Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Part two...

This is part two to "Don't count your chickens"

She then called the reserve P-3 squadron at Willow Grove to tell the Navy that her loving husband was dead, and to find out who she needed to send the death certificates so she could collect his service group life insurance and social security benefits for the baby about to arrive in a few months. The duty officer answered the phone and said, “Ma’am, I’ve been here four years, and your husbands name doesn’t ring a bell. Why don’t you try our sister squadron next door; they might be able to help you.” He transferred her to the Admin Officer next door who said, “Bob who”??? He says, “Sorry, never heard of him and I deal with all the members of this Squadron.” She really began to freak out now. “Well, he flew up there to drill once a month for the past four years we while we were married, and he also flew to Key West a lot with you all for his two-week Annual Training each summer.” Her words were starting to babble now as she wondered why her world was crashing around her. The Admin Officer took pity on her and offered to do some research on her behalf. Armed with his social security number and date of birth, he started to scour the naval records in DC.

A few phone calls on his part about the mysterious Naval Commander named “Bob” revealed some interesting facts. It turned out that ole’ Bob was never a pilot in the Navy, nor was he ever an officer. Turned out that Bob was indeed in the Navy during the Vietnam War during the early 70’s aboard the U.S.S. Oriskney, a small aircraft carrier where he was a crew chief in the SPAD squadron, and when he returned to the states, he was honorably discharged from the service. I guess that he built himself a bio from talking to the pilots he worked for. I mean this guy knew the names of the Squadrons he was in, the flights he took, the tail numbers, he knew it all.
Then she learned that he wrote his parents, and told them that he had been accepted into the NavCad program and offered a slot in flight school down in Pensacola. He disappeared for “training” and would, from time to time, show up to visit his folks in uniform. Over the years, he promoted himself on schedule and had a closet full of Naval Officer uniforms by the time he married ole Elizabeth. His own family never knew the truth about him. For all those years, he pretended to be someone else. He sure had me fooled, for he knew things that only a guy who served would know. No wonder, he wasn’t able to apply to the airlines, all of his combat flight time was nothing more then a bunch of fluff and stuff.

Again, that night, I heard it all. She cried on Teddy’s shoulder, for there was no insurance money, no military money, a baby on the way, her dead husband was a fraud, and now she wondered where he disappeared to when he was away flying for the Navy! It opened more mysteries then it solved. Could he have switched another body in the jeep that night? Did they kill him off and he knew something was amiss and set her up? Was this his idea of revenge? I’m not sure, but I think I heard a distant voice laughing that night from the grave as he rolled over knowing he had the last laugh. See, sometimes, the truth is stranger then fiction.
Semper Fi,

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Don't count your chickens...

Sometimes, the truth is stranger then fiction. I think this post should be sent to “Cold Case Files,” but I’ll leave it up to you, the readers out there in Cyberland to determine who did what to whom.

When I lived in New Bern, North Cackalacky, back in the mid-nineties, I was renting the most awesome house directly across the street from the New Bern Airport also located on a beautiful fresh water lake. At that airport, within sight of my house, is where I kept my 1967 Cherokee 140, a small white and blue low wing four-seater aircraft with a mighty 150 HP engine. I used to walk to the “F.B.O.”(fixed based operator), where I met this older guy, Bob (name changed), wearing a Navy flight jacket with patches all over it. We Marines like to say that the Navy guys put patches all over their jackets so that they can remember where they were when they parked their aircraft carriers. Bob told me he flew during Vietnam in the mighty SPAD, a prop plane that dropped many a bomb on the bad guys. After hearing a couple of his stories, I was addicted to drinking coffee and listening to Bob talk about the near miss he had off a bombing run in the Qui Trang area when his SPAD took small arm hits all over. With his experience, you would have thought he would fly for one of the commercial airlines, but, no, he was now flying cancelled bank checks in a Piper Navajo at night for some fly-by-night outfit out of New Bern. I thought it strange since he said he was a Naval Reserve Commander for a P-3 unit in Willow Grove, Pennsylvania. Old Bob was married to a VERY young gal he met while taking graduate courses at a local college. It was a very odd relationship, but one that seemed to work, or so I thought.

