Sergeant Tony's Blog

Two Hundred and Forty-two Years!

Friday, Nov. 10th 2017 10:24 AM

His statement hung in the air for what seemed like a very very long time.

It was the most profound challenge I’d been given and my response to it changed the course of my life.

“Your country has provided you with 18 years of freedom, opportunity, security, and happiness … now it’s time to give something back. Serve. Join the Marine Corps or the Peace Corps, but find a way to serve your country and your fellow man.”

I joined the Marine Corps, since the Peace Corps didn’t have cool uniforms.

Of course, the decision was a little more complicated than that.

Today is the 242th birthday of my beloved Corps. And like all good birthday celebrations, cake is involved.

Every Marine Corps unit across the globe will celebrate the birth of Our Corps in very similar ways. There’ll be the parties and the revelry. There’ll be the formal Marine Corps Balls with everyone wearing their dress uniforms. It’s a fun mix of activities meant to pay honor to the birth of the Marine Corps on November 10, 1775, and to give special remembrance to the exploits of Marines throughout our 238 year history.

There’s a special ceremony connected to the cutting and eating of the birthday cake at the Ball. The first two pieces of the cake, cut with a Marine Corps sword, go to the youngest and the oldest Marine present in that unit. After that, everyone gets some.

My first Marine Corps birthday occurred while I was a Marine recruit in boot camp at Parris Island, SC. There was no Ball for us, far from it. But with the evening meal that day, each of us received a piece of Marine Corps birthday cake on our trays.

We filed through the chow line and quickly took our places at our long tables where the entire platoon waited for our Drill Instructor to give the command “trays … DOWN!” (All trays would come down at the exact same moment on the table so that there would only be the sound of ONE tray being placed on the table.) Then the Drill Instructor would give the command “SEATS!” (There would be the sound of only ONE butt hitting the bench as everyone sat down at exactly the same instant and froze in position.) And then the command, “ATTACK!” – meaning “EAT!”

As I stood there at attention, waiting for the command to sit, I stole a glance at my piece of Marine Corps birthday cake as it sat on my tray looking up at me. It looked delicious. And since we hadn’t had any sweets in a very long time, that piece of cake looked especially yummy!

But instead of the command “SEATS!” … the Drill Instructor yelled:
“PICK UP THE BIRTHDAY CAKE!
PICK IT UP WITH YOUR NASTY, PATHETIC, WORTHLESS HANDS!
PICK IT UP!!! NOW, GO THROW IT AWAY!!! … NOW!!!!”

What?? You’ve GOT to be joking!

By this time, Platoon 398 was a well oiled machine, instantly and willingly giving obedience to all orders.

Without hesitation, each of us picked up our piece of cake and went directly to the big metal garbage can in the mess hall and threw our cake into it.

So sad. Such a waste. I hated Senior Drill Instructor Staff Sergeant Warren, one of our four DI’s. He was the one who ordered us to throw our cake away.

We quickly returned to our tables and stood in front of our trays, the empty spot on the tray where our cake had been, reminding us of our loss. We waited for the command to sit. But instead, the Senior Drill Instructor began to lecture us.

“Yew filthy pukes think you deserve a piece of cake honoring the birthday of MY BELOVED CORPS?? DO YOU??? (It was rhetorical, we didn’t say a word.)

You worthless excuses for humanity aren’t MARINES! You’re not even worthy to say the name of MY BELOVED CORPS! You don’t rate anything honoring MY BELOVED CORPS! Many of you will NEVER become Marines in MY BELOVED CORPS, I promise you this!! … I promise you that I will continue to weed out you pathetic little parasites and send as many of you back to your mommas as I can! You little spoiled, over indulged, self-esteem seeking pieces of sh!t! But you’ll NEVER BE A MARINE! DO YOU HEAR ME??

And know this … KNOW THIS … I will make it my solemn duty to make every single second that you’re on my BELOVED ISLAND the most horrifying, god-forsaking, painful experiences of your worthless existence! Not ONE of you pukes, NOT ONE … will ever earn the title of Marine until I’m satisfied that you’re worthy! Until I’m satisfied that you deserve to go into combat as a Marine with me, I’ll not give even ONE of you worthless pieces of excrement an Eagle, Globe, and Anchor–the emblem of MY MARINE CORPS–unless I’m satisfied that I can trust you assholes with my life in combat.

And until then, UNTIL THEN … me and my fellow Drill Instructors will treat you like the dishonorable slimy civilian refuse that you are! If there are only two of you miserable pieces of human waste left when we’re done, that’ll suit me just fine!”

By this time, my platoon, which had started with 80 recruits, was down to about 45.

When I was finally allowed to sit down, I’d lost my appetite.

When our training was complete, Platoon 398 graduated only 32 of the initial 80. Only 32 of us earned the title “Marine.”

At my graduation ceremony, I remember the Commanding Officer of Third Battalion say to us: “Today, you are Marines. From this day forward until the day that you die, you will be a Marine. No matter where you go in life, no matter what you may accomplish in life, you will always be a Marine. You now stand on the shoulders of all of those brave Marines who have preceded you. You will carry the legacy and the responsibility of that legacy forward with you for the rest of your life. Never forget that. Never forget that Marines at rest in their graves this day are depending on you to carry the title of Marine forward with honor, courage, and integrity.”

I have never forgotten that charge.

Rest easy, America, your Marine Corps has your back!

Happy 242th birthday to MY BELOVED CORPS and to my fellow Marines!

Semper Fidelis!

Posted by Tony Ludlow | in Uncategorized | No Comments »

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