I didn’t sign up for this, I said to myself.
She stood in front of me, tears running down her cheeks, falling from her pretty face and landing on my shoes. And then she put her arms around me and sobbed into my shoulder.
She just kept saying “why, why, why?”
A woman’s tears are like kryptonite to me. But this was worse. Much worse.
But I just stood there, not knowing what to do. We hadn’t practiced this.
I didn’t hold her. I didn’t even speak to her to try to console her. I couldn’t. I tried not to even make eye contact with her. But I did … for just a brief second. I knew I shouldn’t have. I quickly broke the eye contact and resumed looking straight ahead, as if I had not heard her crying or was even aware of the tears that had fallen on my shoes.
But I was aware. I was aware down deep in my soul.
After a few minutes, we were outside of the church and I was helping to carry the casket of her fallen Marine husband, along with 5 other Marines in the funeral detail; all of us in Dress Blues and all of us feeling the same things I felt, though our faces never betrayed those feelings.
There were 15 of us in the Marine Corps funeral detail assigned to accompany the body of our fellow Marine all the way to his burial site. We had been hand-picked to perform this final ritual for one of our own and had practiced the ceremony over and over for a couple of days prior to the funeral. Six of us would be pallbearers of the flag draped coffin. Seven of us would be firing the 21 gun salute, and one Marine would stand off in the distance and play Taps. Our detail’s commanding officer was a Marine Captain named Cummings who was in charge of the detail.
None of us volunteered for this. “Funeral Detail” was not our regular job as Marines. And though none of wanted to be there, all of us felt the same sense of duty, obligation, and honor to perform this last rite for our brother Marine. None of us knew him, but all of us felt a bond with him.
Marines “know” one another. It’s the bond of The Corps. I can meet a Marine who served in WWII or one who just graduated from boot camp last week and feel the same sense of brotherhood and camaraderie, the same esprit de corps. Marine Corps boot camp has a way of transforming strangers into brothers and sisters.
“Marine” is an earned title and is always capitalized. Earning that title forever sets us apart. If you want to start a fight with us, call a Marine, no longer on active duty, an “Ex-Marine.” The bond of the eagle, globe, and anchor is a strong one that crosses generations and genders. We have a cadence – the chanting of a formation on the run or on the march – in the Marine Corps that has the phrase:
“I’ll be a Marine ‘til the day I die,
Motivated and Semper Fi!”
That day, even in death, we were burying a Marine. And though he was a stranger, we were laying to rest a brother.
During the funeral service in the church, the six of us pallbearers sat on the front pew at the position of “seated attention.” We sat with our backs straight, our heads up, looking straight ahead, no moving at all. No fidgeting. No touching our faces or adjusting in our seats.
After the minister’s sermon, on a silent signal, the six of us stood up together and assumed the position of attention. The family filed past us to the casket that was just in front of us. They paid their last respects and as the funeral home director was closing the lid on the casket, the widow stopped in front of me, for reasons I don’t know — maybe because I was the first in line — and fell apart. She embraced me and cried until her father came alongside her and took her by the arm to lead her out of the church. But not until after she’d shed tears on my shoes and shoulder … and asked her question. A question with no answer. Ever.
The six of us pallbearers were responsible for folding the flag at the gravesite. It was my job to make the final folds and tuck the edges into the flag completing the triangle of white stars in the ocean of navy blue.
I walked slowly to Captain Cummings and ceremoniously presented the flag to him. Captain Cummings slowly saluted the flag and then put one hand on top of and one hand under the flag and I surrendered it to him. Then I returned the same slow, deliberate, ceremonial salute, did an about face, and returned to my position at the head of the casket. Captain Cummings walked slowly to where the grieving widow was seated, reverently knelt down, and presented the flag to her saying, in a quiet yet strong voice, “On behalf of a grateful nation.”
When the ceremony at the gravesite was completed the 15 of us formed into a small platoon and marched in perfect military precision all the way to the vans that were parked far away from the grave. We quietly got into the vehicles and felt a sense of relief that we had performed the ceremony without any mistakes or failures or breaches in military decorum.
None of said anything for a very long time. The van was quiet as each of us processed the things we’d seen and heard and done. It had been a long day and the two-hour drive back to base provided time to think.
