Chapter 24: The Color of Marine Green

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Chapter 24: The Color of Marine Green

I transferred Harrison to another barracks, deciding it was better that way. I tried chanting a few times, but riches never came, nor any more revelations. Becoming a loner, I had entered a void, a place of spiritual dryness. Only I did not know just how dry.

The Marine Corps wanted to keep me. At Nineteen, I was the youngest Marine to make sergeant in Marine history, and already on the list to make Staff Sergeant within three years, assuring a prosperous military career. Where else did I have to go?

"The Marine Corps needs good men like you," a Warrant Officer with flushed cheeks said from behind his comfortable perch like a smiling corpulent insect in the midst of summer. "If you sign up on the six year plan you will get five thousand dollars, the assignment of your choice, and the Corps will even make you an officer one day...if that's what you want."

He said this with a hint of distain in his voice. Warrant Officers were enlisted men who worked up through the ranks, a few to as high as Master Gunnery Sergeant, becoming a specialized rank between NCO and commissioned Officer, and usually called Gunners, although not all were. No Warrant Officer has less than eight years time and grade as a "Gunny", and most many years more than that. Considered experts in their field, capable of filling any chosen post, all those that I met lacked a sense of humor. The very first Warrant Officers were technically proficient career men chosen from enlisted ranks to serve as advisers and instructors to newly commissioned offices without field experience. Appointed by the same process as commissioned officers, they are a breed unto themselves, a kind of phoenix of military protocol, almost a civilian in uniform. A mutual respect exists between higher-ranking officers and these mustangs of military history; whereas, the lower ranking officers treat them with the same courtesy and respect as they would a superior officer. It is a fact that a W-3 is the only rank in the service who can tell a Captain to go jump in the lake with impunity, and not even a Full Bird will challenge him openly.

I was a little awed that a W-1 was actually asking me to re-enlist, as though he was a General. Nevertheless, I still was not fully decided. The question was not if I would reenlist, but rather for how long. Six years seemed like a long time. In reality nine years counting the three inactive I still had left. Nevertheless, the money represented an enormous incentive. Where else could I get that kind of money and a career?

"Thank you, sir," I said with deepest admiration, "I just want to make the right choice."

"Of course, Sergeant--take all the time in the world! The Marine Corps is the best of the services, patient, looking only for the few and the proud."

I left that meeting more gung-ho than ever. I felt truly honored in the presence of this soldier, and all the soldiers like him, some fallen, all engraved with the immortal merit of loyal duty. It was like Tennyson's poem "Charge of the Light Brigade" that goes:

Cannon to right of them,

Cannon to left of them,

Cannon in front of them

Volley'd & thunder'd;

Storm'd at with shot and shell,

Boldly they rode and well,

Into the jaws of Death,

Into the mouth of Hell

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