Friday, May 29, 2009

Those We Collected

“We had this guy in our unit once; the sort of person who makes you want to go out and strangle a recruiter for letting him into the Marines. None of us had any idea how he stuck past all the psychological screening and interviews. Spend five minutes with him and you want to go out and read a book or something just to feel smart again. Not only was he slow, but he didn’t even have heart to make up for it. He was a liability. To make matters worse, he’d been in the Marines for about twice as long as I had been, held the same rank as me, and still didn’t seem to have any idea what he was doing. Come to think of it, we had a lot of these people. Bozos that slowed us down.

“One dude was really quiet, but that may have been because he either recognized that he had no idea what he was talking about, or because his wife was a great deal larger than him and beat him a lot. It was so bad he called the cops on her once – which has to be the most embarrassing thing in the world. But she was scary, though. Even our platoon sergeant was afraid of her.

“He was one of those guys we called ‘retreads.’ In hindsight, almost ALL of the problematic troops in our unit were retreads. Those are the Marines that do four years and somehow escape with an honorable discharge. Yet then they get out into the real world and quickly discover they can’t hack it, and so they come running back into the Corps. But they’re basically useless to us, too. They were too unmotivated and clueless to hold leadership positions, but because they had the rank for it, they somehow ended up in charge of something – which is unbelievable. They were incapable of formulating a complete sentence, much less being combat leaders.

“So this jackass was out on an anti-tank rocket range one time, and instead of waiting for his a-gunner to clear the backblast, he fired before they gave him the command, and ended up knocking out a bunch of people him. A few, I’ve been told, were medically discharged for permanent, life-altering injuries. Then they sent him to us, which was a waste of our time. A few months later, he fell out of bed and broke his wrist. Yeah, I suppose we could have been disappointed to be down a man, but we were glad that we didn’t have to supervise him in a combat situation. He might have shot us by accident, too.

“There was this other guy who I swear had fetal alcohol syndrome – right down to his facial structure and mannerisms. He was always talking about smoking up and he’d end every sentence by punching you in the shoulder and saying, ‘you know what I’m saying?’ Thing is, we never had any CLUE what he was talking about. He mumbled too much. You’d swear he was drunk, or maybe high.

“We were in Iraq during one tour, and this idiot’s convoy gets hit with small arms and RPGs. Well, he’s so panicked and confused that he empties his machine gun in the OPPOSITE direction – into the desert. Later on, he insisted he heard something over there. I don’t know how he could have heard anything, what with the maevent that when one of my friends asked him about it, he pointed his machine gun at him and threatened to kill him. Naturally, they took it away and shipped him home in short order.

“But when we got back months later, he was still there. And you know what? They’d promoted him to sergeant. God only knows where he is now, but I pray he’s not in charge of anybody. He had no business being in the Corps. Or holding rank.

“There was another guy that used to sneak off all the time while we were on ship, burrow into the trash heap, and sleep away the day. He did it for weeks before anybody noticed he was gone all the time. When they finally found him, his muscles were atrophied, he smelled awful, and he even had open sores festering on his skin – mostly from being hunkered down in garbage all day. They had to supervise him showering for the rest of time we were on ship. Then we went into Iraq and they gave him a gun, which was just awesome.

“Of course, I had the guy in my unit that tried to exorcise one of the other Marines, but I’ve already told that story. He was a real whack job, to say the least. He did other stupid stuff, like lose his gear, not know what to do when we stopped the humvee, etc. He’d just stand there right in front of the missile tube, until somebody yelled at him to do something. Then he’d backtalk and say, “you don’t have to yell at me Corporal.” But we DID have to yell at him.

“We had one kid who I swear believed in werewolves and werejackals. In fact, he told people he’d refuse to go to Iraq until they let him buy a silver dagger to fend them off. He was terrified of the werejackals. He also thought he had a goblin living in his barracks room and stealing all his stuff. Obviously, it was his roommates hiding it from him, but he swore up and down that it was a goblin that followed him from his parents’ home into the Marine Corps and continued to haunt him. I can’t begin to describe how unbelievably retarded this guy was. He did too many weird things. He did a lot of mopping and sweeping for us. That was the only thing he really knew how to do – for five years. They’d sent him to us after he spit in some sergeant’s face. Maybe they sent ALL the dumb people to my unit.

“There was one young Marine who heard a rumor that if he had ten children in the state of North Carolina that they wouldn’t make him pay child support, so he was seriously aiming to have ten illegitimate kids. I think he had about six, last I heard. He’d drive around in a low-riding pickup truck with a turtle-top in the back. The whole thing was spraypainted gold, too. You know what he had in the back of the truck? A mattress; complete with red, satin sheets. You could seriously just walk out to the parking lot and stare at it. The funny thing is that as weird as he was, he was still a good Marine. The rest of them were just morons, though.

“We had other useless members of the unit, but none were quite as awful as these guys. Sure, we had a Marine that used to hide his trash in his wall locker during inspections. Then the locker would crash open during the inspection and spew trash all over the floor. Or the other guy that caught a fungus on his head from not bathing ever (in the states). Or the one who wore his helmet backwards sometimes (by accident). Or the one who lost his rifle on another base and forgot about it for a few hours. But they were all actually decent Marines when it came down to it. It was only the special ones that were detriments.

“I guess what I really want to know is this: with Marines like those in my unit, the wrong-way shooter, the abused husband, the exorcist, and the trash boy; how the hell do they consider us America’s finest? How the hell do they call us the tip of the spear? And how in God’s name have we won any wars at all? Seriously? We’re still better than the other guys? How? We’re chock full of idiots.

Copyright © 2009, Ben Shaw, All Rights Reserved


  1. "The reason the American Army does so well in wartime, is that war is chaos, and the American Army practices it on a daily basis."
    - from a post-war debriefing of a German General

  2. Funny, I was recalling the exorcism story just today. Thanks for telling about more people and what they do.