Aug 20

What Kind of Men Join the Marines?

60s boot camp 298x300 What Kind of Men Join the Marines?

Company Commander’s rifle inspection, the first three squads, left front into line. By this time, maybe 5 weeks into it, we were pretty “squared away” as recruits. Full basic training consisted of 17 weeks, including 13 weeks of basic recruit training and 4 weeks of advanced infantry training with weapons.
Courtesy of

It was a hot day yesterday.

My wife and I had gone to Walmart and after purchasing our weekly groceries and she wanted to look at some other things (translation: get lost for a while). I pushed our loaded shopping cart to a wooden bench in the entryway where a slight air-conditioned breeze made its way to me from inside the store.  I sat, removed my utility cover, mopped my brow with a handkerchief, and wondered how long she would be diddling around ‘looking at other things’. I put my cover back on and tried to get comfortable, as much as my arthritis on a hard wooden bench would allow. I dug out my crossword puzzle book.

Hey, Mister, were you… ummm… like, a Marine?”

I turned to see a young boy of maybe eight or ten year’s old standing near the end of my bench clutching a soccer ball nervously. He probably thought all old Marines were miserable grouches.

Yes, son, I sure was,” I said with a smile, “a long time ago”. He was wide-eyed.

Cool! Were you then like, in World War Two ‘er somethin’? Did’ja win any medals?

Son, I’m old, but I’m not quite that old!” I said laughing, “I was in the Marine Corps in 1963. Not much older than you are now. The only medal I won was for Expert Rifleman, but a lot of guys got those.”

My grampa was in the Vietnam War,” he said, loosening up and plopping down on the end of the bench, “he was a Marine too.”

Oh, well then, tell your grampa another old Marine said ‘Semper Fi!”

“Oh,” the kid said, “I can’t, he’s dead.”

“Geez, kid, I’m really sorry.”

“Oh, that’s okay.  He died a long time ago. He was way cool! Hey, can I ask you somethin’?”

“Sure! What do you want to know?”

“What kinda guys get to go in the Marines? Do ya gotta like, be really tough er sumpthin’?”

Well…” his question caught me off guard for a moment. I was about to give the Marine stock answer for this question: only the best of the very best get to be Marines. I flashed back 51 years to the men of Platoon 275.


1960 Marine 271x300 What Kind of Men Join the Marines?

Courtesy of

We were just mainstream American boys, mostly immature adolescents barely out of puberty packed into the bus from San Diego International Airport to Marine Corps Recruit Depot.  We were anxious and sweating boys trying to be cool and impress our peers with nervous chatter. Someone farted loudly and everyone giggled. We tried hard not to show our fear and apprehension for the Big Unknown looming just minutes ahead.

I distinctly remember some loudmouth telling us, “Hey, man! All you gotta do is just show those sergeants you ain’t takin’ no shit from ‘em an’ they’ll leave you alone! Guar-an-teed!” He sounded rather experienced and while I heard his advice, I considered myself fortunate I didn’t act on it. In fact, within seconds after arriving at MCRD, I saw no one who did. It is difficult to put on a tough front with two big sergeants screaming at the top of their lungs into your ears.

Most of us were fresh out of high school and several were high school dropouts. There were three whom a judge had ordered, “Go in the Marine Corps or go to jail!” A few Don Juan’s tried to convince of us they were God’s gift to women. A couple others argued incessantly over the coolest way to customize a ’57 Chevy. Some had been quite popular in high school; a class president, one of the starting five on the basketball team, and one told us he was the captain of the football team at a high school in Denver. Some saw themselves as tough bad-asses and one loner told us in heavily accented English he was a Pachuco in an LA gang.

We had ‘fraidy-cats, cowards, bullies and two who immediately endeared themselves to everyone by being complete assholes.

We ranged in size from the 120-pound, five-foot-six feathermerchants to the 250-pound lard-asses at six-feet-six with every size in between, including scrawny kids and those with a roll of flab around their middle. Many of these lard-asses would end up at the “Fat Farm” on a near-starvation diet of greens and PT’d to the point of exhaustion.

