Billy The Silly Marine

I think every group of people has one. Whether it’s a committee in an office, a group of construction workers, a ministry team, or in this case, a four-man infantry team, there’s that one guy. He’s simply known as “That Guy.” Who is That Guy? He’s the one about whom you have to say, “Don’t be that guy who picks up that rattlesnake on the rifle range and swings it like a lasso,” or “Don’t be that guy who gets drunk and assaults a stripper in front of a SWAT police officer.” He’s the one who is totally unpredictable, and whose actions typically result in some sort of mental or physical anguish of those around him. If you are in a group of people and cannot identify That Guy, it’s probably you. Hey fella, don’t feel bad! Guess what else goes on with That Guy? Nobody really wants to get rid of him, because life without him would be completely boring!

I was in a team with That Guy. Actually, this team was full of That Guys (Those Guys?), but in a group of men this goofy, one man stood out.

I’ll call him Billy. It rhymes with Philly, his hometown. No, it’s not THIS BILLY, I just prefer to give everyone the same name when I’m trying to protect their real ones.

Billy was silly. Silly Billy. No matter what the situation, I could look at him and find some reason to laugh. No matter how angry he made me, it would take him a matter of seconds to turn my frown upside down. No matter how much I needed to be serious and concentrate on the object on the other end of my rifle, he was next to me making me shake in laughter, causing a rather unstable shooting platform.

Billy made the crappiest deployment ever go by quickly.

How does one describe this kind of man? You can’t. The only way I can describe Billy is to throw out a few snapshots of memories seared into my grey matter.

Writer’s Note: Keep in mind that all of this takes place in Iraq in 2005. In Fallujah.


We’re on a rooftop on a mission to “interdict” guys emplacing roadside bombs (IEDs). It’s nighttime, and it’s my turn to be on watch. I’m scanning the terrain with night vision, trying my best to be all quiet and secret-squirrely, when behind me I heard him. There is a sound of a man scooting over to my position. I hear the buckle of his helmet release, and out of the corner of my eye, I see it lowered to the ground softly. He slowly puts his lips next to my ear, and sensually whispers in his best Eric Cartman voice, “…you will respect mah authoriTAY…” I want to tell him to shut the f*$k up. I want to let him know he needs to be serious. I can’t. I’m laughing too hard.

By the way, this isn’t an isolated incident, but a pattern of behavior.


We’re crossing a main highway while on a daytime patrol. Each member of the team has to navigate the snaggle rat’s nest of concertina wire laid in the middle of the road as a sort of barrier between lanes, and we have to do it with seventy pound packs, full body armor, and more weapons and ammo than the LAPD. 

Since it is during the day, we actually have to stop traffic to cross. That means that there are multiple lines of cars backed up on both sides of this highway, and each car is full of various Iraqi men glaring at us. It’s more tense than a theater full of pre-teens watching “Paranormal Activity.”

Billy is in front of me, weighed down with the usual ammo, food, water, and various weapons. He also has the added weight of the team radio, which combines to make his rucksack weight as much an unarmored Humvee. As I scan the faces and hands of the drivers surrounding us, I can almost feel a disturbance in front of me. I swing my head around just in time to see Billy do a half step in the middle of the concertina wire, attempt to take another step, do the hokey-pokey, then face-skid on the hot asphalt. Mother Physics decided to remind Billy of her presence once again, as his rucksack leaped forward with continued inertia, slammed into the back of his head, and drove his face once again into the blacktop. His crumpled form lay prostrate on the ground, and the only thing moving was the ten foot radio antenna waving mockingly from his pack.

As I fell to my knees in disbelieving laughter, I looked around and realized that the only ones laughing harder than me were the Iraqis in their cars. We were angry U.S. Marines and angry indigenous Iraqis, and Billy had brought all of us together.


A hide site during a mission. It’s cold now, and each man of the team is enjoying the luxury of an urban observation post, which blocks the wind and allows us to retain some semblance of body heat. Billy sits in the corner, barely illuminated by the ambient light of the dying evening. I have my notebook out and am taking notes on the progress of the mission, when I notice That Look on Billy’s face. That Look means that something is going on inside of Billy’s fevered brain.

His head is slightly cocked to the side. His eyes stare blankly at the ceiling, and his jaw gapes open. His brow is furrowed in furious thought. I’m pretty sure drool was escaping his mouth. As I look back down to my notes, knowing that the answer will probably be good, I ask, “What’s up, Billy?”

Startled back into the real world, Billy breaks away from his staring contest with the ceiling to ask this gem,

“Guys, is it true that burps come from gas in your brain?”


