27 February 2011


By Andy Weddington
Sunday, 27 February 2011

                                               "I almost denied him the benefit of experience." Marine Dad

Interesting few days since posting last week's Commentary, "ASK THE GUNNY."

I've received queries..."Colonel," "Andy," "...are you going to write something addressing the mess in Wisconsin?...What do you think about what's going on in Wisconsin...the state senators...the mid-west...blah, blah, blah? etc.,"

Nope. It hardly matters what I think. Besides, I care but don't care--as there's little interest, for the time being, writing about politics.


I will proffer an idea for Governor Scott Walker, that just may stir a reaction or two from the populace, for handling Wisconsin's fourteen rogue state senators who deserted their post--abandoning sworn duties to serve the public (not the constituency that elected them).

Process them as any malcontent Marine who declares he's leaving and not coming back, and leaves...

Run their sorry asses "UA--Deserter" (Unauthorized Absence--Deserter) on the Unit Diary (or whatever personnel accounting system the state uses or hold a senate special session to make declaration)! Immediately suspend (and hold) all pay and allowances and state-issued (if any) credit cards. Cut locks off any assigned offices, desks, wardrobes, lockers, etc., inventory all possessions, seal in cardboard boxes, and dump at state line. Issue BOLO (Be On Look Out) to local, state, and federal law enforcement, with instructions to arrest on sight. Hold special elections immediately to fill vacant senate seats. And get on with state business. No amnesty for the deserters--declare "Persona Non-Grata."

Why is this nonsense happening? Simple. Look no further than the current Administration back east operating on whims and personal sentiments vice enacted law. As the nuns taught me..."Monkey see. Monkey do. Monkey does what it wants to do." And that is exactly what is happening.

Now the question is who will have the cajones to end the nonsense?! We shall see.

Sharing my remedy with a friend yesterday, he thoughtfully asked, "I wonder if that would be legal?"

To that calm, logical, mature query...

What difference does that make? It certainly can't be legal for an elected senator to desert their office and responsibilities. The rules have changed--and the "change" started in Washington. You can't have it both ways--either play by the rules or nobody has to play by the rules.

There's nothing easy about holding elected office. The duties require "leadership." That's a given and known up front. In the Marine Corps leadership is characterized in three, near and dear to every Marine--rank notwithstanding, Core/Corps values: Honor. Courage. Commitment. What those senators did, contrary to any standard of duty, violates all three. They do not understand nor respect democracy. They are not leaders. Their actions the consummate example of cowards, of "losers," and they're unfit for public service. Period.

This is not complicated. Though it's being presented to be. Treat them as deserters, Governor, and move on! Forgiveness is easier than permission. Just do it. Lead!

Enough said.

Now, with blood pressure returning to normal...

To follow-up with last week's Commentary, with the rest of the story.

First, a note from "Hiram"--a friend and father of a Marine second lieutenant who's initial email sparked the Commentary. And then a few of the more interesting notes I received from Marines remembering their gunny. As is my practice, names of senders edited to protect the innocent but the names of gunnys deserve the spotlight.

From Hiram (and his first word indicates his jovial demeanor is back, and italics are mine)...

"Tony (he knows I detest this moniker),

Thank you for your kind words. I had no idea you were so favorably disposed toasters (towards?) me. And, with the risk of sounding like Nancy Pelosi editing her honorary award, I wanted to add a point of clarity.

Yes, (my son) did something dumb by not bringing the proper gear. But, I made the bonehead mistake of trying to intercede. He never asked for my help on the sleeping bag issue. He just told me that he had brought the wrong equipment, he was in the field and he froze his ass off the night before.

I then immediately donned my Superdad uniform and looked for a solution for him. By the time I got back to him the following day with the "go to supply" solution, he had solved the problem himself by getting a ride to main side where he bought what he needed at the PX.