Several were the “nerdy” type, although the term “nerd” didn’t exist in 1963 that I’m aware. Perhaps they had been bullied in school and joined the Marines to learn how to be tough. One guy was a super brain in that he seemed to know something about everything. Some were bookworms and others who were dumber than boxes of doorknobs. There were the ignorant, the shy, the timid and the dumb-asses. Three of the recruits couldn’t write their own names while another had two years of college. At 21-years old, he would be the “old man” of Platoon 275. Many were perpetual screw-ups whom the DI’s tagged as “Shitbirds”. Some thought of themselves as hilarious comedians and others had the sense of humor of a truckload of manure. There was one oddball everyone thought had read too many Superman comic books.

Marines from the 50s 60s 300x278 What Kind of Men Join the Marines?

Courtesy of the Pritzker Military Museum and Library

One was a well-mannered, meek, soft-spoken and small-framed lad who was always cleaning his thick glasses.  He would be the platoon’s high shooter scoring a 234 on Record Day. Several others had all the savoir-faire and refinement of a Neanderthal. Some were oafs, boneheads and birdbrains who could screw up a free lunch. Several came out of poverty-stricken homes or the ghettos arriving at MCRD wearing the only ragged clothes they owned. We had egocentrics, athletes and one man whose family were multi-millionaires. He enlisted to get out from under their rigid control.

There were a few amateur crooks, thieves, shoplifters, thugs, guys with prior records trying to get a fresh start, religious zealots, “Honest Abe’s”, liars, racists, and gamblers. In the civilian world, we had been grocery store clerks, hamburger flippers, farmers, mechanics, construction workers, gas pumpers, carpenters, laborers, plumbers, cowboys, food store stockers, janitors, miners, workers in family-owned businesses or unemployed.  One man told us he enlisted because his unemployment ran out.

Some were fanatical neatniks while others were slobs who delighted in dirt and squalor who would soon clash with the DI’s. They will lose. Some were puny, bad-postured and sickly-looking and one well-muscled weightlifter. A handful were mentally strong and were destined to become good NCO’s and officers while others appeared on the verge of breaking down in tears. Some actually did. There were hard-hearted and softhearted ones, the merciless and cruel, the generous and kind, spendthrifts and misers. One or two were movie-star handsome whose beautiful wavy hair would very soon end up on the barber’s floor along with everyone else’s. Others were butt-ugly, plagued with rampaging acne and buck-toothed. A few were devout pacifists and others who loved fighting for any reason.

We were from a dozen ethnic backgrounds. I heard subtle accents indicating a wide geographic background as varied as their personalities; New England nasal twangs, the ‘yawl’ of the southern states, the slow speech from the west, the omnipresent “eh?” of the northern states along the Canadian border. Two Latinos spoke Spanish softly to one another the entire trip. Several had accents of first and second generation Latinos, Germans, Latvians, French-Canadians, Ethiopians, Chinese, Russians, Samoans and Italians. One young man with a thick brogue had been a Catholic priest in Ireland and had left the church to join the Marine Corps. Our skin pigmentations ranged from milk-white Scandinavian to Ivory Coast black.

Nonetheless, we were all American kids.

We were not a bit different from the thousands of other recruits arriving at any Army, Navy or Air Force recruit training bases. However, the Marine recruits began a marked difference from the other services’ recruits within mere seconds upon arriving at MCRD. The difference would be sudden and by no means subtle.

With the loud hiss of the air brakes, the bus stopped in front of Receiving Barracks. I braced myself. I was sure now was when some husky, rock-jawed sergeant would board the bus, giving us the old John Wayne evil-eye and administer a five minute ‘Gung Ho’ speech that we would become Marines because we had a big job to do defending our country against the enemy—whoever they might be.

Not even close.

The door swished open and a tall, thin Marine sergeant wearing a Smokey Bear hat jumped aboard and immediately roared out just ten words that rattled every corner of the bus:


I was terrified. It was not supposed to be like this. In a space of four seconds, I came to the full realization that every scrap of information I had gleaned from the books I read and the movies I saw vanished out the window. As one of the recruits shot past me heading for the door, I noted with grim satisfaction it was the guy who had told us, “Don’t take no shit from the sergeants and they will leave you alone!” He was as white as a sheet.

We had now arrived at the portals of the United States Marine Corps and there would be no going back.

From that moment forward, my life changed forever.

Oh, my God, what have I done?

I looked back at the young man sitting on the end of the bench awaiting my answer to his question; “What kinda guys get to go in the Marines?”

“Son,” I said, “they were the best of the very best.”


