What did I leave in the Marine Corps that I no longer have? I have plenty of drunken stories, but very few people who have served don’t. I also had those stories before the military, and I know I will have more of them throughout college. What do I wish I could still have now? There are plenty of material things I would like to have, of course, but I can always buy those things. I guess I do know what I miss the most, but I’m not really sure what to call it. It’s trust. It’s camaraderie, but it’s more than that. It is something you have to experience.
One night in Iwakuni, Japan a group of us decided to go to the bowling alley and have a couple drinks. We spent a little while in the bar drinking, shooting pool, and taking “engineer shots” (if you don’t know what those are, you don’t need to know, just know it’s more than simply a shot). As the night wore on, we eventually ended up out on the bowling alley. We had to wait for the league to finish bowling, but then we basically had the place to ourselves because this was a week night and not many people liked to get drunk before 0500 PT.
We started bowling and taking smoke breaks and drinking, then more and more drinking, and more and more smoke breaks, with less and less bowling. Eventually there were three of us left standing at the bowling alley as everyone else had gone home, and we went out to smoke.
As we were standing outside smoking one of us came up with a great idea. I can honestly say this wasn’t my idea, and I don’t remember what we were talking to leading up to this, but we all thought it was a great idea, at the time. We thought it would be fun to take turns punching each other in the face. Just one quick shot for each of us from the other. Well the third guy with us turned out to be the smart one and quickly volunteered to be the camera man, so it was just two of us trading one shot a piece. Well somehow I ended up being the one to get hit first, and I can honestly say I didn’t feel a damn thing. I don’t even remember getting hit. I just remember stumbling and turning around. I then got to throw my punch and of course my drunk and now dizzy ass missed. My buddy that I was supposed to hit quickly pointed out that we said one hit and because I missed mine that was it.
We went back inside and continued drinking like nothing had happened. The next morning, however, I woke up with a very sore and slightly swollen jaw. And every time I took a breath I could feel the air going over my teeth and realized a couple of them were broken. Shit. Now I have to go to PT and then work and figure out a way to explain all this. Well I got through PT more or less fine but then I went into work and of course walking through the door my Staff Sergeant just happened to be walking out, and he immediately saw my puffy jaw. Not an uncommon sight in the military, but the downside to being in an un-deployable wing unit is that the higher ups get bored and nit-pick every little thing they can. Of course he asked me what happened and was prepared to light my ass up and do who knows what to me. Lucky for me my buddy walked up at that exact time and immediately said I got hit in the face with a baseball the day before. As I listened to him tell the quick story about me turning my head to talk to someone when he threw the ball, therefore hitting me in the face, I realized something.
I realized that this was the kind of friend that I could count on to literally have my back in a firefight. This was the kind of relationship that you can only develop with people that you spend day after day with going through all kinds of hell. The kind of friend that you can literally punch each other in the face and turn around and defend that person in the next instant without missing a beat. Even that Staff Sergeant. While he may have been looking to light me up, I also know he was just doing that to make me better. His job was to keep all of us in the best shape we could be in and constantly challenge us to improve ourselves and each other. I don’t know what to call that entire dynamic, but it is something I doubt I will ever experience again.