Coffee Reward

During his final week of indoctrination Doc’s squad drew night guard duty. The first night of guard duty he drew an abandoned field filled with junked vehicle parts.

The Officer of the Day pulled up in his jeep, with him was the company officer. Doc was instructed to recite my first general order, to which he replied, “To take charge of this post and all government property in view.”

At this point he was praying that his quizzing was over, but it wasn’t.

“Son, what would you do if I came charging across that field, straight at you, with a fully loaded AK-47?” the company officer asked.

Doc’s response was less than a delight to the officers ears as he replied, “Sir, I’d call the Corporal of the Guard.”

“Now, what the hell would you do that for?” he barked.

Without blinking, Doc looked him square in the eye, answering, “Sir, to haul your dead-ass away…sir.”

The following day Doc was summoned to the platoon’s master sergeant’s office. He figured he was in trouble for having threatened to shoot the company officer.

Instead, Doc was surprised to be greeted by the man he had never seen smile, with a broad grin from ear to ear. He congratulated Doc on his outstanding response to the company officer’s question the night before and invited him to sit and have a cup of coffee.

My Shorts

The wife says my pants are too long.
I tell her she’s got it all wrong.
My jeans are meant to be this way,
Come workin’ time or for play.

She says a shorter size I could fit,
And a smaller size I should get.
But I know they need come down
Over my boots an’ near the ground.

For longer legs I did dream
Of addin’ more to my inseam.
They drag along in the dust,
But drag along they must.

“It’s proper dress,” I say.
She just says, “No way!”
“For if they don’t,” I retorts,
“It’s jus’ like a-wearin’ shorts!”

Clothing Gap

In my short 20-years of living I had no idea how terrible a smell a refugee camp could smell. We were there as a part of the UN Peacekeeping Forces.

Privately, none of us were happy about being in the position we were in, we considered ourselves to be warriors not peace-niks. Eventually we would get to fight, but that is a different story.

Walking through this mass of people, rotting food, defecation and poor water supply, I was appalled at both the site and the odors that came from every inch of the place. I was tasked with medical aid.

Even though I had a large tent set up near the center of this camp, I was not seeing any of these people. They refused our assistance.

It took about two weeks for someone to suggest a change in our habits. Instead of wearing our Marine utilities, we got permission to turn out in jeans and sweat shirts.

Command airlifted our “new” uniforms via the Quarter Master. Many of us figure the QM believed we had lost our minds by requesting “civvies.”

The first day I put on my jeans and sweatshirt was also the day I was ordered to the pass. There I had to set up another medical tent and organize the supplies.

It was astonishing to see the hordes of people fleeing the war torn country behind them, looking for peace and safety. They trudged up the side of Safed Koh all day and all night to reach the flats jus’ beyond the gap in the mountainside.

This was no small feat as it’s over 3,500 feet. And the majority of these refuges packed everything they owned with them.

Still, not many stopped for medical assistance. It had to be something major, like a broken leg, that impeded the hike up to freedom.

In a case like that, I’d realign the bone to best of my ability, put the injured limb in a standard plaster cast and through an interpreter, instruct the patient to return if it continued to hurt, became swollen, infected or simply need to have the cast removed.

Not once did I see anyone for a return visit. Once they made it to the pass and had stocked up on enough supplies in the camp, they’d leave and not return.

Within a month, the Marines were moved of the mountain and into the valley. The Pakistani PCF took over the care of the incoming refugees and old rivalries and feuding sprang up. It became a sorrier situation than before.

But though it was on my mind, we didn’t have time to worry about this. Instead we were working out plans to win the Cold War by advising the Mujahideen in their war with the Soviets.

Inside the Third Dimension

Kay was sitting in the front room surfing the Internet with her new laptop. I was enjoying a cup of coffee, listening to the radio.

Suddenly she jumped up and disappeared down the hallway only to come rushing back a few seconds later. In her hand she had a pair of what appeared to be sunglasses.

Looking closer I realized they were the new-style 3-D glasses one purchases at the movies now days. By this time she had them on and had her computer back in her lap.

My curiosity was piqued and I had to ask, “What are you doing?”

“I’m watching the trailer for Toy Story one and two in 3-D,” she answered.

After studying her face for a few seconds to see if she were truly serious or pulling a practical joke on me, I asked her, “You do realize you can’t see a regular movie trailer in 3-D on your computer with those glasses, right?”

She looked at me over the rim of the glasses and responded with a question of her own, “You can’t?”

It was good thing my bladder wasn’t full; else wise I’d have pee’d myself from laughing so hard.

Miracle of Galaxy 203

It was the morning after Super Bowl XIX. The San Francisco 49ers had defeated the Miami Dolphins 38-16. The date was January 21, 1985.

