THREE DAYS ON OKINAWA

Forty of us newbie Jarheads landed in Okinawa after graduation from Ft. Sill Artillery school as trained Forward Observers. We all had joined the Marine Corps, in Quantico, VA. a year before in October '68. It took 12 weeks to turn us from Candidates to 2nd Lieutenants. Then another six months at the Basic School, to teach all 265 of us the basics of being a Lieutenant. The elite, in USMC terminology, were the ground-pounders, the infantry Platoon Commander. I was not alone in wondering, why an 0302 MOS was such a great idea. The Tet Offensive on New Years Day 1968 meant we were all destined for a 12 month tour of the 'Nam.'

We could request Supply, Motor Transport, Engineers, Comm or Artillery. I chose Party-with-the-Arty as a face-saving measure b/c you were in combat but not burdened with the onerous responsibility for fifty guys in jungle warfare.

We didn't get any of those cute knit caps back in '69

The USMC has always taken the "Leaders of Men" stuff very seriously for 242 years.. 

OCS: "It says here, that you are the class clown." (49/50 mark on Peer Evals)

"Yes Sir, but I have seen the error of my ways" (calling shorter brothers 'Little People')

"What'd you do? Go to some F*cking charm school? I'm going to send you to Paris Island!"

TBS: Dropped out of formation on return march to BOQ

Not the thing to do, with Capt. Riordin taking names from the woods on who had been naughty

My above rap sheet threatened me with an Admin Discharge. Lt. Kowalsky, had got the ax two months earlier just for kocking himself out walking into a tree on the Orienteering course.

God's Law of Protection for children, drunks and Architects, saved me once again. My contribution to, our three day war, was a 'topo' model (six years of crafting 30x40 chip board site models prepared me for just such an event). This so impressed Major 'Recon' Reilly, that they cut-me-a-huss and sent me to Ft. Sill.

I loved calling in fire on red, yellow and blue car bodies scattered on the side of Mt. Scott. I excelled using a stationary OP (observation post), struggled on the walking shoot and lost my bearings from a Cessna back and forth Aerial Observation exercise. However, after, watching Neil Armstrong land on the Moon on July 20, 1969 our gig was up and it was time for all 40 of us to go call-in-fire for real.

Our first three days at Camp Hansen, Okinawa were spent retrieving real (worn in combat) jungle boots and jungle 'utilities' (fatigues in dogie lingo) from the trash cans on our walk to the O-Club for breakfast, lunch and dinner. At each visit, we interrogated any and all returning FO's about their 'Nam' experience, as in "What was it like?"

Every conversation began with, "Ha, Ha, Ha and ended with, "soon you will know." On the third day the veil of suspense was lifted: "Lt's Elder, Gregory, Perry, Kennedy and Swanke report to Echo Battery, 2nd Battalion 12th Marines.

Wouldn't you know it, Nixon, the guy I never really liked, took office on January 20, 1969 and withdrew Echo Battery, 2nd Battalion 12th Marines from Vietnam. Echo was the first Marine battery to enter Vietnam so it fit the bill as a symbol of 'Tricky Dick's' campaign promise, "to bring our boys back home." It further signaled to me, that women and children would go to Vietnam, before they would send Echo Battery and me. 

The question has remained was it fate, Nixon's divine intervention or the USMC didn't want 'irresponsible me' getting my fellow jarheads killed? Fifty years ago I didn't know that I was a JACK of Clubs.

Karma for the Jack of Clubs - Fear of Established Wisdom

I now realize that the JACK's Karmic Fear of Established Wisdom, a fear shared by my fellow JACKS: Sen. Al FrankenLoretta Lynch,  Maxine WatersAngela Merkel, and Michael Moore, meant that I never was and never would be Marine Corps material.

"It says here, that you're the class clown" - something Sen. Al Franken and I share.

My Three Days On Okinawa were a month after my 26th birthday. I wonder what my reading was back then? My three Result/Reward Cards were:

 "I end up this year with a new way of thinking about and making money. I have a new career or job." This was easy, I never became an FO and my new title was Echo Battery AXO responsible for 127 9th grade education enlisted young men, Supply, Motor T, Race Relations, Drug Enforcement, any and all Investigations.

  "I complete this year with a new love, which could be a lover, friend, child, or something else that brings me great joy." - after spending my 12 month tour of duty with two months on the side of Mt. Fuji, five months in the Philippines, visiting officers accommodations aboard four different Navy ships with shore leave in Hong Kong and Taiwan - there was no going back to Kansas anymore.

 "By listening to my inner voice, I find my special purpose in life that will direct me to the highest occupation. I strengthen my sense of responsibility in all relationship and romantic matters." - I'm not sure about strengthening my sense of responsibility but I did propose to my 1st wife by telegram aboard ship, instead of going native with a Phillipina.

Semper Fi

 


2 comments

  • Thanks Pat – On the Whole, Near to ‘Nam’ was good enough for me.

    teg
  • You remember a hell of a lot more than I did TEG. Thanks for the memories!

    Patrick Kennedy

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