Your endnotes lend insight to my thoughts and actions. As you are keenly aware, leading Marines offers enormous rewards, but those rewards do not come without risk. As proud as I am of the man my son has become, I ache with worry over the possible negative outcomes. I also want him to avoid mistakes I made, I guess I don't want him to be the "smelly kid" of the group. As a result, I over reacted and tried to stick my nose where it didn't belong. I almost denied him the benefit of experience.

It is a fine line between being proud of an accomplished young man, and being a "helicopter parent" hovering over my child. I desperately want the best for my sons, but I have to allow them to grow by learning.

And again, thank you for your very kind words. I am still trying to think back as to which of my actions might be Corps legend. All I come up with is Recruit Wrap.


So that follow-up email tied the second lieutenant hiccup into a nice, neat parable. Something we can all learn from.

And now a few of the notes, italics--for clarity--are mine, received regarding gunnys...

From a retired colonel who found my Commentary some time back and on occasion offers a thoughtful comment. He, too, has an interesting forum at: http://www.thecolonelscorner.blogspot.com/

"A much too rigid and very sensitive Second Lieutenant G. was given some great leadership advice early on from his first company gunny; MSgt (Master Sergeant) Gerald Lyons, USMC (Ret): "Take yourself too seriously and nobody else will." Words I've lived by ever since..."

From one of my battalion commanders at Parris Island and friend since those days--twenty-six years ago--with a "gunny story"--as of today a day shy of 42 years ago--I'd not heard.

"Andy - My first "Gunny" was our company Gunnery Sergeant in the rifle company I joined in Feb 1969 as a new 0301 2d/Lt rifle platoon commander. Gunny "K" was older than the hills - at least he looked like it to me. As soon as I joined the company, we were helo-lifted into an area called the Arizona Territory just north of An Hoa, west of Da Nang.

On 28 Feb 1969, our company found itself heavily engaged with an NVA (North Vietnamese Army) battalion on three sides of us. As the trailing platoon in a "2 up, 1 back" formation, the rear of my platoon became pinned down in a heavily vegetated village area. After what seemed like an eternity, we were able to extract that part of my platoon into an open area where the company was establishing a defensive perimeter. As I worked my way to the company CP (Command Post) to meet with the company commander, I met Gunny "K" first. We were still heavily engaged, with small arms, automatic weapons and artillery fire everywhere. Standing in front of me was this weathered, cigar-chewing "old man" we lieutenants reverently called "Gunny." More than just a little concerned about how the company was fairing in our on-going battle, I asked the "Gunny" if he thought we were going to make it. He looked at me with a knowing smile, cigar firmly locked in his teeth, and said, "We'll be just fine, lieutenant."

Turns out he was right, but the fighting continued for several more hours into the night, when Cobra gunships and an AC-130 delivered some concentrated firepower within feet of our perimeter, and "convinced" the NVA to disengage.

The "Gunny" rotated a month or so later, and I never saw him again. For the better part of 40 years I wondered what had ever happened to "Gunny K." Happily, we reconnected somehow through the Internet a few years ago. Finally, in August 2010, I traveled to Portland, OR, for a battalion reunion. For the first time in 41 years, I was reunited with "Gunny K," who lived just outside Portland. 1stSgt (Ret) Kennedy was 77 years-old (which made him around 35 when we served together in 1969), sharp as a tack, and a joy to be reunited with. We have since met in Chicago with a larger group of Marines and Corpsmen from our company, and "Gunny" was there as well. He had the opportunity to meet many of those he served with in 1968-1969, whom he'd not seen in more than 41 years, to include our company commander. We plan on getting together in Colorado Springs this June, and "Gunny" has assured us he'll be there!

Walt/Gunny/1stSgt Kennedy was my first "Gunny." And a senior Staff NCO who made a lasting impression on me. He's now my dear friend, but I'll always think of him as "my" Gunny."

And in a follow-on note he offered...

"Andy - Walt Kennedy, 1stSgt, USMC (Ret) was the classic "Company Gunny." He was at least 5-6 years older than anyone else, including the CO (Commanding Officer), and we were in awe of him as "butter bars." He had his 'trash' all in one bag, and none of us ever second guessed him when he told us something. He's going on 78 and, if I live that long, I hope I'm half as lucid as he is. Walt also served in 7th Marines as a 19 year-old in Korea, and has some incredible stories about the Chosin Reservoir."

