Like many a soon-to-be-separating Devil Dogs, in the early winter of 2005 I was all too ready to shed my green, amphibian skin and horrible indentured servitude. The transition assistance classes required by the Corps for all separating Marines were thorough enough, and I had a coverletter/resume/thanksbiatchletter combination that looked pretty damned professional. My final physical was cleared, noting my exposure to CS and asbestos, a fucked up knee, and some hearing loss. My terminal leave was approved and worked out so that I could pick up my walking papers at 0830 on my motherfucking birthday. It was the most content I had been in…well, years. The sad part about that sentence is the fact that I had to use the word “content” because I was normally in a state mentally in which I hated almost every second of my life. At the time, I never realized how goddamned awful it was to fully accept being treated like a stupid, useless child, and for no reason other than it had been pounded into my brain for the past few years that it was acceptable to treat people that way because if they were “below” you, they deserved it.
My transition was not a smooth one. I was so eager to get away from the terrible people at my local USMC Rape Dungeon that I failed to realize how unhealthy my state of mind had become and and why it became that way.
Truth be told, I was fairly moto for my first year and a half. I was that dumb ass boot wearing Oorah gear and rocking the horse shoe. Boot camp, MCT, and MOS school took up most of that year, and being surrounded by a constant stream of other boots and ridiculously motivated SNCO’s did not help that at all. It was a while after I got to Okinawa that I realized the Marine Corps wasn’t nearly as awesome as it was made out to be. A month of cold showers and six months of opening my door with an ID/credit card (or stiff envelope for fuck’s sake) due to horribly negligent BEQ management, watching my best friends and the hardest working Marines get harassed and put on duty for petty disagreements, and all of the other constant bullshit cured my motardity. My NCO’s noticed this, but instead of asking why I was no longer sounding off as loudly or being motivated in general, they would fail me on field day, attempt to take credit for my work at the shop, short count my pullups at unofficial PFT’s, and look for reasons to either publicly chew me out or humiliate me. I accepted it as “tough love” for a long time, but after a while it got really old and insulting, humiliating even. Eventually I started thinking really stupid, shitty things about myself like, “damn, maybe they’re right, maybe I’m just a reject who really should kill himself. I really am worth more dead than alive like he keeps saying. I don’t think SGLI pays out for suicides and everyone would just hate me more because they’d have to go to a bunch of safety briefs and shit, better not, don’t want to be a buddy fucker.” I would often have to listen to shit for my appallingly long 22-minute run time even though I always kept a 1st class PFT. The stream of “you’re a piece of shit” type of insults was constant and endless towards my coworkers and myself by our superiors simply because we had different MOS’s; us being AAV mechanics and them being LAV mechanics who considered themselves grunts because the guys that drive the vehicle they work on have “03” in their MOS. Public humiliation was their personal favorite, as well as discrete assaults to the abdomen, back, and thighs with fists, feet, and tools. My section kept the highest turnover rate in the shop because we always stayed late, came in early, and missed chow to get it done. This was mainly due to us hating our NCO’s so viciously that we would do anything to get away from them, even for an hour. At times it felt like we were in the first half of the movie Sleepers, but with less rape. We never got our “inmates obliterate guards during epic football game” though. In the Marines, you almost never do. It was bad enough that most of us would gladly volunteer for duty and working parties just to relax. Eventually I just wanted to fade into the crowd or become invisible just so that I could do my job in peace without having to worry about what kind of random, pointless rectum-rapery was going to occur next.
Dealing with the bullshit day in and day out eventually began to take its toll on my mental state, and like many Marines before me, I attempted to solve my problems by numbing myself with alcohol. It wasn’t difficult, booze is everywhere and it seemed like everyone was doing the exact same thing. Alcoholism is so common in the Marine Corps that it is not treated as a sickness, it is looked at as just another part of being a Marine. At the time, it didn’t seem so unhealthy because being a drunk meant always having friendly-ish people around and not feeling like an outcast.
Severe depression and alcoholism pretty much ran my life by the end of my first year on the Rock, although I had no idea how bad it really was getting. Instead of becoming an aggressive dickbag, I slowly dropped all cares outside of work and focused on the job at hand because nothing else seemed to matter. I ended up getting really good at my job, and our Gunny noticed this, eventually deciding to pull every string he could to get me accepted into an advanced MOS course near Pendleton.
While in California for that course, my drinking had all but stopped. The school environment was strict on procedures but relaxed on bullshit formalities and they played zero games because the class consisted of a Staff Sergeant, two Sergeants, two Corporals, a Brazilian Lieutenant and Staff Sergeant, and my lowly, boot Lance Corporal ass. I studied, PT’ed, and read every book I could get my hands on because I was isolated as the only non-rate student. Some of those books changed the way I perceived the world around me and I ended up deciding to change my religion to one that mirrored my system of beliefs about man and life and that brought hope and motivation back into my life. The school command did not care, and looked at it as a Marine expressing his religious freedom, and if it helped him stop drinking and get motivated, all the better.
