12 February 2008

Be gentle with me

After enjoying so many other people's blogs, I have succumbed to the temptation to try it myself. I am sure that I will find that being the originator is a lot more difficult than responding to the originality of others.

This is an amazing age in which we live. My written journal, kept in fits and starts, was at best a legacy for my kids. A blog opens its author to the eyes of the world. Am I ready for this?

About the Blog name. In the old Navy--that of oaken ships and iron men--the fresh water for drinking was stored in a large cask or "butt" known as the "scuttlebutt." As the sailors gathered to get a drink, they shared the news of the day, some fact, some fanciful. After a while, gossip and general conversation came to be referred to as scuttlebutt.

I chose this title because I am a Marine, and have been for over forty years. The Marine Corps is a world with a salty lingo of its own. It is a world of "decks" (floors), "overheads" (ceilings), "bulkheads" (walls), "heads" (bathrooms), and "galleys" (kitchens). It is a world in which Sergeants and Captains--the two best ranks in the Marine Corps-- have awesome responsibility at a very young age.

In 1968, I was commissioned a Second Lieutenant of Marines. On Christmas Eve, I joined Charlie Company, First Battalion, Fifth Marines, First Marine Division at a place called Liberty Bridge, about 25 miles southwest of Danang. It began an association with some of the finest men I have ever known. Our annual reunions are still an almost holy experience as we gather to renew our bonds and to remember all of those who have gone before.

So, for my innaugural blog, I share some thoughts about my brothers from Vietnam.

They were a curious mix of boy and wise old man, meeting adversity with grim determination and gritty humor. There were boyish pranks and incredible gallantry. They were entrusted with the lives of other men at an age when many of their peers were still not allowed the use of the family car without parental supervision.

They quickly learned to "read" an "FNG"--a brand new guy in the unit. They did so in a hurry because war and the enemy do not allow a very long learning curve. They give few second chances. Each new Marine's inexperience posed a deadly threat to his fireteam, squad and platoon. The old hands were unforgiving of carelessness and stupidity.

But they also retained the ability to laugh at the absurdity of life, of war, of the military in general and the Corps in particular. This was the release they needed in order to avoid insanity or the paralysis of fear or clouded senses that lead inevitably to tradgedy.

And alway--always--they dreamed of getting on that "freedom bird" and returning to "The World," to home, family, friends, and normalcy. To a place where you picked up a lunch bucket or a briefcase without the fear that it was booby-trapped. A place where you did not automatically settle your helmet and flak jacket and check your weapon before walking through the door.

Although they would later learn that those thoughts and habits did not go away, they merely went to sleep, that was the ultimate dream.

These, then, were the Marines of Stationbreak Charlie.

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