It was about 1 a.m., when 17-year George Lamson was blown from Galaxy Airlines Flight 203, which had jus’ lifted off from the Reno-Cannon International Airport. The plane actually crashed one and half miles south of the runway near an RV lot, behind Meadowood Mall.

Somehow, Lamson, of Minnesota, landed upright in the middle of South Virginia Street. He was still strapped to his seat and of the 71 people on board, he was the only one to survive. His father George, Sr. was also killed in the crash.

Still I have nightmares of the twisted, stretched, mangled and destroyed bodys.

Coffee Mug from the Stumps

Generally, Twenty-nine Palms is referred to as “Twenty-nine Stumps,” by most Grunts stationed there, either temporarily or on permanent station. And it’s pretty true as there isn’t a palm tree anywhere to be seen for miles.

But this is an aside. This morning my son, Kyle was helping me move some stuff around when he found an old coffee mug from those days.

While sent there to do some stateside training, I was invited to a “lonely hearts club” of sorts called “The Single Marine Program.” I thought I was jus’ being polite by turning out for this new program.

You have to remember, this was years ago and I’m sure the program has improved drastically from when it first started. But back in those days, it’s organization left a lot to be desired.

Personally, I had no idea what to expect. But what I did find was a group of horny Jarheads swilling beer in the back room of the NCO club. Worse yet, there wasn’t a woman in sight.

Not even the cocktail waitresses were brave enough to walk through the room! And I can’t say as I blame them.

While I attended only two or maybe three times, I did get the plastic coffee mug out of having been there. Today it is cracked and brittle and I don’t think it would hold much of anything let alone hot, black coffee.

Thinking back on it, it’s kind of funny that a Marine Corps “drinking club” would hand out coffee cups as a gift for attending.

Name Game

I’m the third Tom in a series of “Tom’s” born during the 20th century.

Originally, my dad’s name was supposed to be the same as my grandfather. However there was screw up at the Luthern Hospital in Fort Dodge and instead of Thomas Edward, Jr., the name on the birth certificate was transposed into Thomas Junior Darby.

When I was born, Mom wanted to name me after the two most important men in her life: her husband and her father. She went with her father’s full given Portuguese name along with Dad’s first name.

This created the tongue twister: Thomas Joaquin Luis Olivera Darby. And they say kid’s can be cruel.

Misplaced Rifle

We received a newly promoted staff sergeant. His first day on the job, he told us how much he didn’t like us and how much he didn’t want to be in our platoon.

So obviously, he wasn’t a platoon favorite from day one. As a result he tried to make our lives more difficult because, well, what else could he do.

We had just restructured our platoon after getting a new company officer. This meant we also got new weapons cards, meaning new serial numbers on rifles to memorize.

Suddenly we started hearing panicked calls for our platoon to form up. We dropped what we were doing and got into formation. After a couple of minutes of standing by, the door kicked open. It was the staff sergeant and he was livid.

“Whose rifle is this?” he growled through his teeth while holding a weapon above his head.

It was the ultimate sin, a Marine leaving his rifle unattended and it was going to cost us dearly.

“I found this rifle just lying around, and no knows who it is? So one more time, whose is this?” he barked louder.

He was getting more agitated by the minute. By this time squad leaders and fire team leaders had started the scramble of searching for the unlucky Marine.

As they checked, the platoon received a very lengthy monologue on what kind of a Marine loses his rifle. The staff sergeant told us we lacked discipline and leadership, how he never wanted to be associated with a Marine who could lose his rifle and not know about it and how much work he had to do in order to clean our sh!t up.

A quick check of our gear and serial numbers indicated that everyone in our platoon, not only had their rifle, but had the correct rifle, too.

“So let’s do this the hard way” replied the staff sergeant, “Obviously someone is lying to me.”

He instructed one of our squad leaders to get out the platoon weapons list, which had everyone’s name and serial number on it. He then read off the serial number, and told the squad leader to find it.

After a couple minutes of searching the list, the squad leader said, “I found it.”

The staff sergeant said, “Well who the h3ll is it?”

The squad leader paused, then said, “It’s yours, Staff Sergeant.”

A subdued chuckle started. But as the staff sergeant’s face turned more and more red, the chuckle grew into a roar of laughter.

It was a tiny victory in the day of the life of this Marine.

Political Correctiveness

Sometimes I get a calls from people complaining about something I said during a newscast. As a rule, I do my best to “run up the middle,” when it comes to reporting.

Admittedly, I find myself reworking an article posted by one of our news partners or the Associated Press, because I see it leaning too far left (or right,) but in the end I do my best to be about the news and the news only. The time for opinion for me is in other formats such as this.