Now, there were a couple of young flight instructors at the airport who graduated from the prestigious Emery Riddle Flight school in Daytona Florida, where it costs $100,000 to get all the ratings, and then the pilot spends the next twenty years paying off the school loans incurred as they pump gas, and fly in the mighty Cessna 150 that was held together with bailing wire and chewing gum. They were all trying to build up time to eventually one day become commercial airline pilots. A couple of these guys come into play later.

Due to the nature of the Marine Corps, my roommate was leaving in a month for Okinawa, Japan, for a fast back fill there (urgent replacement). I needed a roommate Riki Tic, so I put feelers out, and found myself in a bit of a rush to replace my friend for I would lose this awesome house on the lake if I didn’t find one soon. We are talking about the best bachelors pad in the world! Two guys who pumped gas at the airport lived in a trailer at the back of the airport with ten other flight instructors. They were available to move into my house with me thus saving me from having to find a new place to live. This turned out to be a bad decision and one of the worst of my life.

One guy, “Ted,” was from New Jersey and reminded me of Ralph Macciho from the Karate kid. He was of Italian descent with dark hair that was my same age. The other was “Beal,” a lazy piece of crap who always had a dip in his mouth, and was a real “couch potato.”
I came to the stark realization that this arrangement was a mistake when Ted showed up at my house with a girl in her mid-twenties named “Elizabeth.” She liked to smoke lots of cigarettes, and if that wasn’t bad enough, she was the wife of the Ex-Navy pilot named Bob from the FBO at the airport. I learned that Bob, a man in his fifties married a girl thirty years his junior, had asked Teddy to take his wife out for an occasional movie and dinner while he was out flying. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that these two would hook up, and have an affair behind Bob’s back. They started dating and before long, Elizabeth and Bob were separated.

Now, here starts the wild ride. Bob, who had never had kids, asked Elizabeth if she would have his child. The deal was, he would pay for her to fly to New York, and get artificially inseminated by a doctor buddy there. The other stipulations in their agreement included his taking out a million-dollar life insurance policy for himself, and that he also set up a trust fund for the baby. The weird part is that she agreed to do this, while dating Ted, and separated from Bob. She goes off and presto, the baby takes in her misguided womb and she is now pregnant. I kept busy and tried to avoid her when she came over. I wouldn’t allow her to smoke inside the house so she was out on the back deck a lot.

You can imagine that there was some tension over at the F.B.O. between Bob and Ted over his wife who was still legally married to him. As the months went by, Elizabeth’s belly got bigger and bigger, and I heard some more stories about why she left Bob from Ted, who would spew madness from time to time. Apparently, Bob wasn’t able to perform in the bedroom unless he watched at least two hours of porno beforehand to get him in the mood, all stemming back from his long stints aboard aircraft carriers. All sorts of crazy stuff, most of which I’m sure was created by Elizabeth to justify what she was doing. She claimed to love Bob, but she couldn’t live with him. At least she claimed this on the day he died.
While driving home in his old, ratty jeep, he apparently succumbed to carbon monoxide poisoning from a hole in his exhaust that leaked into the jeep’s closed cab. He veered off the highway, headlong into some of those tall pines you see along the North Carolina highways. His jeep exploded like a massive torch, and pretty much melted into a molted pile of metal, because it turned out that he had a bunch of scuba tanks in the back filled with O2, not compressed air. I guess the police where able to track down who owned the jeep from the license plate that was thrown from the back of the wreck. What a way to go.
On that cold night, I had hit the rack early only to be awakened by loud voices on the back deck outside my bedroom window, a set of French windows always cracked. It was the super wife and Ted. She, with a smoke in one hand and a glass of wine in the other, was counting the money already in her head, and ole Bob wasn’t even in the ground. “Let’s see, we have the million from his life insurance policy, and oh, don’t forget, we will get $250,000 from the Navy for his SGLI insurance. I can sell his house and make another 20K off of that.” She was working the numbers, and Ted with a smile on his face was just nodding. I never understood what spell she cast over him, but I wasn’t sure that Bob’s death was an accident after all.
They had a memorial at the airport for Bob that Sunday, and, of course, it was a nice military send-off for a war hero. Knowing what I had overhead, it was pretty weird watching the mourning wife, with her belly swelled out a foot, crying on Ted’s shoulder. Here is where the fun began…
That Monday morning she got the shock of her life, the first of several. Bob had paid his premiums on the million-dollar policy, well at least the first two installments, and then let it go. There was no money to be had since he elected to default on the payments. You could hear her screaming all the way to South Carolina as the realization hit her, no insurance money and she was about to have a baby.

