Quantico and Bruce Springsteen, the Marine Corps and Me

Virginia, last month.

I’m pounding down I-95 in my lousy rental. Enterprise did not upgrade me despite my best aw-shucks, big-guy schtick with the counter-girl and I am stuck in an American car made in a foreign country for foreign shoulders. I simply don’t fit, but I am too cheap to shell out the fifty, hundred bucks for an upgrade. I always prefer those Japanese cars made in Kentucky, to American cars made in Mexico, Korea. Daniel Boone would’ve driven him a ‘Tucky Toyota. Not some American hunched-up hooptie.

The 95, me and her, are old friends. How many times have I roared along her long lanes, past the trees, the box condos, Quantico and that Marine Museum I kept thinking that I needed to visit? Finally I had the time.

Sgt Strank, Cpl Block, PFC Sousley, PFC Gagnon, PFC Hayes, PM2 Bradley (It takes 5 Marines to equal 1 Sailor?)

I exit 95 at the Marine Corps Base Quantico, Crossroads of the Marine Corps exit. Signs beckon me to the museum, but I want to see the base and I need to stop at a tactical shop.

LAX, that airport thief, stole my glasses, the ones I deployed with, and now I need a new pair. And my internet promised me some at a store on base. LAX and the internet, sentient beings that they are, thieves and promisers respectfully. (Bitter fellers: insert ex-wife joke here.)

I breeze towards the gate, almost through, and some civilian copper salutes me. Real tall, elbow back, arm angled straight, hand knifed, thumb hidden. I am not in uniform, but I snap one at him. It is not correct this, homaging out of khakis. But if a man is going to render honors, a civilian, I’ll get him back. Heck, I’ve saluted shy six-year old boys who pop off quick, two-finger salutes at me, with their other hand wrapped around their mommy’s legs. Those may be the favorite of my saluting career.

The base is quiet, peaceful. Marine country has order to it. I putter along the main road, at the speed limit. I don’t want to get pulled over, not by some ticket-happy Master-at-Arms.

Wait, Bradley Manning is or was in the brig at Quantico, right? If I speed, like really speed, would they throw me in the clink? Please? To roundhouse him once? Heck, I’d give up a paycheck for it. Bread and water for three days? You bet your sweet ass. (Hmm, prolly should lose that phrase seeing that I’s about to serve time and all.)

Other possible attacks: the seven elbows of Krav Maga. I hear traitorous pieces of filth are great practice for lethal elbows. Any other time and our country would be less: five M-1 Garand bullets and one seditious private. (Accounting for one jammed rifle from the six-gun firing squad.)

I know Chesty once said: “Take me to the Brig. I want to see the real Marines.” Except Manning (of all names, how did he get issued that one?) is Army. So he does not count.

Sergeant Major Dan Daly: “Come on, you sons of bitches! Do you want to live forever?”

I pass a golfer slinging a bag of clubs. Medal of Honor Golf Course, a sign says. I think of Sergeant Meyer and his Medal of Honor (MOH.) A good piece of gear from Kentucky. I wonder if he drives a ‘Tucky Toyota like his fellow long-rifleman Boone?

Now more than ever we need the John Basilones, the Dan Dalys. The Mike Murphys. Surely we have more heroes, more MOHs from the last ten years, in addition to what has been awarded. Am I wrong? I (almost) always act my rank in uniform, but senior leadership can I call you out in here? Generals, Admirals: please! Surely this man deserved one. And there are undoubtably others.

One way to know you are on a Marine base: all the signs are red and yellow. The Corps beat MacDonalds to the colors by several years. Marines: does that get your goat? It shouldn’t. Us Sailors been gruffing you’all since we decided to let ‘cha hitch free rides on our dinghys.

And I have some leeway, considering I have been around the Marine Corps since childhood. I remember me as a midget in Jacksonville, North Carolina. Tattoo parlors and strip clubs, that hole, Camp Lejeune. But I knew neither at that age, only thinking they both sold neon signs. Cool purple ones. Some which flashed. And all those car dealers with the Camaros and Mustangs with the fat rear tires.

I roll past the Irregular Warfare schoolhouse. And I think, irregular warfare, is that where you deprive your enemy of fiberous food choices?

Pull-up bars wrapped in tape, unravelling like an untidy mummy, loom off my starboard car-side. We never, ever have to wrap our pull-up bars. Of course, we don’t even have pull-up bars in the Navy. (A pull-up bar to a Sailor is a Trader Vic’s with a drive-through window. A pull up bar, get it?)

To be continued*

* I know I have used that phrase before and have not followed through, but I feel really strongly that this one will be finished. After all, I have not yet gotten to the Museum. Nor Bruce Springsteen. And his name is in the title, right?

8 thoughts on “Quantico and Bruce Springsteen, the Marine Corps and Me”

  1. Passed by Quantico on the way to Orlando at my one incarnation of Navy Boot Camp in their own efforts to indoctrinate me into Navy life…that was an exercise in futility, of course, after the fun time I had at Air Force Basic Training…they were both fun times as a matter of fact…who knew how entertaining life in the military would actually be for the strait-laced New England, introverted, afraid of her own shadow, me??? Aha, I’m not shy any more…could ya tell???k

  2. A reader who wishes to stay anonymous sent me this:

    Haha…I would pay to see you roundhouse Bradley Manning.

    Your story about saluting a 6 year old is so sweet.
    Stop being such a nice guy okay…sheesh. (kidding)

  3. Heh – almost 55 years ago, I was hatched @ Quantico; 20-some years later, I flew up on a 53 from New River, to meet my Dad to head on up to Pennsylvania for my mom’s birthday – met a Colonel who had been a contemporary of my Dad’s, said Colonel having changed my diapers way back when – fast forward another 25+ years, a bunch of us former Marines had a get-together in Dallas, & one of our group mentioned “Colonel M*****” as having been his CO – when I told of how Colonel M***** had changed my diapers, it generated quite a bit of “TMI!” and laughter …………………. 😉

    Semper Fi’

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