Billy looks at our astounded faces and realizes the dumbassery of his question.

“…wait wait, I didn’t mean that, I meant to ask…”

“NO! NO! DON’T EVEN TRY TO DENY IT, DUDE! YOU TOTALLY MEANT TO ASK THAT QUESTION!!!” I almost yelled in triumph at being present for such a moment of greatness.

Billy hides his face in embarrassment as the rest of the team proceeds to verbally destroy his soul for such a stupid question. I furiously write down the date and time of this moment, so that he will never, ever be able to deny it happening.


Another urban observation post. Looking for those dickheads planting those bomb seeds by the side of the road. Again. It’s probably close to two in the morning, and having burned my eyes out with night vision for the past hour, it’s my turn to rotate off of the scope. Billy scoots over to relieve me and settles down behind the desk and chair we have set up behind a loophole in the wall. I love night vision scopes, but after a while of staring through them, it feels like DARPA is standing over me and punching the back of my head with its latest $5,000,000 baseball bat.

I crawl into a corner and curl up in the fetal position, and within seconds the sandman slaps me into an unconscious state.

Suddenly I am awakened by a massive, earth-shattering explosion. Shooting off of the dirty floor, I grab my rifle and hiss,“WHAT WAS THAT?!?!”

The fog in my head clears. I look at Billy, the man behind the scope, and I see him shaking in his trademark laughter, which is usually reminiscent of Santa Clause’s “Ho Ho Ho!” He’s still looking down the scope, so I ask him what he saw.

No response but his stupid Santa laughter.

I ask again.

Still he just chuckles.

Finally he tells me what had happened. He had farted so loud that it pulled me out of a deep REM cycle. His noxious wind woke the dead with enough energy left over to convince me that it was the detonation of a double stacked anti-tank mine.

(Now for a word about Billy’s farts. This will get graphic. I have no idea why, but whereas the gasses of most normal humans sound…one way, Billy’s sounded completely different. It was more akin to a loud, low-pitched sigh than a string of consonants. Yes, I mean to say that his bowel sounds had vowel sounds (see what I did there?), and they were either a loud “Hhhuuuuuuuuh…” or an obnoxious “RRRRAAAAAWR!!” Anyway, back to the story.)

Then the smell hits me as I say goodbye to the “covert” part of our mission. I’m pretty sure he woke up Al Qaeda in Indonesia with that one, loud BRAAAAAAAAAAP! 

You suck, Billy.

Speaking of Billy’s butthole explosions…


We’re attached to 3rd Platoon. We take over a house and set up shop on the top floor, while the rest of the 0311’s harden the position and emplace security.

Hours pass, and the night air turns chilly.

Billy makes an uncomfortable facial expression, and lets us all know that he’s got some rumblies in his tumblies.

“Ok, Billy. Suck it up for the rest of the night.”

More time passes, and inevitably Billy is doubled over in extreme gastric distress. He is in the type of pain usually reserved for impalement victims. After the Corpsman assesses him, the decision is made to evacuate him back to base. Another team member named Ski (there’s always a “Ski” in a platoon, whether it’s Kowalski, Laskowski, Borowski, etc. It’s the one thing that Hollywood gets right in war movies) proceeds to give Billy an IV.

Billy’s mindbrain likes the IV, but unfortunately his stomach has other plans.

Billy projectile vomits so hard that he does a sit-up and rips the IV catheter right out of his vein. This is distressing to all of us, to say the least.

Billy then mumbles something along the lines of “…uh-oh…UH-OH…!!!” and goes from a barely-conscious sitting position to a FULL SPRINT in 0.05 seconds. He reaches the farthest wall, rips his trousers to the ground, and grabs his ankles with the ferocity of an MMA fighter.

With the destructive force of an A-10 (and the sound to match), Billy’s O-ring explodes. There is a mighty (and familiar) BRAAAAAAP, as he force-paints the wall inside the house with what can only be a concentration of shame, evil, and Spicy Penne Pasta. What’s Billy doing as he redesigns the interior decorating of a Middle Eastern house?


Silly Billy is laughing.

The CASEVAC vehicle came shortly afterward and took the whole team back to the base, but I can only imagine the eventual look on the face of that homeowner as he comes home to a wall that has been violated with an inexplicably neon green and brown color.


Billy had many eccentricities, but they went hand-in-hand with the complete mountain of raw talent inherent in his strange body. He had endurance. He had strength. He was able to take a terrible PT thrashing and laugh the entire time. What consistently amazed me were his Hubble Telescope eyeballs. The man could see more with his naked eyes in the dark night than I could with night vision. Once, he sat next to me and stared into the blackness of a Fallujah night, then pointed into space and said, “There’s a cat running around over there.”

