Reports from the Wife from the San Clemente area of Southern California where they have taken 'shelter' from the fine weather, while those of us stuck in SE PA enjoying the wonders of the snow shovel. She has adopted several other Marines who have no family in the vicinity, them all waiting for block leave to return to their homes. Their first big meal on US Turf was of all things sushi. No matter, that is the thing, you can get what you want not what's in the box (Menu A or B MRE). Another night a different meal with the drinks flowing the stories start to come out. Not all good, but necessary.
The Good Mrs. T did observe something unusual. These young men who have been tied at the hip to each other for the last 8 months do not seem to be in a hurry to get away from one another. In fact, she reports they have gone out of their way to re-connect with each other each day, informally mustering somewhere neutral, a coffee shop or somewhere on base. Even the married men have participated, leaving the wives and joining those men they had lived within that far away hell in Afghanistan. They check on each other during the day using cell phones and texting back and forth.
She thought it slightly odd.
I attempted an explanation, but any discussion is useless without proper foundation. This phenomenon is more akin to the study of physics than human behavior. You see there are both weak forces and strong forces at work here not unlike those inside the nucleus of an atom.
Here we have the Weak Force; the USMC, the Corps itself. Bringing together disparate men from around the country, giving them a common foundation, to a man earning the uniform and the name: United States Marine. Not unlike the TV commercial where they show the pounding out of cold steel into the form of a saber, one of the symbols of the Marine Corps. That is them, our boys, husbands, and brothers.
But it is in the fire hot crucible of the furnace where that saber takes its sharp edge. The same is true of these untested Marines but their crucible is the fire hot furnace of combat. The Strong Force between them is forged when under fire each Marine bonds to the other because well, it's Life or Death. And they all chose to live. In one case, a Marine with his leg on fire from a fragmentation grenade, is pinned down and cannot even put the flames out without risk of getting his head shot off. His buddies rally, stand to draw fire from him and lay down fire at the same time. Another rushes in and puts the fire out, tends to the badly burned leg. In another incident the young Marines are ambushed while carrying in a litter a badly injured comrade, the insurgents springing their trap just as the medivac helo was approaching to land. Their friend's salvation hinging on the speedy flight to surgeons waiting at the field hospital but for the enemy keeping that helo from landing. The Marines respond with such withering fire the trees that the enemy was using for cover caught fire and burned out the few living insurgents, the remaining having died from the hail of lead thrown at them. There would be no more ambushes of medivac flights in this part of Helmand province.
It is from this crucible the bonds form that all of us outsiders see as unusual. It will take more sushi, more rice wine, bourbon and beer and more telling of their stories. That Strong Force that right now tugs men away from their wives and families will diminish. But like the inside of the atom, it will always be there for: Once a Marine Always a Marine.
BT: Jimmy T sends.