Stand by for the rest of the story
Semper Fi,

Monday, January 22, 2007

Lessons learned...

It’s been a year since I started writing on Blogspot over in Iraq. I owe it all to Major Pain over at One Marines View for all of his help and time while I struggled to learn the code. Now I owe my Uncle Bruce who is the mastermind behind a new project. Thanks to Momma Taco for all the hours spent editing my post. I also wanted to thank all of you readers out there, your positive feedback makes writing fun!
You know, through the years, I have kept a little green “Lieutenant’s” book (a small hardbound book all Lt's carry) ever since I was at The Basic School in Quantico. Whenever I heard a great joke, quote or word that I liked, I would whip out my book and write it down. I have many of these books and there are some wonderful little pieces of wisdom there. For you, today, I am going to publish some of these gems of wisdom. Some of these may not make sense but they sure did for me at the time. Hope you get something out of the Taco’s lesson’s of life from his little Green Book.
Semper Fi,

“Time is a man made imposition upon the universe, it doesn’t exist, we are trying to control something we can’t control, the universe is timeless” Capt Jim Adams

“Some men see things as they are and say “Why?” I dream of things that never were and say, “Why Not?” George Bernard Shaw

“There is no chance, no destiny, no fate that can circumvent or hinder or control the firm resolve of a determined soul” Captain Walt Fisher

“A mistake is evidence that somebody has tried to accomplish something” John Babcock

“Better to be thought a fool, then to open your mouth and remove all doubt” Old Chinese fortune cookie

“Better to try and fail, then to never to attempt at all” Captain Jones


“He was hand picked, like a booger” Major Beck

“Watching him work is like watching a Monkey F**K a football” Maj John Wissler

“Don’t tell me how to build a watch you idiot, just tell me what time it is!”
Major to a Captain about a question on the up status of a plane.

“A life lived in Fear is but a half life lived” Old Spanish saying

“Fear is a mind stricture that prevents you from doing things, but when thrust in the midst of it, the fear dissipates, leaving an edge of awareness, but not the paralysis” Sailor rescued off the coast of Japan

“She must have had a rough paper route as a kid” Major Pat Redmon

“Lie, Deny, make counter accusations…” C.I.A. motto

“Hey, hand me a pair of those needle nose, vice girpping, monkey Mother F**kers”
Wrench turner I overheard in the hanger bay

“Hey, keep your motivation out here on recruiting duty. Don’t let them see you sitting at your desk with a .45 in your mouth and the Marine Corps flag draped around you!!”
District Col to his Commanding Officers during a brief

“An organization does well only those things that the boss checks” Major John Wissler

“Nothing concentrates the military mind so much as the discovery that you have walked into an Ambush” Thomas Packerman

“Minds are like Parachutes, they only function when they’re open.” My flight instructor

“Prefer a loss to a dishonest gain the one brings pain at the moment, the other for all time.” Chilon

and then of course how can we forget…”The average pilot, despite the sometimes swaggering exterior is very much capable of such feelings such as love, affection, intimacy and caring. These feelings just don’t involve anybody else.” Trader Johns’

Now words:
Lackadaisical : Adj without enthusiasm: without much enthusiasm, energy, or effort

Nebulous Adj 1. unclear: not clear, distinct, or definite

Fruition: Noun, 1. completion: a state or point in which something has come to maturity or had a desired outcome
Our plans have come to fruition.