Okinawa was different, with Warrant Officers, SNCO’s, NCO’s, and other non-rates randomly picking fights, but they almost always lost. One of our less-enlightened officers decided to order me to disrobe in front of several other Marines so that he could see one of my tattoos. Having your Platoon Commander force you to strip your upper half in an office full of people is a bit humiliating, especially if while doing this he is insulting you by telling you how worthless of a human being you are and how badly you are failing is Corps and how you are a disgrace to the uniform and do not deserve the title “Marine” because of your religion. Events like that are what brought back everything I hated about life and demotivated me until I began drinking again, and much more heavily. I could not stand the fact that regardless of how many positive changes I had made in myself, my superiors’ treatment of me worsened with every step.
They knew I had stopped drinking, so they put me on duty more often, telling me “its not like you have anything better to do, you don’t drink” until I started drinking again so they couldn’t use that excuse. They knew I had graduated an advanced course for my MOS that non-rates do not get to attend, so they put me in charge of paperwork so that I could not do the job I had been trained to do and was still liable for anything that went wrong because I was the “Duty Expert.” They found out I changed my religion so they began harassing me about it constantly, making disrespectful remarks and jokes, refusing to respect my beliefs, and telling me that it was “unauthorized” while filling out charge sheets that would ultimately be torn up and thrown out by someone with common sense.
I became disillusioned with everything motivating and began to see the world as a dark place full of awful people who were only out to hurt others. Alcohol only fueled this further until I hated Marines, I hated life, and I wanted to be done with it all as soon as possible. When my second year on Okinawa was up, I went to Twentynine Palms with a severe alcohol problem and a death wish.
The Stumps was different. It was a combat unit and most of the guys had deployed at least once, so it was way more relaxed on the petty bullshit because everyone was concerned with getting work done and being left alone. Being an all AAV unit also helped, as there was very little “my MOS is better’n yer MOS” rivalry/stupidity to get in the way. The alcoholism, however, was much, much worse, with almost every night being full of drunken shenanigans both hilarious and tragic. I kept to myself mostly; I only knew one guy and he was a Lance from my unit on Oki, but you know, fraternization. That part about it being a combat unit with a bunch of guys that had deployed? Yeah, that was kind of important if you weren’t paying attention. Being a Corporal from an ultra-pog GSM shop was like…shit…let’s just say that a tiny part of me totally feels for Amos and Rodney Dangerfield. Absolutely no respect. Before I had finished checking in, they already had me a spot reserved as the Tool Room NCO because I had “no experience”…even though I had been through an AAV course only one of our SNCO’s had been to, and that was years before. When the company left for Okinawa, I stood so much duty they should have given me a secondary MOS of 1369 Permanent DNCO (they didn’t). Our Rear Party CO was a douche bag Lieutenant whose head was so far up his ass his shoulders were shit-stained and he overreacted to every incident by locking us down so tightly we had to log Marines in and out of the lounge and laundry rooms. I stood barracks duty so often it interrupted my “social” life enough to actually force me to quit drinking because I never had eight hours between work or duty. Yes, I could have sneakeded a few, but by that point I was so goddamned paranoid and nervous all the time that I assumed that I would be caught and fucked right down to Private on the spot. I didn’t care about losing drinking buddies, by then all we had were boots and guys getting out, so nobody associated with each other. Even our boots ended up hanging out with tanker boots and Comm school kiddies more than guys in their own unit.
When the Company returned, things loosened up but I had to deal with way more SNCO’s and NCO’s talking down to me because I decided to not reenlist. Trying to explain to them, “I am a terrible Marine, the spot should be saved for someone better” was like trying to teach calculus to a Buick; it ain’t fuckin’ happenin’ son. What is worse is that instead of listening to the reasoning of a Marine who is obviously depressed, they would angrily describe the horrible lives of anyone who was stupid enough to get out. “Out in January, homeless in February, and wanting back in my Corps in March!” My Platoon Commander was so insulted by my refusal to reenlist that he took a special interest in making my life hell. After my final physical, instead of hitting the gym or being OFP, he wanted me to run with the unit, which I was cool with. A month before my terminal leave date, my knee is swollen to the point where it was visible in cammies and I was getting sharp pains in my back, ribs and neck that came with migraines, and I was having trouble even walking to work. Medical did an X-ray and couldn’t find anything broken, so the CWO assumed I was a malingerer and started berating me in formations, especially during PT when I would fall out of runs due to the pain of my right knee being twice the size of my left and headaches so intense I would puke. Another trip to BAS revealed a bunch of inflamed tendons and a lack of cartilage, which was apparently what was causing that funny grinding noise whenever I bent my knees. When migraines and numb spots in my back were mentioned, shit got real. Medical records had to be found, final physicals had to be voided and re…um…physicalled. This does not look good on a command, and of course it was explained to me by mine that it was all my fault because Marine Corps, rah?
I left the Corps with migraines, back pain, shitty knees and hips, and a desperate need for real medical attention for depression and anxiety. It took me around seven years to think seriously about getting help because I was so sick I believed I didn’t deserve to be helped. Like many others, I have ruined relationships with friends, family, and women by pushing everyone away when they tried to give me a hand, all due to sadistic Marines and their sick desire to humiliate someone under them for not conforming.
But I’m not bitter.
Next Time: Assaulting the Civilian World