Memories of The Military

Memories of The Military

When I was growing up I always wanted to be in the military. I was always playing games with Jamie Anderson on the farm that were focused around shooting with stick guns and building forts that I saw on television. I grew up a pretty active boy. My parents were extremely supportive of my imagination, and boy did I have one!

I have a lot of scars from childhood.....A LOT. I have so many scars that my mother got reported to SRS(the Kansas version of CPS) for child abuse. Falling face first on a nail claiming "I fell off of my space ship" at the age of 4. Little did they know that my scars were coming from good ol' fun growing up on the farm. During the flood of 1993 my friend Jason Castillo and I were re-enacting Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle scenes and he threw a ninja star(shard of glass) at me and it sliced open my shin. My mother was not impressed... Once I thought I was the Tony Hawk of Pogo Balls for about five minutes until I sliced open the back of my head and gained a pretty nasty concussion.

Anyways it only made sense that I would eventually join the military. I eventually did by enlisting in the Army at the ripe age of one day into being 17 years old with my parents consent. I went to basic training at Fort Knox, Kentucky in between my Junior and Senior year of high school. I really didn't accept the amount of responsibility I had placed on myself at this time, and of course when I got back I screwed up royally. The plan was to commit to active duty army after I had completed High School.

Being the young dumb idiot I was I managed to break my ankle one month before I graduated high school. This would lead to my administrative separation from the Army. I felt really guilty about this. If there was one thing in my life I could take back it was going out to skate that morning. When I got kicked out of the Army I hit this really bad depression streak for about a year and a half, and at the age of 20 I moved to Phoenix transferring with my company ALLTEL at the time.

I felt extremely guilty about and to this day I still feel extremely guilty. I did however choose the higher road of redemption. In May of 2005 I had decided that I had enough of feeling guilty. I quit my job of almost five years and decided I would go finish my obligation.

Anyone who knows me has heard this story before, but I'll write it down this time. I quit my job 15 minutes after winning some sort of employee award, the executive management of the company had given me a way too small polo shirt. I still have it to this day, and now I fit in it. I kind of gauge my body of my ability to fit into this shirt. I wrote my two weeks up stating "it's time for me to go back to the military".

The next week I sold my car and committed to losing weight. I was living in a pretty ramshackle spot at Buckeye & Central in Phoenix. I weighed about 320 lbs and I had horrible self-image problems. I started bicycling every single day and rationing my food intake considerably. I had a rather reasonable stockpile of money, so I decided it was now or never. My best buddy Dave let me move in with he and his wife under the pretense that when I did lose the weight, I would be gone and in the military. I'm not one to take a challenge like that lightly!

Every night I would watch television eating cottage cheese and doing dips between two chairs watching television followed by a run in a sweater in the 100 degree heat of the evening to sweat out some water weight. Every morning I would drink some chocolate milk, pound some water and ride a bicycle from 83rd Ave & McDowell 10 miles to Central Phoenix to Rodriguez Boxing Gym. I trained every damn day at that boxing gym. I would run in a sauna suit for a mile, come back and speed bag for hours. Anything I could do to burn the weight off. I knew money wouldn't last forever, and I had a goal. Slowly 320 lbs turned into 280, 270, and then 220.

At the weight of 220 I went to a local Army recruitment office to see if they were interested in me joining as the peak of the Iraq war was currently happening. I was told by the Army recruiters that I had no chance of ever joining again due to the administrative separation. I'm not easily deterred from goals, so I went next door to the Marine Corps recruiting office. I didn't really know what the Marine Corps was. I didn't know exactly what kind of work they did in the military. I didn't really even know any Marines. I just knew boot camp was going to be tough.

The Marine recruiter told me I needed to get to 173 pounds and pass tests including hearing. I've never had good hearing, so I knew this was going to be a hard thing to do. He told me I could get a waiver if I could get enough tests passed stating by audiologists that I could hear good enough. I went to a Beltone up the road and through some persuasion, I got the gal to give me the okay that my hearing was good. My hearing is horrible.....everyone knows this. Anyways, that task over, it was time to finish and join. I joined on a super extra hot morning on October 19th, 2005. I ran that morning in a sauna suit to lose about 5lbs of water weight. My recruiter picked me up at 3am, all of my personal belongings had been moved into the attic of a buddies place. I was set to go. I went to the Entry Processing center, and got checked out and okayed to join. I swung into the oath room and threw my right hand up and spoke the words that are the oath of the Marine Corps.

For a lot of 18 year olds(and myself included as I had done this once before) the oath of the Marine Corps doesn't mean a lot. This was my second chance though, and I had something to prove. I remember the solitude of my words and exactly how real they felt to me as I spoke them. I had earned my chance to make amends for what I had failed at previously. I put my hand down and my recruiter who was a really nice guy came over and shook my hand and said it was time to go to boot camp.

I arrived at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego that evening and got off the plane and sat in the USO of the San Diego Airport with a bunch of other recruits and some Marines returning from leave etc. Boot Camp means a lot of different things to different people. For some of the kids there they were achieving their life long dream. For me it was just another cycle of life, but this was something I had to do. I didn't really join the Marine Corps because I wanted to, I joined because I had to in order to make things right with myself. I really just wanted to get the next 4 years out of the way, go to war, and prove to myself, that I could do it.

Boot Camp started that night, and I remember thinking to myself "wow this is surreal, it's just like Full Metal Jacket". From standing in your underwear to marching in the barracks to the verbage. Everything about Marine Boot Camp was hard, mentally, physically, and emotionally. I remember standing ass naked in a 40 degree squad bay surrounded by 60 other ass naked comrades on Thanksgiving of 2005 listening to a Drill Instructor tell us how worthless we were until we graduated. I remember thinking to myself "god damn can we end this shit already". I also remember the day that I gained my "spirit" so to say. It was 3AM and it was the end of the final task of the Marines called "The Crucible". Three days, not a lot of food, and maybe 5 hours of sleep.

We were sitting on our packs after a 15km hike in the dark staring at this mound called The Reaper. We were going to start up it at sun up and hike to the top down, and then 20km back to our barracks where we would become Marines. When the sun started coming up I realized it was a damn mountain! I also remember that my heart was pounding. I'm not a big sucker for sentiment, but I realized that this was finally the time for redemption. The next 4 hours were going to be the true test of whether or not I would get my chance to finish my 4 years. I hiked up that asshole of a mountain. I saw about 8 kids quit halfway up. I also remember speeding up when I saw them because I knew they were gonna have to start boot camp over again, and I did NOT want to be naked with 60 other men ever again.

We finished the hike and got back to the Squad bay and soon I had graduated from boot camp from the Marines. The thing is that sometimes it's good to write about our redmpetions and remember what we have done right in life and remember what we have done wrong. Remembering the wrong will help us know what we need to do in the future.

Sam Clark.