Remiss: Adj negligent: careless or negligent about doing something that is expected

Intramural: Adj 1. within school or institution: occurring within, or involving members of, a single school, college, or institution

Wherewithal: Noun necessary means: the money or resources required for a purpose

Deleterious: del•e•te•ri•ous adj harmful: having a harmful or damaging effect on somebody or something

Trepidation: Noun 1. apprehension: fear or uneasiness about the future or a future event

Reiterate: 1.repeat something: to say or do something again, once or several times, sometimes in a tiresome way

Hubris: Noun 1. pride: excessive pride or arrogance
2. excessive ambition: the excessive pride and ambition that usually leads to the downfall of a hero in classical tragedy

Conundrum: Noun 1. something confusing: something that is puzzling or confusing

Effusive Adj unrestrained in expressing feelings: giving or involving an extravagant and sometimes excessive expression of feelings in speech or writing

Serendipitous: Noun 1. discovery of something fortunate: the accidental discovery of something pleasant, valuable, or useful

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Now the Rest of the story...

Walking out of my room into the Corpus muggy August morning, I slowly recited my emergency procedures for the days flight. Crossing the grass, I looked up to see my blue Chevy S-10 and part of it was covered in seagull “poop.” As badly covered as my truck was, it was nothing compared to Larry’s sand-colored Toyota pickup truck. It was covered completely as if the birds just hovered over his truck and opened up all the poop gates. Cursing the birds, I rushed to the car wash to remove the evidence from that night’s attack before heading to the Squadron. Larry came in about an hour later, fuming about the birds attacking his pickup. No one really gave it much thought. The next day, the same thing happened except two other unlucky bastards were parked on either side of Larry’s truck and got hit also. It became almost a daily routine and no matter where in the parking lot that Larry parked, the next morning it was covered in seagull calling cards.

After two weeks of this, Larry was beside himself and placed a call to the animal control officer from the ready room. “Yes, I’m the one who was attacked by the skunk, and no I didn’t provoke him, he just went nuts….” There was a long pause. “No, I don’t have anything against seagulls except they crap on my truck.” Pause, “I want to know what you are going to do about these birds…” pause… “Yes I want you to kill them all…” pause… “What do you mean they are protected???” This conversation, overheard by all the students in the ready room, brought lots of snickers as they sipped their coffee. Adam said, “You know, Larry, maybe it’s the color of your truck.” Larry turned around and said, “What did you say? Color? Why do you think it’s the color?” Adam looked around and with a wave of his arm across the room replied, “Well no one else here has a tan-colored vehicle, so that must be it.” Everyone started nodding in agreement; of course, the discussion of how birds could tell the difference in color AT NIGHT never came up. As Larry left, he was heard mumbling about how he might have to trade in his truck for another color.

That night at 1130 pm, I came around the corner of the building with a load of clothes I had just laundered. Across the night came the loud clear imitation of a seagull, “Hawwwwrrrrrrrrrkkkkk, Haaaawwwwwwrrrrrrk” and there in the parking lot next to Larry’s truck was someone clapping his hands. Walking to where I could get a better view, I saw that he had spread bread all over the hood, roof, and bed of the truck; arousing the birds by his calling. They started landing on the truck to eat the bread. Me, with my arms loaded with clothes, waited by the stairwell for the mystery man to walk by. Adam almost ran me over as he turned to climb the outside stairwell. The surprised look on his face gave it away. “Taco, you can’t tell a soul about this!!! I mean it, no one!!” I just laughed and said, “Don’t worry, your secret is safe with me, but don’t you think every night is over doing it a bit?” Adam, just chuckled and replied, “I wanted to do it a couple more times before he trades it in. The sucker truly believes it’s because of the color of his truck. I’m just pissed that he turned us in so I’m having a little fun with the turd.” The two walked up the steps for a beer. Now, as Paul Harvey says, “You know the rest of the Story.”