Jack Wise What Kind of Men Join the Marines?About the Author: Jack quit high school in 1963 and enlisted in the Marine Corps at the tender age of 17. When asked about his service in the Corps, Jack is quick to say, “I enlisted, I served, I was honorably discharged. I was never any hero, a Chesty Puller I was not.” Upon his discharge, Jack finished high school and went on to earn an MS degree in natural resource management and foreign languages the University of Wyoming. Jack’s computer is stuffed with book-length manuscripts and short stories and writes three to five hours a day.  Today, working as a home health care nurse, Jack and his Colombian wife live quietly in Colorado.

Aug 14

How to Choose the Right Body Armor for Protection, Shape and Size

Safeguard Clothing Logo 300x99 How to Choose the Right Body Armor for Protection, Shape and SizeMany of us put ourselves in harm’s way for work and we need to take precautions against gunshot and knife wounds, shrapnel and more. Law enforcement officers and military personnel aren’t the only ones in dire need of protection against assaults by firearm criminals. Private detectives, bail bondsmen and other occupations yield an elevated risk of falling victim to an attack by someone equipped with a firearm. While wearing body armor isn’t a guarantee to escape a gunfight without a scratch, it does decrease the chance of being injured while also lessening the chance of falling victim to life threatening injuries. In short, body armor can help survive an attack that otherwise may have been fatal. Read the rest of this entry »

Aug 11

Flag Case Holder and Certificate Frame Review + Giveaway

I’ve spent months looking for a flag case display and have been disappointed in the quality of cases out there. Most of them have been cheaply made from plastic or vinyl wood, or poorly put together. Like many of you, I want a case that is beautiful because this flag means something to me.

In my case, I had a flag flown at Marine Corps Barracks 8th and I on Christmas Day in honor of Samantha Wagner. Christmas was her favorite holiday and she passed away shortly after giving birth her child two years ago. I’m sending this case to her family not only to honor her service on the homefront, but also as a reminder to let them know we haven’t forgotten her.

Flags are special to military families and they deserve to preserved in a quality piece. Thankfully I found Church Hill Classics and received a maple wood flag case with a cherry finish. It’s a beautifully made piece with soft cherry wood that is crafted precisely. It doesn’t have gaps or chips in the wood that you sometimes find when items are assembled quickly.

Flag Case and Set 300x209 Flag Case Holder and Certificate Frame Review + Giveaway

The glass is high quality and the back is a simple turn button style, where you can easily pop the back off and slide the flag in, securing it well.

Back of Case 170x300 Flag Case Holder and Certificate Frame Review + Giveaway

The base the flag sits atop is crafted with care as well. The Marine Corps emblem is fixed as a coin to the wood and the engraving is neat and clean. The bottom has felt tabs to prevent scratching any service it may be resting on. This piece is as good as it gets. If you’re looking to preserve a flag, I highly suggest ordering this piece.

Flag Case and base 300x177 Flag Case Holder and Certificate Frame Review + Giveaway

In conjunction with the case, I received a Marine Corps document frame. It’s a beautiful signature piece for anyone looking to frame a diploma, course certification, or document with pride. The wood is soft and pristine, it’s pieced together wonderfully and is lined with an intricate gold beaded detailing.

Military Frame 300x261 Flag Case Holder and Certificate Frame Review + Giveaway

The words United States Marine Corps have been embedded into the mat and features a distinctive Marine Corps coin. It’s a striking piece, to say the least.

Frame Details 236x300 Flag Case Holder and Certificate Frame Review + Giveaway

If you’re looking for military gifts or items to commemorate military achievements or honors, look no further. They also carry other military services: Navy, Army, Air Force, and Coast Guard. They are coming out with Air National Guard and Army National Guard pieces shortly.

Not only do they offer military frames, but they offer high school, collegiatecustom frames, and more. All of the items received were packaged with the greatest of care to ensure that it did not get damaged in transit.

Church Hill Classics is generously hosting a giveaway where you can take home one your choice of flag case, frame, or desk item.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


They’re also hosting a separate giveaway here.  Enter both today!

Disclosure: We received both the flag case and frame to review. All opinions expressed in this piece are genuine and my own. 

Aug 09

Disney’s Armed Forces Salute is Extended to 2015

Armed Forces 300x227 Disney’s Armed Forces Salute is Extended to 2015Military families, if you are planning to visit ‘The Happiest Place on Earth,’ Walt Disney is extending their Armed Forces Salute program to October 2015,  Disney’s Armed Forces Salute provides military families with deeply discounted tickets to our nation’s active and retired military personnel.

