles, and the spit and curses we throw at any perceived threat.

“Well that pussy Army General wanted to preserve it or some shit, so they maneuvered around it, but if it was me, I would'a blown that shit the fuck up, ya’ hear?”

“YES SIR!”

“Hell, if the Sears Tower, or Space Needle was being used as an enemy position I’d drop that shit, ya’ hear?”

“YES SIR!”

We agree and we mean it. I mean it. I yell as loud and hard as the rest. If someone tried to kill me. Tried to kill my friends and he did it from within the White House or from behind the Vietnam Memorial my first instinct would be to switch from semi to burst and slowly, steadily squeeze.