Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Fallen Brothers

Perhaps it is the mood recently, but I have been doing a lot of thinking about old memories and good friends.

The first, 'Golden Boy' was one of those guys. Equal parts disgustingly smart, athletic, and good looking. One of the few that, to me, fit the phrase 'natural born leader'. It didn't take that much in the way of imagination to know that he would go as far as he wanted, as long as he wanted, in just about anything that he did. I didn't know him through the Corps, but it came to my attention that he was going to go Marine Officer, after college. He always had quite a bit on his plate, but it only seemed to focus his ability to accomplish his goals. Had a smokin' hot sister, to my then seemingly eternal despair.

One of the few actual conversations that we had was about the nature of the Officer/Enlisted relationship. The main advice that I give those contemplating entering the military as Officers is to listen and learn from the SNCOs (Staff Non-Commissioned Officers). Most of them have been in their respective service for many, many years, and actually do know what in the hell they are talking about. Some of the best Officers that I have known were not afraid to ask for input from their enlisted leaders. On the other hand, they knew when to make the hard decisions. That is their call, and when all is said and done, that is what the position exists for. Being a junior Lieutenant is a hard, sometimes tedious, often thankless job, but one that is very important for the welfare of the platoon and professional development of the individual Officer. I was confident that he was going to be a great asset to the Corps.

The second was a Marine that we knew as 'Giggles'. Giggles was always a little boy at heart. Sometimes too motivated, he was eager to please. Smart kid, knew his job inside, outside, and sideways, always willing to help out a Marine that was struggling. A leader in the making. I ran across an old picture I have of him the other day, and it almost made me laugh/tear up out loud. We were in the middle of a brutal work-up, long, difficult days filled with training. In those days, most of us still carried around disposable cameras (and did our best NEVER to leave them unattended), for the odd 'moto' shot, group 'hard dog' mementos, and the like.

We had just gotten done with yet another hump, and I was beat. I was sitting on my pack which was parked on the deck at the end of my rack. I was putting off the inevitable pain of getting back to my feet to store my gear. He was leaning up against the wall, quietly sweating from the nights festivities. I pulled out my camera from a pocket, and noticed that I had two photos remaining. Being the cheap bastard that I am, I didn't want to waste the shots, so I told Giggles to 'strike a pose, you sexy bitch!'. He promptly stuck a couple of the road guard luminescent straps around his forehead and gave me the ever present goofy looking grin.

Both were nice guys, good friends, and great Marines.

They have both been dead for longer than I knew them.

"...you are Marines. You're part of a brotherhood. From now on, until the day you die, wherever you are, every Marine is your brother... remember this: Marines die, that's what were here for! But the Marine Corps lives forever. And that means you live forever!"

-Full Metal Jacket, 'Gunnery Sergeant Harman' R. Lee Ermey

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