After a while there was a little quiet whispering among a few of us. But most of us remained quiet. I just looked out the window watching the countryside turn to city and back to countryside again, over and over.
I thought about the young widow.
Once we returned to base, the rifle squad went to the armory to return their weapons and the rest of us went to the showers and locker room to change out of our Dress Blues and into our other uniforms. It wasn’t until then, after I had taken off my jacket, that I saw it. On the right shoulder of my Dress Blue tunic was a smudge, a mixture of facial make-up and tears, left there when the young wife had pressed her face into my shoulder and sobbed.
I sat down on the bench in front of my locker and just held the jacket, looking at the smudge, feeling the lump in my throat as my eyes filled with tears. Her life, and the lives of all of her family, would never be the same.
Friday is Veteran’s Day. But I wouldn’t mind acknowledging the families of veterans too. They offer their best and brightest to the service of our country. They endure the loneliness of separations and deployments, the fear of what might happen, the uncertainty, the stresses, and sometimes all they get for their ultimate and final offering is a folded flag.
All gave some.
Some gave all.
And so do the families of veterans.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS
Tomorrow, 10 November 2011, is the 236th birthday of my beloved Corps. Feel free to take a Marine to lunch or dinner. Or you may prefer to treat a Marine to a beer or other adult beverage. Or, you may just want to shower one with gifts, prizes, money, and/or affection!
Several of you told me that you liked the story I wrote last year about the Marine Corps birthday cake. You can find that one in the Sergeant Tony Blog achieves on the Boot Camp website for 10 Nov 2010. Or this link will take you there too.
To all my fellow Marines, Happy Birthday!
0830 CLASS ANNOUNCEMENT
The 0830 class will meet inside at CUMC on Friday, November 18. We’ll meet inside the “big gym” with weights and mats as usual! Pass the word!
It’s almost time for Holiday Challenge 2011. What is this Holiday Challenge, you ask?
First, the reason for the challenge. The average American gains 8 to 10 pounds between Thanksgiving and New Years.
What the challenge is. If you choose to participate, I will weigh you during the week of Thanksgiving. You give me $50. On the day that we come back to the Quarterdeck after the Christmas/New Year’s Eve Stand-down, I weigh you again. If you’ve maintained your weight, you get a FREE MONTH. If you’ve lost weight (less than 5 pounds) you get an additional FREE MONTH. If you’ve lost more than 5 pounds, you get an additional FREE MONTH, making for a total of 3 FREE MONTHS!
More about the challenge later on the Quarterdeck!
ALPHA OMEGA VETERAN’S SERVICES
Again this year we’ll be collecting men’s and women’s gently used coats, jackets, gloves, and hats for Alpha Omega from November 15 to December 15.
AOVS is a non-profit charitable organization that provides housing and supportive services to homeless veterans.
Bring ‘em to boot camp and I’ll collect them for AOVS.
COLD WEATHER POLICY
Anytime the windchill drops below 30, we’ll go inside.
SGT. TONY’S HALF MARATHON TRAINING!
The St. Jude Half Marathon continues this Saturday, November 12. We’ll meet in front of the Visitor’s Center at Shelby Farms at 7am.
Saturday’s run will be for 1hr 40 min, as we leap frog back.
The Official Half Marathon Training long sleeve t’s will be available on Saturday! If you won’t be at Saturday’s run but want a shirt, let me know which color and size. They’re 20 bucks and are only available for those who are training with me now, or those who’ve trained with me in the past!
If you’re NOT training for a half marathon but want to get your one hour of continuous cardio with a group, you can join us for that hour. We’ll be passing through the parking lot of the Visitor’s Center about every 25 minutes or so from 7:10 on.
TOMORROW, Thursday, November 10 is BOGA at 0530 in the “blue” gym.
NEXT TUESDAY, November 15 is the Mt. Fuji Workout at the U of M at 0530.
THE MWF 0830 CLASS!
AKA “The Desperate Housewives Class” is BAAAAACK!!! (Yes, there are dudes in this class too!) (“The Real Housewives of East Memphis” is a possible name too!)
The 0830 class is back on ACTIVE DUTY on MWF!
I GOTTA GUY!!! (And a GAL)
I like to share the names of people I do business with and trust so that if you need services that they offer you’ll know someone trustworthy to contact.
