The Moment of My Greatest Regret as a Marine

I’m ashamed to admit this.
I was route-stepping with a small detachment of Marines back from Charlie Range at Camp Pendleton, the very range where Lee Harvey Oswalt had learned to shoot. We’d been out for a little target time as we prepared for the next qual. ‘couldn’t have been more than ten of us as I remember, we were tired and hungry which to say that we were Marines and we were alive. Marines are always tired and hungry and we’re never happy unless we’re complaining. “Route step,” for those unfamiliar, means you’re still walking in formation but with none of the right-left-right-left bullshit until you get closer to the barracks at which point the shit-bag Corporal in charge would bark us into step before any brass could see us. To pass the time and brighten our sprits some of the Marines had decided to regale us all of tales of their weekend and the hookers they’d procured in San Diego. There was none above an E5 so as with many discussions about buying anything, this conversation became about price. “I got a blow job for $25,” bragged a PFC on the front rank. “Damn that ain’t bad!” He was congratulated by the corn-fed Kansas boy to his left. “Yeah, but she was Black,” added the first. 
Now bracketing for a moment the whole commodification of the female of our species and the blanket disregard for sex workers [I’d been a hooker in LA before  joining The Marine Corps] the thing that hit me the hardest about it was that I was actually marching by a Black Marine! I felt, when the words “but she was Black” were jettisoned to hang above our small detachment for the rest of the way, the Black Marine marching by me— I felt his shoulders roll forward, as if he’d been hit square in the heart by something. I thought, here’s a motherfucker who’s willing to put his body in between a bullet and the man who’s bragging about his cut-rate blowjob and he’s so goddamn unaware he doesn’t even realize what he’s done. You know what I said?! 
I said nothing. For all the things I was a part of that I know feel ashamed of, I think I will always be most ashamed that I said nothing. I did nothing. I just kept marching.
In the Marine Corps we have an expression “pain retains.” Essentially it means the most painful lessons are the most valuable because we remember and use them. 

I hope that lesson was painful enough that I never again keep my mouth shut when it is right to speak. 


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