Weekly Whack: The Few, The Proud
The Few, The Proud
May 25, 1997

Coming back home this past week, it was neat seeing some friends who I haven't seen in some time, and hearing what they have been up to. One example is my friend Jerry Mancuso. Jerry lives about shouting distance from my house, and we were always good friends growing up. Since we both went to different high schools (I went to the public high school, and he went to the county's vo-tech school), we saw less and less of each other as we got older, and our lives eventually took separate roads. The last I saw him before just recently was last summer, when we crossed paths at the mall where he was working as a security guard. Now I know that a mall security guard is a highly respected pillar of the community, but for some reason I knew that Jerry was capable of a little better. Luckily Jerry knew he was capable of better also, so he joined the Marines. Thus when I saw him over Memorial Day weekend, he was clean shaven, had short hair, and had three months of Marine boot-camp behind him. So I figured I would use this Whack to discuss those people who protect our freedom, now that I know one personally.

If it wasn't enough to come home and find out that one of my friends was a Marine, I also found out that two other people who also grew up in our neighborhood also became Marines. I wasn't really friends with them, but I knew both of them pretty well, and we all used to hang out and do stuff together when we were younger, since when your a kid, and you don't have a license, your whole world is the people who live near you. So it kind of amazed me to find out that three guys that I grew up with are all now Marines. How many people can say that when they were younger they used to play football with a bunch of Marines? No wonder I developed into such a fearless flag-football player in my later years. And if I can remember correctly, when we used to play football none of them really were that successful at blocking me from rushing the quarterback. So if they couldn't stop me, how are they going to handle a foreign invasion? Then again if any country invades us with the same ferocity that I used to play football as a kid, then I don't think anything could help us. But aside from football, we used to play war a lot as kids. There were woods all around our houses so we used to have awesome games of manhunt, war, and capture the flag. Imagine playing games like that with Marines? I doubt I would be as successful playing those games with them now as I was when I was a kid. They'd be digging trenches, damming streams, and setting booby traps, while I'd be there hiding behind trees and what not.

Marine training definitely does a lot to change a person. I noticed differences in my friend Jerry almost immediately when I saw him. He stood up straight, he shook my hand, he asked me how I was doing, he spoke in compete sentences, it was amazing. He absolutely reeked of discipline. They definitely taught him respect, and it was apparent in how he interacted with me, and anybody else. It took much longer than usual before we could get back to normal and start making fun of each other. But I guess a change is expected, three months on Paris Island would do that to anyone. For three months he didn't have any TV or radio, and he could only make one phone call the entire time he were there. I don't think I would have lasted twenty minutes. "What Sergeant? I can't watch The Simpsons? See-ya." Marine cadets are so shut off from the outside world that if a war broke out, they, ironically, would be the last ones to find out. Coming home from Paris Island is kind of like coming out of a coma. My friend Jerry was like, "What is this new Spice Girls group that they seem to be playing on the radio a lot nowadays? And whatever happened to Crystal Pepsi?"

But from what I heard about it, Marine boot-camp is definitely not for the weak. The food there is not as bad as you would imagine, but you only get like two minutes to eat it. It's not even enough time to taste the food. By the time your taste buds sent signals to your brain, you would be already done eating. In addition to restrained eating, you also only get five minutes each night to shower and shave. With that sort of time limit, you would have to pick and choose which body parts to clean, and which ones to ignore. And some of the stuff they put you through are nuts. My friend had to into a gas chamber and remove his gas mask and leave it off for nearly a minute. He said it was the worst experience of his life. He was throwing up left and right, and his eyes felt like they had burning stakes through them. But it kind of makes me wonder what the purpose of the whole thing is? All it shows is that a person would get violently sick if exposed to poisonous gas. It's a normal reaction. It doesn't make that person any more tougher or able to resist the effects of poisonous gas, nor would it allow the person to perform any better while being exposed to poisonous gas. If by any chance you get exposed to any type of poisonous gas, the best thing to do is to try and get as far away from it as fast as possible. So thus, that is what the exercise should be like at Marine boot-camp. They put you in a gas chamber, the make you take off your gas mask, and then you have to run like hell and try to get out of there as fast as humanly possible. Now that is what it takes to be a Marine.

One last thing about being a Marine and going through boot-camp, I guess in the end it is all worth it. My friend Jerry will be able to get some valuable job training that will help him when he is enlisted, and when he is back in the real world. It takes a person who otherwise would have an unclear path in life, and gives him some direction. The Marines are not only training men and women that will help defend us overseas, but men and women who will be a benefit to us at home. However hopefully my friend Jerry will make it long enough to get back home in the real world. I asked what his job would be, and he said combat field engineer. Basically, if we are ever in a war, my friend, along with some other responsibilities, will be sent up front to comb the battlefield for mines, and explode them when he finds them. That doesn't exactly sound like a safe workplace. But Jerry can handle it. Anybody who had to regularly face my wiffle-ball pitching could handle a few harmless land mines without sweating.

Well I think I'll put this Whack at ease, so to conclude for this week, you can't train yourself to face poisonous gas; somebody has to be the one to find all the land mines; and what exactly did happen to Crystal Pepsi?

Now for this week's special feature, Feff's top ten favorite ranks in the U.S. Marine Corps:

10. Private First Class
9. Captain
8. Lieutenant Colonel
7. Corporal
6. Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps
5. Warr Officer
4. Staff Sergeant
3. Lance Corporal
2. Brigadier General
1. Master Gunnery Sergeant