From a longtime Marine friend who relinquished captain's bars to pursue his dream of being a Navy SEAL; he started as an ensign, became a SEAL, and retired a captain--Navy captain--but will always be a Marine.

"Well shoot...sorry to hear about your pal's passing, as well as Dunc's. I had all Dunc's books back in the day...can't find 'em now though. What a hoot they were.

I'm having fond memories of interactions between 2ndLt P. and Gunny Ray Sanchez (F/2/3--Fox Company, 2nd Battalion/3rd Marines) as I type, as well as Gunny "Mo" Morgan of B Co, 1st RTBn (B Company, 1st Recruit Training Battalion, Parris Island), who prefaced every single statement to me when I was a brand new ASC (Assistant Series Commander) with: "Now loootenant...I know ya' don't know much about recruit trainin', but...". Great days in the Corps."

And finally, from a retired Marine friend who goes by the moniker, "Big Dave," and who on occasion is so inclined to forward Commentaries to his huge Marine-friendly audience.


From Andy Weddington…this week’s missive has a very simple message in it…Get in a jam…ask the Gunny.

We all have gunny’s on our team. For me, I easily had a Battalion (reinforced) of SNCOs (Staff Non-Commissioned Officers) that kept me out of jail during my Marine Corps career. Truly. There was this night in Pohang…with my L 3/5 (Lima Company, 3rd Battalion/5th Marines) sergeants drinking SoJu and I decided I liked a light fixture in one of the establishments…so I took it…kind of removed it from the wall. As Mamason was wearing me out and the Shore Patrol were en route, out from the shadows in the courtyard appeared my company gunny…now retired MSgt (Master Sergeant) Claude Hastin. He had been running counter-intel all night on our op…came up beside me and in his Midwest drawl…'ah, Skipper, we need to go'…and into the shadows we went. Liberty bus back to MCEC (P). The sergeants made good on the light fixture. Me...the SoJu and kimchee had a profound effect on me for the next two days!!!

In the preamble of Andy’s piece he talks about Marine families…One in particular comes to mind for me…My dear friend, (still on duty), and his bride have two great sons…one must be a sergeant by now grunt/recon type and the other a USMC(Reserve) MT (motor transport) type and college student. The boys would conduct night ops coming up the street to climb my orange and lemon trees out at CampPen (Camp Pendleton) in my front yard, when we were out there together. Never caught them…a terrific family of great Marines with a wonderful wife and Mom.

Have a great day all."

And in closing, many a great gunny taught me much along the way--the entire way. The first as a second lieutenant, Gunnery Sergeant Floyd Gladden--now Master Gunnery Sergeant, USMC (Retired)--a Marine through and through. And then there's one of the finest Marines with whom I ever served, Gunnery Sergeant Rich Charette--now CWO5 (bursting bomb "Gunner"), USMC (Retired)--the example any Marine should aspire to be. The distinguished list of other gunnys know who they are--Semper Fidelis, Marines.

Post Script

R. Lee Ermey, of "Full Metal Jacket" and the History Channel's "Mail Call" fame, served as an active duty Marine for eleven years including a two-year tour as a Drill Instructor (1965-67 India Company/3rd Recruit Training Battalion) at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego. In 1968 he served 14 months in Vietnam attached to Marine Wing Support Group 17 and two tours of duty in Okinawa. Injuries led to medical retirement as Staff Sergeant. But, on May 17, 2002, General James L. Jones, USMC (at the time, Commandant of the Marine Corps) promoted Ermey, honorary, to gunnery sergeant.

I was fortunate to meet and chat with Lee Ermey--"Gunny"--about six years ago. As on screen, he's larger than life and an engaging character who looks you in the eye and listens. He gave me one of his "Mail Call" coins--a treasure! Thanks, Gunny, and Semper Fi!

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