by Andy Weddington
Thursday, 02 June 2016
Take your time. Stay away from the easy going. Never take the same way twice. Gunnery Sergeant Charles C. Arndt, USMC (rules for successful reconnaissance, Guadalcanal 1942)
This morning arrived email announcing, as of yesterday, a longtime friend is a retired Marine.
His cake summed it up - a pair of yellow footprints paired with 1982 and an eagle paired with 2016. From recruit to colonel in 34 years. What a career!
I met Dave some 25 years ago. He a new captain and I just promoted to major. Infantryman both.
He was bold. As was I. But the difference being I had figured out to be bold - after thinking.
So one day I made a quick sketch (for Dave) of a Marine that had been stomped upon - flattened (before I'd ever heard of 'Flat Stanley') and captioned it: Think before being squashed!
Through the years Dave told me he kept that sketch in his office where he could see it. And he reminded me of that again not so many months ago. Maybe in some small way it saw him through from captain to colonel.
What I remember of Dave from our time together so many years ago...
1. He had a handwritten note on a sheet of typing paper taped to the wall behind his desk. It read: Dave, thanks for all your help. I couldn't run this gun club without you! Semper Fi, Carl
That would be General Carl Mundy, USMC who was commandant at the time.
Of course General Mundy didn't write the note that was Dave's handy work. But the young Marines didn't know that.
2. Dave was overflowing with energy and confidence. And impatience. He was recently trained in the latest and greatest hand-to-hand fighting techniques called LINE and was ready to teach Marines in the unit. So impressed with the techniques and training he boldly challenged a more senior captain (infantryman and recon type) in the unit to a contest. With rubber bayonets chalked up to register strikes, they fought. When it was over Dave was marked head to toe. Tony did not have so much as dust on him. It was funny!
3. Dave steadily made progress thinking before speaking and acting.
4. Not too many years later he married. A woman. And she a Marine, too. And with that came more tempering and seasoning of Dave.
Dave is one of those guys who qualifies as a character of the Corps. The ranks are full of them. Could there be a Corps without them? No.
Retired now more than a decade I've a few thoughts for my pal...
1. Retired life is not what it's cracked up to be - it's a whole lot better.
2. You are going to miss being around Marines and Sailors.
3. You are going to miss your peers.
4. You are going to miss the spirit, exuberance, and antics of lance corporals - there is not a being on earth like them.
He usually said it during moments of disgust when only sarcasm would do and yet out of great respect for those ferocious World War II Marines.
Marine commanders on Guadalcanal
I've lost track of how many times hearing, "They didn't give out plaques on Guadalcanal!" - it was (in) icing on his cake.
Finally, Dave, to amend Gunnery Sergeant Arndt's opening thought...
Take your time. Enjoy the easy going. Take the same way as often as you like.