I gazed with my bright green-tinted night vision.

“Where?” I asked.

“Right there,” was his only reply.

I found the cat five minutes later.

See, Billy had great eyesight, but his method for talking his buddy onto a target was lacking. He would simply repeat the words, “It’s right there,” until the man on the scope either found it or gave up. Let me illustrate.

“Hey Nate, there’s a dude with a cell phone on that rooftop.”

I gaze at the 90 degree view of rooftops from our position and asked, “Where?”

“Right there,” he says, nodding vaguely in some general direction.

“Ok, talk me on.”

“He’s the tan rooftop next to the building,” was the enigmatic reply.

Guess what. All of the rooftops were tan.

I continue to shift my scope back and forth to find the target.

“Dude, you still can’t see him? He’s right there!”

There was still no hand motion included with this statement.


This continued for the next five minutes, with me at one point facing almost the exact opposite direction of the mysterious cell-phone terrorist. By the time I finally nailed down a sector, then narrowed it down to a direction, then found the man himself, it was evident that he was not a threat.

All that time wasted trying to find a guy who was probably ordering some hobas with dizhazh and extra cheese.


Billy has a scar that runs from the center of his cheek, across his nose, and almost through the inside corner of his eyeball. It’s a great scar, and while the story is awesome, it’s apparently not what Billy had told others. A few years after this deployment, I ran into a Marine who had met Billy. When he described him, he mentioned that scar, and I asked him if he knew how Billy had “obtained” it. Apparently our sweet little Billy felt the need to tell this Marine that he had gotten into a bar fight, and was smashed across the face with a broken beer bottle.

Oh no sir.

The real story is so much better.

We’re about to step off on our last mission of the deployment. I say again, our last mission of the deployment. When I say “about to step off,” I mean that we are going to leave the relative safety of our FOB, and cruise into Apache country in about ten freaking minutes.

With any group of professionals, adjustments to gear and tactics are a continuous process. Each mission brings a new learning point, and based off of these, a team of Marines is able to adjust themselves to reach their peak of efficiency. Our team was no different, and that is why T minus ten found Billy sitting on his rack attempting to saw through the zip ties on his kevlar helmet. Oh yeah, did I mention that he was using his bayonet?

Billy had a set of goggles attached to his helmet in the very real eventuality of a dust storm, but they were awkward and bulky. The weather for the week looked clear, and Billy saw no need to keep this growth attached to his head, so like any reasonable man, he decided to whip out his bayonet and hack the plastic zip ties apart.

Did I mention he was doing it with the sharp edge facing him?

The last zip tie gave up the ghost, and the bayonet blade came flying upward with an audible snap.

The curved edge passed from his cheek, traveled up and to the inside corner of his eye, laying open the flesh down to the bone.

The rest of us heard a sound like “…shank…” and then Billy’s voice say, “…oooooohhhhhh….”

We looked to see Billy’s hand clamped to his eye with blood pouring out from between his fingers. The Corpsman in the room leaped into action, using gauze to turn Billy into the likeness of a returning Civil War soldier.

The picture of the team has us all standing around Billy, laughing, giving the “thumbs up” to the camera.

Seriously, the guy shanked himself in the gourd with a freaking bayonet, and he gives the thumbs-up to the camera.


Other snapshots include;
Billy catching a pigeon with his bare hands, then football punting it in an explosion of feathers and a confused squawk.

Being on the top story of a building, and seeing Billy across the roof, pinching off a loaf into the gutter. A full five seconds later, the wet plop from the bottom story floor told us that the gutters in Iraq do indeed work.

His constant impressions of Andrew Dice Clay, which he had no problem doing during a pre-combat inspection. “Billy, you got your mags full and the crypto loaded?”

“Hey, how about you do me a favor, huh?”

“What, Billy?”

“Lick my balls, huh huh huh!”

Or showing up to a pre-combat inspection wearing a rubber witch Halloween mask.

Or skidding down a slip-n-slide in a combat zone.

Or having me completely convinced for a few years that he used to be a four-time high school state wrestling champion in Pennsylvania.

Or dancing like a marionette from “Team America” in front of the Company Office door.

Or finding an IED at night. Without night vision. 700 yards away.

Yeah, Billy was our special sniper, and we love him dearly. Keep all this in mind when I tell you what he did next.

That man is now a husband and a father.

Congrats on the baby, Billy-boy.


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