Never Volunteer

The summer I was 20, I joined the Marines. I went to Parris Island in late July. It was October, and we were out in the field for exercises at Elliot’s Beach. October is still pretty warm at Parris Island, and we had been marching most of the day. Full packs, helmets, rifles, canteens, etc.

We stopped in the general vicinity of where we would be digging in for the night, and the Drill Instructor called us into a formation. He walked along the front squad and bellowed, “I want a Boy Scout.”

No one moved. “I want a gawdamm BOY SCOUT, Ladies!

No one moved. We had learned. Whatever this was, it could not be good. “Alright ladies, here it is. I know some of you scum sucking no loads were fucking up the Boy Scouts before you got the orders from the Kremlin to come fuck up my Marine Corps. Now, one of you step out now, or I will PT your ass until midnight!”

I stepped out. Whatever it was, I had been a Boy Scout, and we had all done enough PT for one day. He looked at me and shook his head, “I shoulda known. Alright, here.” He handed me a matchbook out of a C-ration. “Build me a fire, and don’t fuck it up.”

“What are the rest of you no loads gawking at? Gather wood!”

I had 70 hard charging members of 3rd Battalion bringing me everything up to and including trees. I grabbed a couple of guys out of my squad and got them breaking stuff in usable size. It was dry. Had been dry for weeks. Lots of dead wood and building the fire was no problem. When I opened the matchbook, I saw exactly what I expected to see, 2 matches. I had a flashback to that first cooking fire, smiled a little, and struck a match.

The fire lit easily, and in just a few minutes it was being fed branches about the size of my wrist. Piles of wood in 2 to 3 foot lengths were stacked nearby. A small mountain of wood had been gathered. I heard, “Alright, gawdammit. That’s enough. Get the fuck away from from my fire!” Everyone instantly headed back toward where our gear was staged. I got up without looking back and headed over toward the squad when he called me back, “Where’s my matchbook, Boy Scout?” I handed over the matchbook. He opened it, saw the remaining match, stuck it in his pocket, and said the words I wanted to hear, “Get the fuck away from me!”. I had survived volunteering without getting PTed, and that was all the victory I was going to get.

Being ready is not what matters. What matters is winning after you get there.
–LtGen Victor H. Krulak, USMC

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