A Marine's Story
November 07, 2012
I enlisted at the age of 19 with a year of college under my belt and was guaranteed my first promotion upon completion of basic training. I was up at 4:45 a.m. every morning. Each day was like the one before: getting yelled at, moving quickly, running, eating, going to class, shining boots and brass, and ironing uniforms. I crawled through mud, jumped in the deep end of a swimming pool with full gear on, and enjoyed snot running out of my nose after walking through the gas chamber. I fired an M16A1 rifle and threw a live hand grenade. I am amazed to this day that I actually did all of those things, but I graduated with PFC stripes on my uniform.
After a brief time back home, I went off to school in North Carolina to learn how to be an Administrative Clerk. Nearing the end of the course, we were allowed to write down our top three picks for a duty station. I was near the top of my class, and I wanted to be stationed at Marine Corps Headquarters in Arlington, Virginia. Headquarters actually sent a scout to North Carolina to hand pick those who would go there, and I was one of 10 Marines who were selected. I was assigned to work in Research, Development, and Studies (RD&S), which was headed by a one-star General.
The story I am about to tell is true; names have been withheld on purpose. One day the General in charge of RD&S, who lived in a rural area, accidentally backed over the family cat. He knew his daughter (a 2nd Lieutenant) would be leaving for work right after him, and not wanting her to see the newly deceased cat, he placed it in a garbage bag in the trunk of his car. After arriving at work, he sought out two of my fellow Marines (a Private First Class and a Corporal) and assigned them the task of disposing of the cat. They returned from their task quite sweaty and a bit perturbed. I asked what took them so long; and they proceeded to tell me about having to go across the street, jump over the fence, and dig a hole..."Wait a minute," I said, "Are you telling me that you buried the General’s cat in Arlington National Cemetery?" "Yes," replied the Corporal. “I’m just glad he didn’t run over his horse!”
RD&S no longer exists. I imagine that all that work has since been subcontracted to civilians, but it was amazing to see some of the developments in weapons: aircraft, uniforms, and other equipment go from the drawing board to reality. After leaving RD&S, I was transferred to an administrative office at the Marine Corps Helicopter Air Station in Tustin, California. This base was eventually shut down in 1999, well after I had relocated to Kansas City to join a reserve unit. While in Kansas City, I went through specialized Cold Weather Training in Little Falls, Minnesota, and I received additional job training in Journalism at the Defense Information School, which was located in Indianapolis, Indiana. After 13 years of service, my career as a Marine ended at the rank of Staff Sergeant in 1995, when I was discharged for having asthma.
Only 6% of Marines are women. When I enlisted, that percentage was quite a bit lower. A 1st Lieutenant once teased me that he always heard stories about former Marines who were men, but he never met a former woman Marine...like once they are done serving they just disappear. Maybe they are just quietly serving elsewhere, like in hospitals, banks, and libraries. After all, the Blue Ridge Branch can boast that it is the workplace of two former female Marines. Semper Fi!
Starving for more stories about Marine Corps lore? From our card catalog, you can do an "Advanced Search," type in Marine Corps in the keyword field, and select "Nonfiction Book" in the item type field.
In case you want a recommendation, here are my top 5 picks:
- Eyes Right: Confessions for a Woman Marine by Tracy Crow
- Battleground Pacific: A Marine Rifleman’s Combat Odyssey in K/3/5 by Sterling Mace
- Hesitation Kills: A Female Marine Officer’s Combat Experience in Iraq by Jane Blair
- Marine Corps by Michael Portman
- A History of the Women Marines, 1946-1977 by Mary V. Stremlow
Happy reading and a hearty ooh rah from a Marine Corps veteran!
Blue Ridge Branch