Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Gunnery Sergeants

I met someone a few weeks ago whose brother is a Gunnery Sergeant in Force Reconnaissance. I was staggered – I’ve never before met anyone (outside of the Corps) with a relative who is (1) a Gunny and (2) in Force Recon. And it turns out he was also a drill instructor. I had a difficult time articulating – even to myself, much less anyone else – why I was so deeply affected. But I was and I am. I think I understand my reaction a little better now.

First, the obvious: The Marine Corps is America’s elite fighting force – warriors whose story will be told for millennia. Force Recon is the elite of the elite – the razor point of a deadly spear. You can go no higher among warriors than this. Navy Seals, Delta Force, and all that are elite, but they (1) are copies of Force Recon and (2) have PR machines cranking away to sell their story to others. Number 1 is a good thing, but there is no honor in #2.

Second, also obvious: There are few Gunnery Sergeants, a rank unique to the Corps. I had two Gunnies. Gunny Evans was beyond words. He had what seemed like supernatural powers – utterly fearless, able to see in the dark, needing no sleep, physically overpowering, and dangerous to everyone. Once at the DMZ I was on the right flank point in a balls-to-the-wall gunfight with an NVA machine gun emplacement when out of the woods to the left of the enemy gun came Gunny Evans, carrying a wounded Marine! How in hell did he get there? The other Gunny I had was Gunny White, who was weapons platoon commander for much of my time with 1/26. Gunny White was loved as much as Gunny Evans was feared. Fearless, squared away, a true warrior, but not dangerous (to us, anyway). Both of these men would have given their lives in a heartbeat for me or any other Marine. Certainly they risked their lives on a regular basis for us – as we did for them.

Third, (I asked myself) what possible difference could it make what someone’s relative does or is? Being a Marine doesn’t just affect the person – it also affects the family. Green skivvy shorts jokes aside, it is not nothing to be a family member in a Marine family – nor easy, I expect. David’s friend Chris is at MCRD, and I sense a change in his mother – a change having to do with pride and fear. Photo: Football player, "It's a war out there on the field." Yeah, I know that's right. This photo from the DMZ, 1966 - nobody was saying, "It's a football game up there on the ridge."

But here is what clarified this for me. This morning at Bible study, one of the men, Rick G., talked about going to the store yesterday evening and being unable to find a parking place. He noticed a lot of preteen and teen girls milling around and he later learned they were waiting for Paris Hilton to show up for a movie event. This from the Dallas Morning News:

“’We love you Paris!’ screamed the tween girls into the cold, dark air outside the Regent Highland Park Village movie theater. Little did they know that it would be nearly another hour before the object of their affection would make their girliest of dreams come true.

That was the scene from the freezing red-carpet premiere of The Hottie & the Nottie, a movie …”

Obviously one wouldn’t expect Highland Park girls to have much of a clue about much of anything, but guess what, they didn’t get that way on their own (and most of them, their freakazoid parents brought them to see Paris Hilton, well-known porn star). We live in a weak, self-indulgent, celebrity worshipping culture that thinks people like Tony Romo, John Wayne, Tom Brokaw, Terrell Owens, Madonna, Paris Hilton, and so on are somehow special, even heroic. Well, they are entertaining, some of them, anyway, but there is no athlete, no entertainer, no celebrity in America worthy of a fraction of the respect due this Gunnery Sergeant – or any other U.S. Marine. So I met someone whose brother is among the bravest of the brave, a warrior among warriors, A Man.

No comments: