I was a Yankee White at Marine Barracks, Washington DC, better known as “8th and I” from 1982 to 1984. Yankee Whites were/are Presidential Security Detail members, but when at “The Barracks”, as we called it then, one duty was to provide security for the Commandant as he entered and exited his home.
The CMC Quarters is a grand structure which, by the by, is the oldest continually inhabited house in Washington DC. A bit of history: The Brits didn’t burn it or ‘The Barracks’ when they landed at The Washington Navy Yard in 1813 for a number of reasons, but one of the best reasons according to Marine lore, is that gold is buried in a forgotten location somewhere on the first permanent base of the United States Marine Corps.
Of course the Brits didn’t “take” 8th and I, they just marched up the street from where they landed at the Navy Yard and made themselves at home. The Marines were off fighting in Maryland against another British unit, and other than a few Marines and family members of married Marines, no one was at the Post.
One particularly stormy and rainy evening, then Commandant General PX Kelley was called back out of his home and we were alerted that security needed set up.
There we stand…armed Marines with M1911A1s and shotguns standing post on the corners of the street, and me, the Sergeant of the Guard, standing in the rain, dressed in my Blues with Blues Raincoat, waiting for the Commandant to exit his quarters and drive off. The Gunny (his driver and bodyguard) exited the home with General Kelley who returned my salute and gave a smile (he was actually an incredibly nice and personable gentleman who I have nothing but the highest regard for to this day), and ducked into his black Town Car.
We had done this a thousand times and all was going well when I noticed the Gunny messing around with something at the open trunk of the Town Car. After a few minutes he turns around, waives to me and yells “Can you figure this out?”. I walk over and noticed the Gunny couldn’t close the umbrella.
Now I’m not an officer, but I figure that General Kelley must have a pretty damn good umbrella being the Commandant and all, but this thing would not close. I pulled on it, pushed the close button, but nothing could get this big frick’n thing closed up. After a few minutes standing in the rain and fiddling around with the umbrella (again, me in my Blues and the Gunny in a civilian suit that is getting wetter by the second), General Kelley gets out of the car and asked “What’s going on back there?”.
I snap to attention and salute, while the Gunny explains the challenge of said umbrella. General Kelley comes around back and personally starts in on it. Nothing worked, so finally he just shoved it in the trunk of the Town Car and started slamming the lid on it, over and over and over again.
He turned to me with the shredded remains of the umbrella and said, “Get rid of this”. “Aye aye sir”, I responded and took the umbrella and saluted as the Commandant got back in the car. Once General Kelley was out of earshot, I leaned in towards the Gunny and said “I hope there were no sailors passing by just now,” as the Barracks is just blocks from the Washington Navy Yard.
The Gunny looked confused and asked “Why?”.
I replied, “This is the sea story to end all sea stories from the Navy’s perspective…we have a Marine Sergeant, a Gunnery Sergeant, and the Commandant of the Marine Corps f*cking with an Umbrella and NONE OF US could figure out how to get it closed!
About the Author: Eoin Stewart is a Sales and Business Operations/Development Consultant, as well as a Real Estate professional with 30+ years of experience with both domestic and global markets. He has advanced skill sets in multiple disciplines ranging from, but not limited to, Design, Fashion, Furnishings, Antiquarian Architectural Restoration, Media Production, new and existing Business Development, Customer Experience Management, Project Management, Marketing, magazine and book publishing, management/leadership, strategic program management global procurement, project and business statistics, finance, and logistics. With a passion for customer/client experience and antiquarian research, Eoin continues a legacy of pursuits ranging from research, to interior design, to furnishings, to historical, classic, and contemporary fashion. Eoin is a United States Marine and published author, as well as a public speaker and educator who lives in Seattle, WA.