I was drafted into the Marines as a child. In fact, me and my two brothers were all in the Marines at the same time; Dad’s Marine Corp! We served at Camp Goodman from 1963 to 1968, at which time we were released to the Prytania Alley Kid’dom.
I found a documentary on PBS the other night, a documentary about the war in Vietnam and it got me to thinking about this time in my own life. (Can you believe we’ve been in Afghanistan now for 16 years so far?). I went over to Wikipedia to read up on the Vietnam War to see if I could find out when we began sending in combat troops. Beginning in 1955, it appears we sent in “military advisers”. The advisers’ roles were to provide training. Up to 1965 it looks like we had about 25,000, (must’ve been a lot of advisin’ going on), of these people over there and then in ’65 is when President Johnson really began ramping up with full combat troops. The official timing for our troops fully leaving Vietnam then is anywhere between ’73 and ’75. According to my new math, it would appear to me that we’ve been in Afghanistan about as long as Vietnam, (albeit with far fewer casualties).
I was never in the military service. In fact, I was one of those lucky few who didn’t even have to register. After Vietnam, the Selective Service was suspended for a couple of years so if you were born between early ’57 and end of ’59, you didn’t have to register. I am not a fan of war, I wish they didn’t occur. With that said, however, I do believe in corruption and evil. Because of this, there will always be military, always be soldiers, always be those wanting power over others and always a need to protect against those who would control us.
Our Dad was a Marine. Once he told me that when he was a kid and where he grew up, if you didn’t go into the Service, you were considered a sissy. So we kids were in Dad’s Marine Corps…….
“Private Robbie – go down to Ross Avenue Dairy and buy me a pack of Viceroys. There’s an extra dime for a cone.”
Um, yeah – my mom used to send me down to the corner grocery store (link) and Dad’s Marine mission was smokes. I know you younger folks now reading this will find this a surprise, but back in my kid’dom days you could buy a pack of cigarettes from a vending machine. Just like getting a bar of candy or a Coke, we could walk up to a vending machine, plop in a quarter and get a pack of cancer sticks. Smokes were pretty cheap in my early childhood, maybe 25 cents a pack. I still remember how pissed my dad was after arriving empty handed one day, only to inform him that the machine wanted 60 cents now, not just two quarters. Inflation…geesh. Private Robbie was dependable though; I was immediately deployed for a return mission, two quarters and a dime in hand.
But usually, playing Marines occurred in our pj’s at night, before bedtime. Dad would be sitting on the couch, watching one of his favorite shows when he’d shout out –
Line Up, Privates.
We knew the drill, (and enjoyed the game). Me, Steve and Mike would hop to, jumping up in front of him, shoulder to shoulder in the best attempt at standing at attention that could be mustered by a 7, 5 and 4 year old.
Wipe that smile off your face, private. Do you think this is funny?
(And at that, my brother Mike would always smile broader, doing his best to hold in his snicker). I was the best Marine, always the best at keeping a straight face.
Left Face! Right Face! About Face! ……(Turn around, Steve)
And this would go on until either the commercials went off or Dad ran out of orders. Sometimes it would end with the privates all piling onto the drill sergeant, doing our best to pin him to the floor only to be met by “the claw”. The Claw was a deadly tickling machine that always went for the heart.
A couple of times my childhood friend Timmy (link) would be in the lineup. Timmy and I were like good brothers, always together, so it would be not that unusual for him to get drafted while being over at our house. Timmy was stronger than the rest of us so once in awhile, he’d help us successfully pin down the sergeant. (And we always believed we were holding him down). Those were fun young kid’dom times.
Reflection – as I write these little vignettes, I’m often hit with a new memory or an ‘a-ha moment’. Unlike most friendships or sibling relationships, I can say here that Timmy and I never struck the other. We might have had words with each other on a very rare occasion, but never, ever did one of us hit the other. We loved and respected each other so much that this just never even occurred to either of us. I really need to book a flight over to Florida to see him again. Maybe next Spring (note to self).
1968 – For all you younger people who think the US is divided today, try hopping into the DeLorean Time Machine and head back to 1968! What a fucking nightmare our country was in. Sorry for the language kids, but that’s the best word for what we were in – “nightmare”. As a kid, we didn’t understand it all, but we do today and we never want to go back.
For me, 1968 was the year I left the Marine Corps. We moved that year to Prytania. Dad and Mom were, (I think), hoping that a change in the environment would change their relationship for the better. It didn’t. Along with the horrible assassinations that year and all the lives lost in the war, so too was a marriage dying on Prytania. Soldiers would be sacrificed.
We no longer played Marines. Buckle up, there are some tough times coming.
Time to grow up, Robbie.