Thursday, January 11, 2007

The Birds

The five flight students were sitting outside their room on the third deck of the Bachelor Officers Quarters (BOQ) in Corpus Christi, Texas, enjoying some afternoon adult beverages while watching the sun start its’ slow descent to the west. The buzz of the little red and white Navy T-34 trainers in the landing pattern overhead made a racquet every fifteen minutes or so, but that was the sound of freedom. Unlike the shrieking of hundreds of seagulls hanging in the stiff sea breeze just a few feet from the railing of the walkway from the five men.

As they leaned back in their deck chairs, a 6’ 4” former linebacker from Penn State, Adam Bolachek, in his deep baritone voice barked, “These God Damn seagulls are ‘rats with wings’ and crap on my car all the time.” Every one reflected on this true statement for a moment. We also knew of his hatred towards the highly skilled dive-bombing “rats with wings” that assaulted our cars in the parking lot on a daily basis. Once, at the beach, he caught a seagull by looping his fishing line in a circle with the little clip device and catching one by its’ webbed feet. He then let it fly off and would reel it back to him till the bird tired enough to be set free. He, by no means would get hired at P.E.T.A, but I dare a P.E.T.A. member to say anything to him for fear of being squashed…

Adam, whose voice only came in one caliber…loud, then bellowed out, “Hey, anyone ever feed a seagull an Alka-Seltzer tablet? I heard it makes them blow up; something about the gases expanding in their stomachs.” It was a quiet moment as each guy thought about all times they had cleaned the gull’s “poop” off their cars, and soon it became a mad dash into their rooms to search for some tablets. Maybe five minutes later, everyone was on the edge of the railing, tossing tablets at the hungry, hovering birds. They might catch one, but the gulls couldn’t swallow it--too big. They tried breaking the tablets into smaller pieces to feed them. That didn’t work either. The birds never blew up; they were truly “rats with wings” and could eat anything.

Taco Bell remembered his Russian History professor feeding vodka-soaked corn kernels to the pigeons outside his classroom. “Hey guys, what if we tossed them some alcohol-laced pieces of bread?” It was another mad dash to the different rooms looking for bowls, bread and alcohol. Pete Noah had a bottle of 180 proof grain alcohol-- true “set-your-throat-on-fire" stuff. Taco had some loaf bread and, loaded with those supplies, the pretty-smashed crew started to have some fun. They rolled the bread into tiny balls and then dipped them into the grain alcohol, followed by a toss into the air towards the hungry birds. The greedy little rats would dive down and attack the balls, swallowing them whole. It was the funniest sight to see when the bird realized that the bread had a chaser to it. They tried to cough it up but to no avail. Only one ball was required to get them drunk off their rockers. Pretty soon, they started to crash into each other, the walls, the lamppost, and the trees; then a bird body count began to amass on the grass below.

Adam then had the bright idea of using his officers’ sword to whack a couple of the birds. Encouraged by the others, Adam hauled back with his sword over his head while Pete stood a couple of feet in front of him and tossed the bread into the air. I’m sure that the beer played a big part in it, but Adam misjudged the birds, and the tip of the sword came down, slicing the front of Pete’s shirt and leaving a nice thin line from mid-chest section to his belly button. Through the haze of the beer and laughter of the others, the realization that this game was dangerous dawned on the group, thus ending that fun.

Adam went to his room to collect a heavy duty trash bag, followed by picking up some of the dead birds on the ground who proved the addage that you shouldn’t drink and fly. After dumping them into the dumpster, they returned to drinking some more beer and watching the poor smocks beating up the landing pattern.

