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My Book Link

With the issues going on in our country today regarding race, I wanted to share an excerpt from my book with you. The way we feel about people of other races is a learned behavior. Sometimes we have to unlearn what we have been taught. This is from the chapter titled…Dark Green/Light Green.

I was 17 years old when I boarded the bus in Montgomery, AL. The destination… Parris Island South Carolina, home of Marine Corps boot camp. It would be the toughest thing I had ever done (or will ever do) in my life. I’d seen the commercials and heard the stories. Thirteen weeks of the toughest basic training in any military branch. I was extremely doubtful that this was something that I could accomplish.

Parris Island is located near Beaufort at the southern part of South Carolina. It truly is an island surrounded by water. There is only one way on the island and one way off. It is known for its hot summers accompanied by “sand fleas”. These are nasty little fleas whose bite felt like a sharp needle pricking your skin. I would soon learn that you had better not “swat” a sand flea while standing at attention. This discipline would serve me well later in life on many occasions.

I was still a kid and I was terrified. What had I gotten myself into? If I could change my mind and go back home to Pensacola, I would have. But it was too late. I was on the bus surrounded by others (black & white) who probably felt the exact same way. But I still felt very alone. Most were older than I was. My mother and father had to sign a waiver in order for me to join the marines. I had never been away from home for more than a few nights before. I did not know what to expect, but I imagined the worst. The recruiter told me that it would not be as bad as I thought it would be. All I had to do was to listen and do what I was told. Those instructions never served me well in school so I was a bit worried about the success I would have.

I took a seat near the rear of the bus and sat quietly alone making small talk with the black guy sitting in the seat in front of me. It was nightfall by the time we left Alabama. We were all tired from going through processing all day long. It was a day filled with physicals, shots, examinations, long lines and lots and lots of paperwork to sign, followed by an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States of America.

It was very cold on the bus. The windows were dripping with condensation from the air conditioner as I stared outside at the passing buildings and cars in the dark. It was an uncomfortable ride and all I could think about were my friends and family whom I had left behind. As nervous as I was, I still managed to fall asleep on the bus because it was extremely quiet. No one was really talking and this was definitely not a field trip. All I heard was the humming of the engine as we drove up the highway. This was to be a six hour trip.

I was finally awakened by the sound of the airbrakes when the bus came to a stop. We had arrived. We were at the front gates of Parris Island. As I looked out the window I saw men dressed in camouflage carrying rifles. They looked menacing and not to be messed with. As the driver got permission to drive through, others on the bus began to wake up as well. I remember looking at my watch. It was 3am in the morning (this would soon be referred to as 0300). The driver went a little further on to the base, making a few turns and finally came to rest outside of a building. Because of the hour there were no other vehicles or people moving about.

He turned on the lights and opened the door to the bus. Immediately a large male figure got on the bus and began walking briskly up the aisle to the rear. He was a black man, dressed in green slacks and a khaki short sleeved shirt. The slacks had a sharp crease down the front that went from the top of his thigh to the bridge of his shined black shoes. His shoes shined so brightly that they looked like black glass. His shirt was pressed with no wrinkles in sight and fit snug around his small waist with no overlap. He had two creases from top to bottom in the front of the shirt and three creases centered from top to bottom in the back. His sleeves were pressed so sharply that it appeared that you could cut your fingers if you slid them along the crease. He wore a large green belt around his waist with a big shiny square gold buckle. On his head sat a huge green hat (referred to as a Smokey) with (4) dimples, (2 in the front, 2 in the rear). The bridge of his Smokey slanted forward slightly so you could barely see his eyes. Surely this was a drill sergeant I thought (I would soon discover that “Drill Instructor” would be the proper terminology.) He did not smile or make eye contact with any of us as he walked to the rear of the bus not saying a word. When he reached the rear of the bus, he turned around sharply, spread his feet shoulder width apart and locked both hands together in the small of his back (I would soon know this position very well as parade rest.) We all stared at him waiting to see his next move…but he didn’t move as his eyes were fixed straight ahead.

Then a second drill instructor boarded the bus. This was a white man. He began talking with the bus driver. I could not hear the conversation from where I was sitting. They talked for a few seconds and exchanged pleasantries as he smiled at the bus driver and shook his hand. He then turned to all of us and said in a clear, calm and rather nice voice, “Ok, when I tell you to, I want you all to get up, grab your gear, file out in a single file line in a calm manner and stand on the yellow footprints on the concrete outside.” I remember thinking to myself, “Maybe this won’t be so bad after all.” He then said, “Ready….Go!” As soon as he said go, all hell broke loose. The drill instructor in the rear of the bus came alive and began screaming at us in a loud commanding voice to hurry up and get off the bus. He was about two inches from our face. You could feel his hot breath on the back of your neck if you didn’t move fast enough and your eardrums vibrated as he yelled his commands in a deep booming voice. We were dropping our things, slamming into each other and falling in the aisle as we all tried our best to get off the bus as quickly as possible.

Once we managed to get off the bus we were immediately met by 5 or 6 more drill instructors just waiting for us. They were all yelling commands to us as well. “Don’t eyeball me,” (don’t look at me). “Jodie’s got your girl and gone” (no need to think about your girlfriend because she’s not thinking about you). Sometimes (2) drill instructors yelling at me at the exact same time giving me different orders. One yelling, “Pick it up,” while the other is yelling, “Put it down.” At the time, it seemed like total chaos. In the midst of it all, I left my wallet in my seat on the bus. I was not looking forward to having to tell the drill instructor this. When I was asked for my identification, I replied that it was still on the bus. When asked why I left it on the bus, I said, “The black man was yelling and I”….Before I could finish my statement, a white drill instructor got in my face and yelled these words that changed my life forever….”This is the Marine Corps. There is No Black or White. We are ALL Green. You are either Dark Green or Light Green.”….

Over the next 13 weeks and my time in the Corps I understood what that meant. The color of our skin may have been different but we were all the same… as one. If we can grab hold of this concept in today’s society, we would all be better off. God created each and every one of us. Every shade… every creed… every color. The creator of the universe doesn't make mistakes. We should celebrate our differences but never lose sight of the fact that we are all the same… as one. God Bless America and God bless the United States Marine Corps.

“Ooh Rah!”

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