OK, So Here's The Deal...

A Marine Major, Running Fool, and All-Around Smart-Ass.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006


Is this what I have to look forward to?


By MSgt Andy Bufalo USMC (Ret)

A terrible thing happened. I woke up this morning and came to the realization that I have become civilized. It has been a slow evolution to be sure, but a steady one nonetheless. During the twenty-five years I wore the uniform of a United States Marine I learned to accept hardship and discomfort as the norm, and in a perverse way even came to relish it. But that is no longer the case. How do I know? Well, just consider the evidence.

“Back in the day” I drank that nasty, brownish paste which passes for coffee on the “mid-watch” aboard dozens of Navy ships, and occasionally brewed a cup of “C-Rat” coffee in my canteen cup while out in the boonies – and was glad for it. Now I find myself sipping lattes at Starbucks, or drinking home-brewed Columbian coffee lightened with Coffee Mate vanilla half & half. Nothing else will do!

And speaking of ships…I once sailed the Atlantic, Pacific, Mediterranean and Caribbean aboard a succession of big, gray Navy “amphib” ships while crammed into a living space the size of a coffin, and spent hours standing in the chow line just to get a hot dog or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. To this day I can hear the sound of boatswain’s whistles and “Sweepers, sweepers, man your brooms…” echoing in the back of my mind whenever I think about the experience. Now, I sail on the big white ships of the cruise lines, where I live in a comfortable stateroom and dine on gourmet meals twenty-four hours a day (while becoming a “fat body” in the process…).

In the Corps the “head” was often a communal one where you could hold a conversation with the man sitting next to you while doing nature’s business, and we all used government-issued “John Wayne” toilet paper (it’s rough, it’s tough, and it doesn’t take crap off of anyone!) when we were finished to, well, you get the picture. Now, I use “Charmin Ultra with Aloe” in the privacy of a bathroom that’s bigger than my old berthing area, and the only conversations I have while I’m in there are on the cordless phone.

And then there’s the air conditioning. I live in Florida now, and the notion of a summer without it is just unthinkable. We all scurry from the comfort of a climate controlled home, to an air conditioned car, to a cool and comfortable office - and back again. It’s hard to believe I once lay on my rack in a condemned barracks on Onslow Beach (it once housed POWs, and has since been demolished) and hoped for just one cool breeze to blow in through the open window, or that I spent weeks operating in the Mojave Desert during the dog days of August without giving the heat much thought.

Now I live in a comfortable house instead of an open squadbay, have a walk-in-closet instead of a wall locker, pack a set of matched suitcases instead of a seabag, and drink bottles of cold Corona beer (with a lime) instead of those cans of warm, rationed (two to a man!) “near beers” we once yearned for.

Instead of reveille at zero-dark-thirty, I now sleep-in until seven AM on most days. I wear 100% cotton Dockers, tailored suits and silk ties instead of camouflage and combat boots. I mindlessly surf through hundreds of cable TV channels instead of tuning in to the Armed Forces Network. And, worst of all, I am surrounded day in and day out by a horde of civilian whiners who don’t know how good they have it, when once I kept company with the finest men this nation has to offer. You know, now that I think of it, the conditions we endured were far worse than anything the detainees at Gitmo have been subjected to – so I don’t know what the heck Senator Durbin has been whining about. I’m betting that if those incarcerated terrorists were transferred to Parris Island for a few days, they’d be begging to go back to the relative comfort of Guantanamo Bay!

As I said, I’ve become civilized - and I don’t much like it. The good news is, I don’t think it’s irreversible. If I had the opportunity to trade in my suits, silk ties and 100% cotton Dockers for a set of desert cammies and an M-16, I would jump on it in a heartbeat. Deep down in the place the fictional Colonel Nathan Jessup once pointed out “we don’t talk about at parties,” I will always remember that I was “born on Parris Island in the land that God forgot” – and will forever be one of Gunny Highway’s “life-takers and heartbreakers.” That’s because I believe the “hard corps” persona that my drill instructors literally pounded into me is, and will always remain, deep inside, and if my nation should call on this old jarhead to once again “strap it on,” I will gladly go. Something tells me that I am far from alone in this sentiment.

I know what I have just written is true because not a day passes that I don’t yearn to stuff my 782 gear into a seabag, board one of those big gray warships, and have a cup of that nasty mid-watch coffee with my brothers-in-arms as we sail into harm’s way in some distant corner of the world. I just hope they have some of that vanilla half & half on board…

Semper Fi!

Andy Bufalo is a retired Marine Corps Master Sergeant who served five tours of duty with Reconnaissance and Force Reconnaissance units and commanded the Marine Security Guard detachments at our embassies in Brazzaville, Congo and Canberra, Australia. He is now an author and speaker who has become known as “The Storyteller of the Corps.” His work includes “The Older We Get, The Better We Were,” “Not As Lean, Not As Mean, Still A Marine!” and “The Only Easy Day Was Yesterday,” which can be found online at www.usmcstories.com

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  • At 6:25 PM, Blogger Killjoy said…

    Ha! So you!

  • At 8:19 PM, Blogger TWM said…

    I was never a Marine, but even an Air Force guy like me knows how it is to become civilized. And while it does get easier over time, you really do miss the good ole days.

  • At 5:25 AM, Blogger Viper said…

    For a nostalgic guy like me, this should hit me pretty much like a train.

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