A little later, a grey Navy police pickup truck pulled into the almost near empty lot. An overweight chief got out of his truck, and walked across the white feathers strewn all over the ground and called up to the group on the balcony, “Afternoon Gents. We got a call from someone in the building here that a group of fellas were killing some seagulls. This isn’t true is it?” All five were shaking their heads back and forth like the little kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar. “Oh no, Chief, nothing like that happening here,” Adam bellowed back down. The chief looked at all the feathers on the ground, and Pete shouted down, “Don’t mind those feathers, Chief, the birds are molting.”

The Chief looked back up and said, “Well, if you see anyone doing something stupid like that, would you remind them that it’s a $200 dollar fine per bird since they are protected down here in Texas.” He returned to his truck and waved. The group broke out in snickers… “Holy cow, Adam,” Taco said, “go bury those birds out in the sand dunes by the beach, and hope he doesn’t check the dumpster.” As he watched the truck driving out of the parking lot, Adam was now pissed through and through. “Who the hell turned us into the cops??? The only cars in the lot are ours and--wait a second, isn’t that Larry’s truck there?” The words no sooner passed from his lips than Larry’s door opened and closed, and he walked to his truck. He got in and never acknowledged the hellos from the party on the third floor.

They all looked at each other with disgusted expressions and, in unison, said… “Larry!!!!”

Friday, January 05, 2007

Missing the big picture

Before I continue with my Corpus Christi Saga, I have to put a plug in for a great American and his name is Cpl Matt Sanchez USMCR. I’m very impressed with this guy and hope that one day he has the chance to run for office. I Know that you will enjoy his style of writing as much as I have. Please go check out his blog for some clips of him on the O’Reilly Factor and Hannity and Colmes. I had the honor of chatting with him via Email, and can tell you that he is the real deal. Where do the Marines find such Outstanding young men?? He and the thousands of others that are signing up everyday make me proud to say that I'm a Marine and American!!
Semper Fi,


Missing the big picture
Ivy League protesters feel superior to service members

By Matt Sanchez
The Columbia University Activities Day was the first week of school in 2005, with eager students lingering by a group of tables, deciding which activities to sign up for.
I was talking with friends when a group of student socialists gathered in mass and started to yell, “Get off our campus!”

“The military exploits minorities!” they chanted in a frenzy. It does?
“Hey,” I replied. I used my college voice, that sensitive, interested-in-debate tone that’s supposed to be passable at an Ivy League school. “I’m a minority; I joined the military, and I don’t think I’m being e One protester’s face flared red, like a pale recruit after two minutes on the quarterdeck.

“That’s because you’re stupid — too stupid to realize you’re being used as cannon fodder.”
I took the high road, leaving the table to report the group’s conduct to the university administration. This was not the first time such a confrontation had happened, but I wanted it to be the last.

It wasn’t the insults that bothered me: Shouts of “baby killer,” “murderer” and “Nazi” didn’t compare to the extreme stress and conflict I felt during boot camp. We all stepped on the yellow footprints in the middle of the night, completely disoriented. After the fourth day of sleep deprivation and fatigue, I knew I wasn’t going to quit, but it sure looked like the guy next to me was, and he may have been thinking the same thing about me.

What disturbed me was the odd disconnect between Columbia University, an elite institution of higher learning, and the Marine Corps, an elite branch of the military. Just that summer, a young sophomore asked, “You’re a Marine and you learn how to kill, so what makes you any different than the terrorists who flew the planes into the Twin Towers on 9/11?”

The group I had offended was not as inquisitive; they just wanted a poster boy. So they printed a flier of me next to a dead Iraqi kid and a homeless veteran and wrote “Victim?” next to it. In the morning, they handed the fliers to students as they entered the campus for a new day of learning.