1. Margaret Caffey.
Thinking about a trip to Walt Disney World, Universal to see Harry Potter, or maybe a Disney Cruise – Margaret Caffey has turned her passion for all things Disney into a career and is now a travel agent with MEI & Mouse Fan Travel. For all your Disney travel planning or just to ask a question call Margaret at 901-828-6354. Also please take a second to ‘like’ her Facebook page at Mouse Fan Margaret. (https://www.facebook.com/login/setashome.php?ref=login#!/pages/Mouse-Fan-Margaret/130316623686981).
PS – I hear she knows a lot about all the cruise lines too! Margret is MY personal Disney trip planner! No one, and I mean NO ONE, knows more about Disney than Mags!
2. Dr John Whittemore was voted Best Family Dentist in Memphis Parent Magazine’s most recent survey.
Also voted Hot List Cosmetic Dentist in the Memphis Flyer and listed among Top Dentists in Memphis Magazine every year. If you want personalized, caring general or cosmetic dentistry on a whole other level than you’ve experienced before, call John’s office to make an appointment. (901)-754-0540.
John is also selling his 4BR/3BA house on Audubon Drive.
3. Richard Bourland – “Your Boot Camp Handyman” – Home Improvement, Carpentry, Custom Bunk Beds and other Woodworking Services, email@example.com, 901.826-6695. www.midsouthbunkbeds.com
You can see a much longer and detailed list of people I refer on the USMC Fitness BOOT CAMP website blog page. Once on the blog page use the search window, keyword “Buddy,” and it’ll take you to that page.
If you drop my name, you might get a discount. But for sure you’ll get their sympathy and prayers!
If you’d like to be listed here in “I GOTTA GUY” just let me know!
BOOT CAMP DISCOUNTS!
The monthly fee of $75 can be discounted to $55!
DID YOU HEAR THAT?
THE MONTHLY FEE OF $75 CAN BE DISCOUNTED TO $55!
Here’s how …
Make a Facebook status update and get a discount!
For every status update that you make that references:
“USMC Fitness Boot Camp,”
“Sgt. Tony’s Boot Camp,”
“Tony’s Boot Camp,”
or something similar, you can take $2.50 off your reenlistment fee for each update, up to $20 off for any given month! You can go from $75 to $55 a month!!
Your status update has to be a SPECIFIC reference to USMC Fitness BOOT CAMP or to me specifically by name. (There are fake boot camps out there!!)
You can also use “Places” on Facebook or Foursquare linked to your Facebook account to “check in” and you’ll get the same discount!
Use your own wording and personality, just include the specifics.
So log on and get started today!
UNEMPLOYED PERSON’S DISCOUNT
If you’ve been a Boot Camper in the past and you are currently unemployed, you can get a special discount. Email me for the details. Seriously! Email me! NOW! And don’t be embarrassed. I will make you an offer that you can’t refuse. Seriously.
LAW ENFORCEMENT AND FIRE DEPARTMENT DISCOUNTS
Police Officers, Sheriff’s Deputies, and Memphis Firefighters qualify for a special discount! It’s the least I can do to ensure that our law enforcement officers and firefighters are fit for their job!! Pass the word!
WANT TO LOSE 10 to 15 POUNDS BY THE END OF DECEMBER?
Take Shape For Life is the BEST weight loss program I know of. If you’d like to lose weight talk to me. This is the program I used to lose the almost 30 pounds I gained after knee surgery. Let me help you!
You can also go to www.combatchallenge.tsfl.com/
TUESDAY & THURSDAY EVENING CLASS
The Tuesday and Thursday evening classes meet at St. Mary’s track. These are cardio (walking/jogging/running) workouts and they begin at 5:45 PM.
St. Mary’s is at the corner of Walnut Grove and Perkins.
A calendar has been added to the official USMC Fitness BOOT CAMP website.
For you visual learners, you’ll find this an easy way to glance at the week or month and see where the workouts will be, if there’s a venue change.
ASK YOUR DOCTOR IF GETTING OFF YOUR ASS IS RIGHT FOR YOU!
To your optimum health and fitness!
SEE YOU ON THE QUARTERDECK!
Sergeant Major Tony Ludlow
USMC Fitness BOOT CAMP, Commanding
Mailing address: 4888 Southern Ave., Memphis, TN 38117
Cell Phone: 901-644-0145