Armed Forces Salute Ticket Prices

Disneyland Park & California Adventures 3-day Park Hopper $132.00 (Regular 3-day Park Hopper Ticket Price: $265).  The following blackout restrictions apply where tickets cannot be used to access the park:

  • 25 December 2014 – 4 January 2015 (No theme Park Use)
  • 29 March – 9 April 2015 (No theme Park Use)

Disney World in Orlando Florida 4-day Park Hopper $177 thru 9/24/2014.  (Regular 4-day Park Hopper Ticket Price: $294). Water park access can be purchased for $29 more plus tax. The following blackout restrictions apply where tickets cannot be used to access the park:

  • 22 December 2014 – 2 January 2015 (No Theme Park or Water Park Use)
  • 29 March – 9 April 2015 (No Theme Park or Water Park Use)

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Aug 07

Two Surveys You Should Take Today


Military Family Advisory Network is conducting a survey that military personnel and family members should take.  If you are:

  • Spouse of active duty member
  • Spouse of Reserve / National Guard
  • Active duty member
  • Reserve / National Guard member
  • Military retiree
  • Military retiree spouse
  • Veteran
  • Veteran’s spouse

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Aug 06

The past aligned with the future: MARSOC becomes Marine Raiders

By Gunnery Sgt. Josh Higgins | U.S. Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command | August 06, 2014

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. — During World War II, four Marine Raider battalions and two Raider regiments were formed and saw action in the Pacific Theater between 1942 and 1944. Formed to conduct amphibious raids and guerrilla operations behind enemy lines, the Raider battalions were the United States’ first special operations units.

The Raiders went on to participate in campaigns across the Pacific Ocean and earned more than 700 decorations, including seven Medals of Honor, before disbandment approximately two years later. Read the rest of this entry »

Aug 04

Border agents catch 13 illegal immigrants dressed as Marines

Border Patrol in Southern Calfornia stopped 13 illegal immigrants disguised as US Marines. They were stopped while riding in a fake military man, according to Customs and Border Protection.

The illegal immigrants were wearing Marine uniforms when they were stopped and apprehended at the Campo Border Patrol Westbound I-8 checkpoint at 11 p.m. on March 14 near Pine Valley, Calif., border officials said. Two U.S. citizens in the van also were arrested.

Illegals Border agents catch 13 illegal immigrants dressed as Marines

Photo courtesy of Fox News Social Media

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Aug 02

Making Marines: A Drill Instructor Story

In 2010, more than 30,000 young Americans became U.S. Marines. They did it through the efforts of their drill instructors. Watch what it takes to make a Marine.

If you’re thinking of becoming a Marine or wondering what boot camp is like for Marines, check these videos out.  It will give you some insight into what your future may look like.

Jul 30

1st LAR Marine Corps Ball Fundraiser

We’re officially adopting 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance to help out with their 2014 Marine Corps Ball. Known as the ‘Highlanders’  their primary weapon system is the LAV-25 and they fall under the command of the 1st Marine Division and the I Marine Expeditionary Force. The unit is based out of the Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California.

1st LAR 1st LAR Marine Corps Ball FundraiserWe’re sharing the love for donations received; see the prize associated with each donation given.  If you have some change to spare, please pay it forward to our active duty Marines in the unit.

Semper Fi.

$5 Donation: USMC Life Sticker USMC Life Marine Corps help guide 300x300 1st LAR Marine Corps Ball Fundraiser

pixel 1st LAR Marine Corps Ball Fundraiser

$30 Donation: Dog Tag Bottle Opener

(front and back)

Dog Tag Bottle Opener 1st LAR Marine Corps Ball Fundraiser

pixel 1st LAR Marine Corps Ball Fundraiser

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Jul 29

Back to School Tax Free Shopping Days 2014

taxfreeweekend 300x225 Back to School Tax Free Shopping Days 2014It is that time of year again – as July dwindles to a close, school supply lists and clothes for the coming season are soon to be weighing on the minds of students and parents prepping for another year of school. From the coolest ‘trapper keeper’ (do they even call it that anymore?) to the latest fashions, parents will be grateful for a chance to save money as the needs of the season put pressure on their pocket book.

To help with back to school shopping, we’ve put together a list of the 14 states that participate in the tax free holiday and the dates you can plan to shop. Not all cities and counties participate in the tax free holiday so please be sure to click on the state you live in for participating cities and detailed information.

2014 State Sales Tax Holidays

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