I’m not a whiner. I never once raised my hand for sick call. I didn’t complain when, one calm Sunday afternoon, the drill instructors tore apart the barracks right after we had finished cleaning them. I didn’t say a word when, during the Crucible, a careless recruit dropped a cement-filled bucket on my head.
So why did a bunch of privileged brats calling me cannon fodder for joining the Marine Corps bother me so much? I could speak of racial injustice, breaking group and student conduct rules, or harassment, but that wouldn’t be the entire story. When I’m completely honest with myself, I understand the real reason this episode made my blood boil.

Deep down inside, most of the people at sophisticated, exclusive Columbia University felt they were superior to the military, and particularly the Corps. Honor, courage and commitment? Any undergrad and most of the faculty would tell you, in a double-spaced six-page essay, that these things are relative — impossible to define. For the academics, joining the Corps over attending an Ivy League school was an obvious sign of desperation.
Were we desperate? Our platoon “heavy hat,” Staff Sgt. Forde, never once mentioned he was named the best tanker in the Corps — two years in a row. But my professors at Columbia always mention the books they and their colleagues have written and often assign those books, as graded papers, so we all have to mention them, too. Who is desperate?

I joined the Corps not because I couldn’t make it elsewhere or because I needed money to go to school. No signing bonus was going to turn me into a soldier. I became a Marine because I wanted to be among the best, just as I applied to Columbia because I wanted to be among the brightest. I knew both required a high price.
Why not go elsewhere? Because we were different before we joined the Corps. We knew it was going to be tough, more intense, but we still joined instead of taking an easier way. We made it through boot camp and even reported for duty after they gave us our first 10 days of leave. We all got in for different reasons, but the Corps trained us, honing our skills so that we’d attack on command and fight to win. For the few, the eagle, globe and anchor is not just a popular window sticker, it also means we stand for something.

Like rapid fire at the 200-yard line, the flurry of action after the incident was quick and easy to lose track of. I went from one administrator to the next, confident I would eventually find someone to help. I met many people who emphasized how much “we really appreciate our veteran community.” But like patched up “D” targets, they all looked the same — compassionate and concerned — and said the same thing — “This was an outrage.”

Months passed, and the administration dismissed the complaint, with no appeal. According to the student newspaper, the Columbia Spectator, two of the students “were brought in for hearings in November and were later told that the administration did not hold them responsible.”

I became more determined. Sometimes, firing from the farthest line is where you take the best, most meditated shot. I settled in, drew my breath and aimed. If Columbia was not downrange, the media was in plain sight.
I went on national television, debating free speech on campus vs. anti-military sentiment. “What do you want out of this?” asked the commentator. “What do you expect Columbia University to do?” he asked, smirking.
What do I expect? How about saving veterans thousands of dollars by giving a lousy physical education credit for going through boot camp? It’s at least as tough as running after a birdie for an hour on the polished wooden basketball court.
How about a university Veterans Affairs representative who can deal with a Marine’s mistaken tuition charges when he’s deployed overseas? How about dropping the “we appreciate our veterans community” line and provoking a serious dialogue on campus, because if an Ivy League student cannot understand the difference between the commandant of the Marine Corps and Osama bin Laden, higher education has sunk pretty low.

So why do we do it? Why do I do it? I’m doing this for Lance Cpl. Lam, who used to call me “Super Sanchez” in the shop before he deployed and was killed in Iraq.
I’m doing it for the literally hundreds of veterans who e-mailed after I wrote an op-ed piece in The New York Post and appeared on national television to tell me similar stories of double standards for veterans, and the hundreds more who thought of writing me but just figured it wouldn’t matter.

I’m doing it for Lt. Bayer, a Columbia graduate, who died in the World War II Battle of Peleliu and whose plaque in the university gym often goes unnoticed by students who have not acquired the skills to connect his bravery and sacrifice with the everyday freedom they have to assemble, protest and, yes, pass out fliers.
I’m doing it because I know the Marine Corps has a special, personal intelligence that goes far beyond book smarts and high above street smarts.

