Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Gunny

We were sent out west once near the Syrian border to attach to a Marine unit doing a big sweep operation through some relatively hostile towns out there. We’d been attached to Marines before, so we knew the drill. They’re sort of strange, and they seem to be in a contest to see whose unit is more miserable. I think some of the went out of their way to make things suck as much as possible. I’d already briefed my guys. This is just want they do. Let them be. They were good guys, but they were nuts.

It was a long convoy, so we didn’t arrive until well after midnight, and it was winter, so we asked around to see about getting some cots or something.

We finally talked to one Marine who told us he’d have to wake up Gunny. “Wait, don’t do that. We’ll just sleep on the ground or something.” No, he said. He’d ask Gunny what to do about it.

A moment later, this burly, barefoot man stalks out and crosses his arms. He was wearing those little green silky shorts that Marines wear.

“Who are you?” he spits.

“Gunny, we’re the psyops team that’s attached to you guys for a couple weeks. The four of us were looking to find some cots or something to sleep on for the night.”

“Come with me,” he grunts, and storms out the door into the night – still barefoot. It was winter, mind you. He walks across the lot to a trailer they’d converted into a bunk house and steps in, and starts kicking racks.

“You and you. Get up.” A Marine groggily mumbled a “what” and Gunny barked a reply. “Get the hell out of here. Now!” Marines start grabbing sleeping bags and stumbling out into the cold.

“Gunny, they’re going to kill us in the morning.”

“No they won’t. They’ll be fine. I’ll see you in the morning.” And he left.

We were out doing an op with them one day, and before long they had a small foot patrol pinned down in the city. A whole lot of us were already outside the wire, so we just diverted from our missions and rushed over there to put more firepower into the fight.

As my humvee crested a hill on the edge of town, we looked down into the city and saw a mosque with a bunch of insurgents firing out of windows and over the courtyard walls. Not far away, there was a small group of Marines huddled behind a low wall trying to return fire. They looked badly outgunned.

As we’re halted up there for a moment, I saw the concussion blast of a grenade right next to the Marines, and then I saw a body fly through the air. One of the Marine officers in a nearby truck recognized the guy, too. It was Gunny – an old friend of his. “Shit! Gunny’s been hit!” he yelled, and he threw open the door of his humvee and hauled ass down the hill towards the firefight.

Completely ignoring that there’s a firefight going on, he runs out there into the middle of everything, hauls Gunny to his feet, grabs his hand, and starts running up the hill with him. Gunny ran with him, keeping his injured hand above his head, blood streaming down to his elbow. When I saw that he was injured, I started calling around on the radio looking for a Corpsman [Navy medic attached to a Marine unit], since I knew he’d need some sort of medical attention. I was still on the radio when they ran up.

When they stopped next to the truck, out of breath, Gunny sharply snatches his hand back from the Marine officer and looks at him squarely. “You know how goddam gay that looks?”

That man was a Marine’s Marine, and tough as hell. He’s just been yanked out of a firefight, bleeding profusely, and all he’s worried about is looking gay. That guy was awesome.

Copyright © 2009, Ben Shaw, All Rights Reserved


  1. You got to keep your priorties straight!
    Particularly, if you want absolute obedience and respect from your men.

  2. I wonder if there is a Segway in this Marines future.

  3. Sarah, if there is a Segway in this Gunny's future, no one will laugh.