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Thread: Motivational Article
02-28-10, 07:27 AM #1
Via Seamus comes this piece by Marine Officer Candidate Jordan Blashek, Princeton Class of 2009, who decided to turn down acceptance to medical school to join the U.S. Marine Corps and enter its Officer Candidate School, from which he graduated in December 2009. Written originally as an explanation of his decision for his high school classmates, it is worth reading – and appreciating – by us all.
“You Joined Us” -- That phrase is carved into a steel plaque that tauntingly guards the entrance to the Officers’ barracks at Camp Barrett in Quantico, VA. As I hobbled inside, exhausted from another 15-hour day, my roommate half-jokingly pointed to the plaque, “Why did we do that again?” I smiled. Today had been a long day. Waking at 4 AM, we spent the next 9 hours outside in the pouring rain learning hand-to-hand combat and outdated bayonet techniques. Without warming layers, hats or gloves, our hands quickly went numb and our bodies started shaking uncontrollably in the 30-degree temperature. Finally, we were sent back inside to clean our rifles, which must be spotless before we can wash off our bodies. As 8 PM rolled around and we were still cleaning on a Friday night – when my high school and college friends were out at Happy Hours – I thought about that plaque on the wall: Why exactly did I join, again?
It’s a question I have tried to answer many times for my family and friends, but never feel as though I have fully conveyed my reasons. I made the decision to join the U.S. Marine Corps at the start of my senior year at Princeton, turning down an acceptance to medical school in the process. I kept the decision to myself until I broke the news to my shocked parents over Christmas Break. I ran through the litany of justifications for them: I wanted to serve my country. I wanted the camaraderie and the pride of being in the Marine Corps brotherhood. I needed the challenge to test my true capabilities and strength. I would receive the best leadership training on the planet, which would help me in any future career I chose. I wanted adventure and the chance to be a part of history in Iraq or Afghanistan. I wanted to exude that same confidence that I saw in every Marine officer I have met. Whether I convinced them or not, in the end, none of these “reasons” alleviated my parents’ understandable anxiety.
When I told my plans to anyone else, I felt as though I were talking to a brick wall – the Military, especially the Marine Corps, was simply outside their reality. My closer friends would nod their heads and say something to the effect of “Wow, that’s cool;” but since I was the perennial flake of the group, most did not take my decision very seriously. And to be honest, even I was not quite sure that I would follow through with the choice. In the comfort of my college dorm, the decision to become a Marine Corps officer seemed glamorously abstract. However, on October 1, 2009 my decision suddenly became very real when I arrived at the Marine Corps’ Officer Candidate School (OCS) in Quantico, VA.
My OCS experience was surreal. Along with 407 other “Candidates” – all college graduates with newly shaved heads – I ran around for 10 weeks carrying an M16 rifle, while the Marine Corps’ famous drill instructors screamed increasingly creative insults at us. In reality, we were beginning the painful, yet deliberate process of transforming from civilians into Marine officers through some of the most intense training that exists in the US military. Meanwhile, the drill instructors continually evaluated our leadership potential as part of the time-honored tradition whereby enlisted Marines select the officers that will eventually lead them in combat. After nearly half of the officer candidates were dropped or dropped out on their own, we emerged from OCS standing a little taller and a little straighter on graduation day, December 11, 2009. That afternoon, I raised my right hand to swear the oath of office and receive my commission as a second lieutenant. That oath obligates me to serve a minimum of four years in uniform.
Ultimately, I joined the US Marine Corps because I believe that officers bear the most solemn responsibility in our nation, and that was a duty I could not, and should not, leave for others to assume. To say that I wanted that responsibility is not quite right, because being a Marine officer is not about one’s self, wants or needs; it is about guiding the young 18 and 19 year-old Marines fighting this country’s wars on our behalf. I decided that serving them was the highest honor and responsibility I could have at this point in my life. As one speaker at my commissioning ceremony explained:
“As second lieutenants, you must have a strong sense of the great responsibility of your office; the resources which you will expend in war are human lives. This is not about you anymore. This is about the young Marines who will place their lives in your hands. It is your job to take care of them, even when that means placing them in mortal danger. That awesome responsibility – the weight which now rests on you – is reflected in those gold bars which you will soon place on your shoulders.”
That is why the plaque hangs in every portal through which we pass – You Joined Us. We chose to bear this responsibility and we must make absolutely sure we are prepared to fulfill it, because young American lives are at stake. If that means being cold and miserable; studying for ungodly hours; and going for days without sleep, then so be it. That is the price of the salute we receive from our Marines.