I’m writing this because you should know that I go to school with the people who literally write history books and — whether we like it or not — the way the Marine Corps is portrayed depends almost as much on them as it does on us.
Editor’s note: Columbia University issued this statement when asked for a response: “Columbia University conducted a thorough investigation of the charges Mr. Sanchez made against other students in 2005 for insensitive remarks.” The school declined to discuss its findings, citing privacy laws.
The writer, a corporal in the Marine Corps Reserve, is a junior at Columbia University. He can be reached at matthew.a.sanchez@gmail.com.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Pepe' Le Pew

Corpus Christi 1990

The five flight students were finishing another pitcher of beer at the “Eleventh Hour,” a dark jazz club in the heart of downtown Corpus, but with the added bonus of the upstairs “Crow’s Nest;” a fly boy’s dream come true. Lots of cold beer, assorted liquor and more local aviation history then one could shake a stick at. It was two a.m. and time to rally the troops for the drive home. One of the five was really steaming about his flight that morning, and this guy wasn’t one to lose his cool.

“That SOB Larry, I swear I feel like beating the living tar out of him.” Jake Swan was a Navy NavCad, (join the Navy and learn to fly and get paid as an E-4 till you were winged and then commissioned an Ensign. All this with two years of college under your belt). Jake was in this limbo because, on the scale of things, he was at the bottom of the ocean floor, “lower than whale crap” as he would say. If he punched this Ensign out, then he was afraid that the punk would run him up on charges of attacking an Officer. Larry Ruttenberg would throw you or his own mother under a bus if he thought it would advance him further towards his dream of becoming a jet pilot.

Larry was fast losing friends after he turned in one of our Marines for having a pistol in his BOQ room; actually it was a no-kidding-metal-toy gun that this guy had since he was a boy. So the charges were dropped, but it came out that ole Larry had dropped the “sewer top dime” on him. After that, few would let Larry into their rooms, especially if they were in competition with him for grades, and the few jet slots the Navy had to offer for fear that he would try to find some elicit infraction to get them in trouble.

Boys being boys, the group decided to help out Jake and start “Operation Petticoat.” Phase one would commence in twenty minutes when everyone arrived back at the BOQ (Bachelor Officer Quarters). If you weren’t married, and 90% were single, then we lived in these little studio apartments on the base. It was great camaraderie and made flight school easy when one could walk down the hallway to ask a buddy for some help. Our BOQ was located across from the O’Club and down the street from the ocean. We had lots of wildlife around the area, and phase one of our attack tonight involved “Pepe Le Pew,” the semi-pet skunk who waddled about the grassy area next to our building in search of love and food. Guys would feed the skunk so he became sort of a mascot.

The five students piled out of the Nissan Pathfinder in search of Pepe who was finally found at the end of the parking lot. They fanned out and sort of “shooed” Pepe up to the building, moving north along the many doors till they arrived at Larry’s room. Two of the fellows moved around, out flanking the skunk till he waddled back to a position right in front of Larry’s door. Then they, all at the same time, jumped at the skunk, growling with teeth exposed and hands in the air like claws. Ole Pepe hadn’t really seen this behavior from his human friends before, and let out a massive spray which went all over the front of Larry’s door, the intake for his air conditioner, and the concrete on the floor. The five took off running as fast as they could to avoid the blast, laughing as they went.
Larry, awakened by the stomping of feet outside of his room, opened the door only to come face to face with Pepe right outside his door, and an odor that some in Tennessee or Arkansas would find fragrant, but not to a New York Bronx boy. Pepe turned and sprayed Larry as he waddled off to the screams of a grown man as he ran back into his room.

The five vowed secrecy and told no one of their adventure. Not even whispered to their best friends, “Hey, don’t tell anyone, but last night…” So the next day when Larry did finally show up to the squadron, he cut a wide berth as he passed by, still reeking of skunk. His instructor told him to go home and take a bath in tomato juice that would get rid of it, and not to come back in till he did. Later that afternoon, a new name was written up on the whiteboard behind the flight duty officer next to Larry’s name.
“Pepe’ Le Pew”
Standby for Phase two…