Recently, I had a call from someone listening to the station who complained I was being derogatory towards the Democratic Party by saying “Democrat Party,” and leaving the “-ic,” off the phrase. I did my best to politely explain that I meant no slight by it; rather I do this in order to save time since I have less than 60 seconds to get a meaningful and complete newscast in at the top of each hour.

The call bugged me so much, that I posted the question to my social network: So when did saying “Democrat Party,” instead of “Democratic Party,” become a derogatory phrase? My question brought a broad range of responses including a few from fellow reporters and journalists who claim “political correctness,” to “inaccuracy.”

I realized then I needed to educate myself…

Wikipedia bemoans: “Democrat Party” is a political epithet used …instead of “Democratic Party” when talking about the Democratic Party. The term has been used in negative or hostile fashion by conservative commentators and members of the Republican Party in party platforms, partisan speeches and press releases since 1940.”

It goes on to read: “The term “Democrat Party” was in common use with no negative connotations by Democrats in some localities during the 1950s.The Dictionary of American Regional English gives numerous examples of “Democrat” being used as an adjective in everyday speech, especially in the Northeast.”

Democrat has been used as an adjective by USA Today. In Indiana there are several legally incorporated organizations with “Democrat” as part of their official name, such as the “Indianapolis, 17th Ward Democrat Club Inc.” and the “Andrew Jackson Democrat Club of Tippecanoe County.”

Then there are the times that makes one shake their head – like when MSNBC Hardball host Chris Matthews decided to challenge Republican Congressman Darrell Issa on his use of the phrase, saying “Well, I think the Democratic Party calls itself the Democratic Party, not the Democrat Party. Do we have to do this every night? Why do people talk like this? Is this just fighting words to get the name on?”

And while Issa denied he intended to use “fighting words”, Matthews refuse to let the matter rest, “They call themselves the Democratic Party. Let’s just call people what they call themselves and stop the Mickey Mouse here — save that for the stump.”

My favorite though, is having learned that National Public Radio has banned the phrase, “Democrat Party,” from its standards guide. I can’t help but shake my head thinking: this is where some of my tax money is being spent.

Of course the history of the wording can be traced back to the 1890’s and the Oxford English Dictionary. The reference is to a South Carolina Governor and Senator named Ben Tillman.

The Oxford entry reads: “Whether a little farmer from South Carolina named Tillman is going to rule the Democrat Party in America – yet it is this, and not output, on which the proximate value of silver depends.” In 1901, after President Theodore Roosevelt dined in the White house with Booker T. Washington, Senator Tillman said, “The action of President Roosevelt in entertaining that nigger will necessitate our killing a thousand niggers in the South before they learn their place again.”

In more modern times the phrasing, “Democrat Party,” has been used by the likes of former President George W. Bush. In fact he used, “Democrat majority” in his 2007 State of the Union Address.

When the advanced copy of his address was forwarded to Congress, Democrats complained about the “misusage.” Bush later joked he had been accused of mangling the English language, telling Democratic leaders: “And so I appreciate you inviting the head of the Republic Party.”

The use of Democrat as a noun-modifier is not considered to be grammatically incorrect, after all our language is peppered with phrases like Iraq war. Some speech experts say the use of nouns as adjectives in our language has been on the decline for some period of time.

Now for the other side of this coin – the G.O.P., which is how the Republican Party is often times referred to in our common language. It is truly an affront to the party, though most do not know it nor do they know the origins.

The nickname of the Republican Party didn’t get attached to it until 1888. Previously, the nickname had been used by Southern Democrats as a slap in the face of the party that brought slaves their freedom.

It wasn’t until the Republicans won back the Presidency and Congress for the first time since the Grant administration, that the political epithet was used to rebrand the Republican Party in a positive light. That’s when the Chicago Tribune proclaimed: “Let us be thankful that under the rule of the Grand Old Party… these United States will resume the onward and upward march which the election of Grover Cleveland in 1884 partially arrested.”

I’ll do a better job about getting the “-ic” on Democrat and avoid GOP where possible.

Roll, Bounce, Giggle

One early afternoon, I was demonstrating to my then-girlfriend Cathy, how to fold my skivvies, tee-shirts and socks, military-style. When I say military-style, I’m talking about preparing clothing items in order to create more space in ones’ sea-bag.

It’s uncertain if any of the military services teach this to recruits anymore.

The skivvies (underwear for you civilians,) are folded in thirds and starting at the crotch, rolled tightly and tucked into the waist band of the skivvie. The roll-and-tuck should be so tight that a person can literally bounce them off the wall and they will not unroll.

The same goes for tee-shirts and socks. Everything gets folded in thirds, rolled tight and tucked. The tee-shirt is tucked into the bottom portion of the shirt while the socks are pulled into the opening of one of the socks.

