I once considered myself a reasonably tough dude. After all, I’ve survived such horrors as the incessant “Women in Combat” briefs, a slew of M. Night Shyamalan movies, and the lifestyle of the American Civilian. I don’t really need to go on, do I?
I didn’t think so.
In my life, I’ve had the opportunity to interact with actual tough guys, the leather-chewing, beer-guzzling, Viking/Spartan/Zulu hybrids of the American combat arms community. I went in to my beloved Marine Corps thinking I was tough, being able to crank out over twenty pull-up, more than a few push-ups, and run faster than Bowe Berghdal.
I was wrong. “A Dime A Dozen” is the phrase than comes to mind to describe myself as I entered the savage world of the Marine Corps Infantryman. I was next to nothing standing beside men for whom pain held no meaning. Ruck marches with massive blisters, patrolling through 120+ degree heat in full kit, laughing about pain. Of course, they were often stone drunk while performing these astounding feats. These were monsters among men, and the nation was not worthy of them.
In the midst of such paragons of awesomeness stands the image of the single toughest man I have ever met. For the life of me, I cannot remember his name, but there he stands regardless of my terrible impact-affected memory.
And here begins the veteran’s version of “Once Upon a Time…”
So there I was, knee-deep in a particularly gut-wrenching school in my beloved Marine Corps, a school well-known for its testicular-twisting terrible times of tenacious pain (Is there a synonym for “pain” that starts with a “T?”) Our mantra, which I was forced to recite while being thrashed for my egregious failures, was as follows;
“Today holds for me only pain, and the promise of more pain.”
Picture a crossfit workout. Now add a 70+lb. ruck, weapons and ammo. Make sure that the instructors actively hunt the students, and failure to remain undetected results in “the promise of more pain.” Now take away food, make it last for almost three months, and add a proverbial crap-ton of weaponized math and rote memorization. That is what this school had to offer. Learning through agony.
A brisk morning threatens to dawn with the mighty Pacific Ocean as its backdrop. In the pre-sunrise darkness, a combination of green and tan military vehicles stand running in the parking lot as the air braces itself for a wonderful day of Marine Corps training. Instructors wait patiently (or not) for the loading of equipment by the students, until one particularly astute NCO yells at the subject of our discussion.
“Hey! Retard! Is that a cast on your arm?”
The center of our lesson today stands 5’5″ and a (not exaggerated) 150 pounds. His feet are shoulder width apart, and his face is cocky, aggressive, and proud. This is a man who likes to fight, and does not care the outcome, so long as he wins. Let’s call him Corporal Mighty Mouse.
On his arm is the offending object, a bright white, brand-new plaster cast that wraps him from knuckles to elbow.
Considering our training for the day consisted of being somewhat less than visible to hostile Sergeants utilizing binoculars, this would appear to be a less than astute tactical move.
“Yes, Sergeant,” Corporal Mouse says in a voice devoid of fear or uncertainty.
After a painful set of seconds meant to continue the story, the Instructor caves in and asks, “Ok, I’ll bite. What in the expletive blanky blank happened?”
“I was at a bar, and some dude was being an expletive blanky blank to a woman. I knocked him out and broke my hand,” was the matter-of-fact response.
“Can you train today?” the irate instructor asked.
“A’ight, then.” Can’t argue with that.
One hour later, Corporal Might Mouse stalked through vegetation, set up his rifle, and fired at the target while remaining unseen. If my shoddy memory serves me correctly, he had put green cammie paint on his bright white cast. Or maybe he had wrapped it in green cloth? Maybe there was a cloak of invisibility involved, or perhaps a Klingon cloaking device. The point is that the man was wearing a bright white surrender flag on his arm, and he was able to become invisible to a trained observer with binoculars.
Young Corporal Mouse hailed from 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion out of Okinawa. This is ironic, considering that Recon Marines specialize in doing bad things to bad people from the water. It must have been impossible for Mouse to swim with those giant, brass balls. Methinks he would just sink to the bottom, then walk wherever he needed to go from there.
The pain of this school progressed until it reached the zenith of agony, the orgasm of misery known at the Patrol Exercise. I’ll spare the finer details, but let’s just say that the rucks of the students weighed around one hundred pounds, in addition to weapons, ammunition, and equipment. The one pleasant point of the Patrol Exercise is that there is little to no food for the entire week. Everyone was ecstatic at the notion of leaving those pesky, heavy MRE’s from the already mountainous packing list, right?
Oh, by the way, the next week was called the Final Exercise, which amounted to the exact same thing.
Two weeks. In a row. Of pain.
Corporal Mighty Mouse, cast on hand, was always in the thick of the action. He was cool, competent, and experienced. He ran, just like the rest of the class, up and down the excruciating hills and valleys with an inhuman amount of weight cutting into his shoulders.
Never a single complaint, and never a discouraging word was heard there in our home on the range.
He passed the course with flying colors, and it wasn’t until three weeks later when we all learned that Corporal Mighty Mouse had broken his hip in the middle of the course. All that rucking for two straight weeks had been on grinding, broken bones.
Where does America find such men?
photo credit: Jose Antonio Hidalgo Jimenez <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/59922587@N03/29096952286″>”LEGO SNIPER”</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>(license)</a>
photo credit: U.S. Department of Defense Current Photos <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/39955793@N07/14503156562″>140623-M-OM885-491</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://www.usa.gov/copyright.shtml”>(license)</a>
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