There comes a time in every person’s life when the thought of running away from the things that are causing them the greatest amount of stress crosses their mind with a great intensity. Many Marines wistfully speak of the day when they will say, “Fuck this silly shit,” put down their pack, and walk away; never to be Devil Dogged, Hey Marined, or Hard-Chargered for the peaceful remainder of their remaining years. Unfortunately, this is not as easy as it sounds. Recruiters, Drill Instructors, and other…ahem…motivated individuals will often explain to Marines, mainly through high-volume, intense oral communication methods, that one cannot simply walk out on their Corps. They will throw words like “deserter,” and “traitor” around with an aggressive ferocity normally reserved for the men they are trained to kill (or American football fanatics…yeesh). In their eyes, walking away from the Marine Corps is as bad as sending the enemy a text that says, “like omfg u guyz, unit is totes 3 klicks west lmmfao XD #allahackbar” while urinating on a Medal of Honor recipient’s corpse. Walking away is kind of a big deal. There are fines to think about, possible jail time, harassment from local law enforcement and military communities, and a whole mess of other garbage no one wants to deal with, so most of us take it on the chin like a true bitch and put up with the dangerous nonsense until our contracts run out. There are some, however, who do not put up with bullshit and do exactly what so many of us have thought so much about: They walk away.
My first experience with someone ditching the Corps was, of course, at boot camp. They had warned us since we stepped into that white van* that smelled like dick sweat that if we tried to run, we would not make it. The San Diego police were always on patrol around MCRD looking for escaped recruits. Allegedly. Supposedly. Okay, looking back, believing that the SDPD would have the time/manpower/funds to specifically patrol for wayward Marine recruits seems pretty stupid. Whatever, recruits are dumb, they believe everything. This alleged, semper-vigilant populace was sometimes the only thing standing between many recruits and sweet, sweet freedom. It didn’t always work.
When my platoon made it up to Edson Range, we soon found out why team week away from the officers was a bad thing. Our Vampires (guys that worked the chow hall before breakfast hours) were supposed to be day sleepers, but they were IT’d instead. All day long. Before the second day was through, the had changed from Vampires to Zombies. By the fourth day, one of them had had enough.
The recruit waited until the DI** was asleep, changed into his green sweatpants and sweatshirt with “1055” stenciled in shoe polish, packed his plastic camouflage gym bag, and made his way towards the highway. An SUV quickly pulled over and gave him a lift…right back to the main gates of Pendleton where he was snatched up by PMO. We never saw him again. They told us he was being kicked out and would be fined and probably jailed and yada yada bullshit lie yada. Some guys do get away though. I have never met one, but they do exist, apparently. Regardless of their threats and lies, we heard from an MRP recruit that he was in SEPS platoon and was going home with an Entry Level Separation. He escaped but was captured, tagged, and freed.
My second run-in with a runner was on Okinawa. I was working on an engine rebuild when out of nowhere two PMO walk by escorting the whitest and skinniest dude I have ever seen. He was wearing PT gear, handcuffs, and a shit-eating grin, and by that I mean his teeth were literally doo-doo brown. The PT gear was a necessity as he had sold all of his uniform items and was required to report in wearing something devil-doggish at the very least. I mean, come on, you can’t just show up to meet your new CO and not look fabulous amirite? He did have some pretty nice shower shoes, though, I have to admit. They were the kind sailors buy, you know, the ones with super thick soles that (hopefully) keep your toesies out of the pissy-semenfest they call a shower on ship? Yeah, those. After an awkward introduction at the barracks, I learned that he had gone UA right after his MOS school. For six months.
By the time he had graduated Motor T Operator school, he was already bored with the whole “Marine thing.” He had seen the shoddy leadership, deficient training methods, and all around garbage for what they were and decided that going home was a better expenditure of his time and efforts. A few weeks after he was supposed to be on Oki, a local law enforcement representative appeared at his door to warrant him up, but his father agreed to forget his whereabouts until the officer gave up and left. He did not come back. For the next six months, he continued on with his life as if the Corps never happened. Then, one day, he got bored. He had been arrested several times since he went UA but his warrant never showed up on the local blotters. The last time he got himself locked up, he admitted to being a Runaway Marine. They did not at first believe him until he phoned his very pissed off recruiter who confirmed he was in fact missing. He said the Chasers (guys who transport detained people) were actually pretty cool and didn’t really care as long as he didn’t try to run and kept his mouth shut (I am still not sure if they were appalled more by his grammar or rotting teeth).
Several weeks later he found himself stuck on an island in Japan in a company full of people that didn’t like him from day one. My command hated him because he went UA, was a filthy dirtbag, drank underage, looked terrible in uniform, and gave absolutely zero fucks about Marine shit. The thing they hated about him most was his ability to run a <16:30 3-mile without breaking a sweat or being out of breath. THAT shit pissed them off like nothing else could. Nothing says “Fuck You” to a group of senior Marines like shitting all over their PFT scores like it’s nothing.
The thing that I thought was so weird about him was that eventually he became the Company Pet. Although I’m sure he was barred from reenlistment, after a while they seemed to treat him with a lot of respect for a guy that they so often verbally berated for being a quitter.
*I didn’t take the bus, but that story is for another time.
**We had only one DI for three weeks straight, but that story is also for another time.
Note from S: Sorry about taking so long to publish your article AAVPOG