Simple, yet efficient.

Later that evening I returned home to find Cathy and our friend, also named Cathy, giggling their heads-off. They had been amusing themselves by bouncing my skivvies off the bedroom wall, trying to unroll a pair.

Brown Mouse

The mouse was caught in hole when I found it. Mom warned me not to pick it up or try to play with it. I didn’t listen and promptly stuck my hand in the hole to grab it.

The mouse, defending itself, bit me several times. Mom trapped it in a glass jar and I was taken to Seaside Hospital to get checked out for the possibility of rabies.

This was the second time I had done such a thing. I had also been bitten a couple years earlier while living on Mather AFB shortly before Adam was born. Even then I didn’t listen when I was told not too touch.

Around the same time as my second visit to the hospital, my Uncle Luke had me memorize an old traditional cowboy poem called, “The Little Brown Mouse.” Neither Mom nor Luke’s wife, my Aunt Evelyn were too happy with him when he would ask me to recite it to others.

The liquor was spilt on the barroom floor
And the bar was closed for the night
And the little brown mouse came out of his house
And sat in the pale moon light

He lapped up the liquor from the barroom floor
And back on his haunches he sat
And all night long you could hear him roar
Bring on the G-d d—-d cat!

Flying Fish

It was a sunny, hot day as I drove out to meet my friend Greg Melton, better know to some as Straight Arrow. I had promised him I’d come out to the long forgotten mining town to help him shore up one of the wooden buildings whose foundation had started to crumble.

The town was named after Adolph Sutro, a Prussian emigrant who came to America in 1850. He built a tunnel to intersect with the mine shafts inVirginia City. But by the time the tunnel was finally completed, the Comstock Lode was playing out, so Sutro sold his interests and moved his family to San Francisco. The town died  soon after.

The town of tiny Dayton was in my rearview mirror and I was looking for Sutro Tunnel Road, on my left. Thats when I was struck by a heavy down pour of water. It came out of no where and even more amazing, several fish lay flopping in the roadway.

I stopped and looked around thinking I was the focus of an amazing practical joke, but there was nobody to be seen.

Then I picked up several of the fish, trout to be exact, and loaded them into the bed of my truck. I wanted proof as I figure nobody’d believe my story.

Within minutes I found the road and pulled up to the shack Greg lived in. I showed him the fish.

He mused they must have fallen from a water spout that had caught a gust of air. There was no other explaination, so I decided to go with that. To this day, I’ve never seen nor heard of this happening to anyone else on U.S. 50.

Oh, and by the way, the trout was delicious.

Welcoming Committee

The Corporal who completed issuing me the required gear instructed me that I should jus’ wear my helmet instead of carrying it on my back. He explained that it was less weight in an already heavy sea-bag.

Without giving it much thought I walked across base to the row of quonset huts where I knew my newly assigned unit was housed. I knew I had been had by the Corporal as drew stares, snickers and smart-a$$ed statements nearly every step of the way.

Once at my assigned building, I stepped inside to find neither an NCO or Officer. So I set my sea-bag down and entered the barracks area.

The first statement I hear was: “Hey, look at the F-N-G and he’s ready for war.”

The comment drew a laugh from the dozen guys in the room.

Without warning I was pushed from behind. The shove was forceful enough to send me chest first into the biggest guy there.

He shoved me away and I struck a post that rose from the floor to the roof. I hit it hard enough to fall to my hands and knees.

That’s when the big guy grabbed me by the back of my trousers and started using me a dust mop. Then he changed directions and started pulling me towards the head.

I had sudden flashbacks of high school and swirlies.

Within seconds I reacted by wedging my feet against the jambs of the head and pushing back against the brute. As he pushed I realized I could “walk up” the door jamb and flip myself over top of him, which I did.

As I landed on the floor behind him I threw 4 hard jabs into his kidneys. But they had no affect.

By this time I felt like my heart was in my throat and choking me. But I quickly realized it was my helmet, which had come off my head and the chin-strap was now pressing against my wind-pipe.

I continued to move as I fought to unbuckle the strap and free myself from my helmet.

Meanwhile the big guy continued to move after me. That’s when I looked down and pointed at his feet, telling him his boot was untied.

When he looked, I let him have it. I smashed my helmet into his face, then I beat him with it few more times.

He refused go down. Instead he stood there looking at me and I concluded that I was about to get murdered.

Then his knees buckled and he fell forward, his body making a slapping sound as he flopped on the hard cement. But as fast as he fell, he sprang back up to his feet. Next he shook his head vigorously, much like a Saint Bernard would shake off bath water.

He stood looking at me, then smiled, saying, “That was outstanding. Welcome aboard!”

As he offered me his hand to shake, I thought, “Nuh-uh, fool me once…”