Sunday, July 09, 2006

Longing

Over the past 5 years, I have tried several times to put a feeling into words. Until recently, I didn’t feel like I was adequately describing what I was feeling. Then, earlier this week, it struck me. Longing. I feel a strong sense of longing, almost a yearning.

Of course, your response is going to be: What do you long for? I’ll tell you (that’s basically the reason I’m writing this post, after all).

For Father’s Day, in addition to my Xbox360, my wonderful wife got me a couple of military history books. Those of you that know me will immediately realize that this means books about World War II. This period in our history is by far my favorite; I am fascinated by the war, and its effects on our homeland, and the entire world.

While I was in the Marine Corps, there was a series of books being published, called The Corps. These books were written by a man named W.E.B. Griffin (Any of his books are great gifts, by the way). These books were nearly required reading for Jarheads, and definitely shaped my view of what it meant to be a Marine. I closely identify with all of the characters in the book. I think my dad would probably say the same thing about the Badge of Honor series that Griffin wrote.

Anyway, reading these two really good military history books brought back a welter of emotions, and with the emotions came a word. Longing. It was like something in my brain clicked into place. I can finally explain how I feel when I read a book about the Corps, or see news articles about Marines in war. I long for the brotherhood that I experienced as a Devil Dog. I yearn for the closeness, the camaraderie, the friendship. There isn’t anything else that I have ever yearned for. In general, I have a wonderful life. A great, loving, amazing wife, to go along with my beautiful, fun, interesting daughter. My dream job, and work that stimulates and excites me. I’ve got some good friends (even if they are all 3000 miles away now).

But, since I left the Marines, I haven’t made friends like I did when I was in. I haven’t met anyone (except Courtney) who I can stand next to in an open shower, and have a normal conversation while we are bathing. I’ve never met anyone else who I would trust to refill my shower bag while I was washing. I haven’t been close enough to anyone else to be able to tell them that they can’t go out with us unless they take a shower and brush their teeth, and have that person just accept that I am coming from a good place with that requirement.

Question: Is it possible for normal people to be this close? My hypothesis: no. Unless they are in extreme circumstances, people cannot bond this closely (with the exception of your significant other).

I think some examples are in order.

I went to boot camp with a guy named Dent. This guy was a scrawny, skinny black guy, with a heart of gold. We didn’t see each other after boot camp, for a couple of years. When I was in Australia, I went to the laundry to drop off some cammies, and Dent is running the machines. Dent and I weren’t particularly close in boot camp, but we immediately started chatting and complaining like we had known each other since birth, and had just seen each other the day before.

There was another guy in our platoon that stood out. Not in such a good way, though. One of our platoon mates got struck by lightning while we were on the rifle range. Actually, 19 guys got struck. One guy died. I feel horrible, because I can’t remember his name. What I do remember, however, is that all 100+ of us were destroyed by his death. We had a kid die in high school, and the whole school wept, even people that didn’t know him. I didn’t. Lots of people I don’t know die every day, and I can’t mourn them all. This one kid’s death, though I probably only spoke 10 words to him, completely wrecked me. I still miss him, to this day. At least once a month, I think about going back to Parris Island, and going to the Starlite range, and looking at the hole in the concrete between the 200 and 300 yard lines. That hole is there from the electricity passing through our buddy’s foot, into the ground.

Now, when I see or hear about Marines fighting and dying over in Iraq or in Afghanistan, I want to join back up, and go get in the fight. Not because I am a killer, or because I necessarily believe that we should be over there anymore, but because my brothers are dying, and my being there might keep even one guy from getting wounded or killed.

I wonder if I will ever again experience the depth of friendship that I experienced in the Corps. It’s almost worth dealing with the chickenshit to be able to have those kinds of friends again. I wonder if it would be the same as an officer. Do they get as close? I kind of doubt it. Most of the officers I knew when I was in (and those retirees I’ve met since) were very career-oriented. The enlisted guys I knew weren’t out to advance themselves, they were there to do their duty, and hopefully get some enjoyment out of it.

God I miss those guys.

2 comments:

Courtney said...

Hey, babe...here's a response from a friend from high school. He had some issues with posting a comment.

"I'm not sure if it's quite as tight a bond, but we officers share many similiar experiences...OCS, The Basic School, Flight school, all of which provide for some great bonding experiences and memories. OCS was filled with a bootcamp style feel and degradaton followed by rebuilding, just more emphasis on leading. TBS was full of miserable peer leadership situations. Field excercises spent under the worst conditions a human can face...only to end with 15 mile humps and checking each other for ticks in hard to see places if you catch my drift. So, I would say the officer Corps probably has the same feel to it. I haven't lived on the other side, but I can tell you that without having even been in combat yet, I feel very close to those I've already served with. I appreciate every day I can wake up and put on the uniform, every day I can look down at the U.S. Marines embossed on my nametag. Every day I put on a cover with an Eagle, Globe and Anchor on it...is another day I can be proud to say I am a US Marine, and I hope I can extend those days as long as possible, because to be honest, I don't know how to do anything else, and I can't imagine a lifestyle where we don't PT together, salute our superiors, respect our juniors, and fall asleep knowing we are modern-day warriors defending such a wonderful nation. I say to you, once a Marine always a Marine, but I can understand what you long for...it's the same thing I long for when I'm away from my fellow Marines...the brotherhood that began nearly 231 years ago. We come from very different backgrounds, different races, different colors, different lifestyles...but we are always Marines and we will always have that, be it a memory or a reality. Semper Fidelis

v/r
Eric Nichols"

Primate Buddy said...

I understand the longing as something I will never have.