Five months into my service commitment, I have not regretted my decision for a moment. I already have unforgettable memories from my experience and new friendships with diverse and exceptional peers from all over the country. We have had moments of pure fun together and laughed harder than I ever thought possible. We have also been humbled by the stories and portraits of brave Lieutenants – those who fought and died after roaming the very halls where we now stand and their portraits hang. Most of all, I am immensely proud to bear the title of ‘United States Marine,’ an honor that I will carry with me my entire life.
02-28-10, 07:56 AM #2
SEMPER FIDELIS !
02-28-10, 08:08 AM #3
That is an awesome article, one more confirmation that our Corps transforms the finest citizens we have into even better Marines. Sometimes I think I can't have any more pride in the Marine Corps than I already do, and then I read an article like that, inspiring.
10-27-10, 08:04 AM #4
The key to being a good officer is to be a member of the team first. To think he is there to lead and make all decisions is folly.
In the case of this young man, he probably left many things unsaid and will become an outstanding leader. I hope so.
10-28-10, 08:02 AM #5
Bob, did most of the 2nd LT's coming into your unit in the Pacific understand that their Platoon Sgt. and the other experienced enlisted Marines were their greatest resource or did most of them think they had something to prove? If that young LT wouldn't defer to the experience of tested combat leaders was there a way to remedy that situation within the unit?
10-28-10, 12:51 PM #6
10-29-10, 08:14 AM #7
Bob, I would imagine there would be some friction between an NCO that has been acting as the only commander for a platoon and a new untried officer. I would think everyone believes that they can do the job the best and are hesitant to relinquish the fate of their comrades to an untested leader. However it sounds as though Lt. King intelligently integrated himself into your unit and obviously gained the respect of his Marines. That was an amazing story and a great insight into the small snipets of time and encounters during combat.
10-29-10, 01:57 PM #8
Just a matter of interest , when we left Iwo, we had three NCOs and three officers. Captain Puckett and Lt. Fouch were both replacements. Fouch had all three platoons, merged into one, under his command when the battle ended. Lt. Weaver was an original officer. At one time or another he had command of most of the platoons. He never held those commands long. I don't know why. The three NCOs also have their mystery NCO. Sgt. Darby was never wounded, and as far as, I can determine, he never served with any platoon. My guess is that he was in Company Headquarters. Gy Sgt Senter and Cpl Braddock were both in the MG Platoon. Senger was wounded early in the campaign and returned soon enough to go north with us. I know he was very active on D Day, pretty much stayed in the CP after her rejoined us. Cpl Braddock, I knew real well. Late in the campaign after we all became rifle men, we were together quite often. I don't know his age, but he was at Pearl Harbor and served in the Solomons as a Raider.
The last two weeks, we did not have a single NCO on the line except Braddock, and he assumed no leadership role. He stayed in the Corps and retired a 30 year man as Sgt. Major. I ran into him in Pennsacola when the USS Iwo Jima was commissioned. During that time a PFC G. C. Burk was officially our Platoon Leader.
10-30-10, 12:55 PM #9
You and the Marines you served with are the foundation and the inspiration for probably everything I learned as a Marine. It is an honor and pleasure hearing your memories.
I wonder if some of those NCO's were filling the roles of officers at the company and battalion level, it seems that no one was ever behind the lines on Iwo. I do believe that battle was one of the hardest tactical problem ever faced by a modern military, I know we all think so, but I wonder if there was any other fighting force in history that could have accomplished that victory.
10-30-10, 10:51 PM #10
Battalion & Hq personnel
As for there not being a rear area, that is true while the 28th were taking Suribachi Yama, but when we moved north we began to have a comfort area between the lines, Company CPs, the Battalion Headquarters and the Regimental Headquarters. During the last three weeks, the Company CP followed very closely to the line troops, but the Battalion Hq. Co. was a hundred or more yards behind in a relative safe area. They were occasionaly hit by a few mortar rounds and plagued by snipers. I have a story of my visit to the 1st Bn Hq on about March 17 which I will try to remember and relate later. (If I remember.)
Our Company CO did turn over eight times, but wasn't quite as bac as it sounds. Capt Mears was mortally wounded on D-Day and replaced by Lt. Weaver from the Mortar Platoon. On Feb 26 Lt Weaver was replaced by Capt Wilson from Bn. Hq. Co. Capt Wilson was wounded and evacuated on March. 1. Again, Lt. Weaver took Command and served until he was relieved on March 3 By Capt Jack Rhoades from Weapons Co. Captain Rhoades was wounded within minutes and Lt. Weaver once assumed Command. Capt. Puckett from the 27th Replacement Draft relieved Lt. Weaver on March 4. On Mar 13, Maj Woods, Bn EX, relieved Capt. Puckett. Rumor were that Capt. Puckett refused to send B Company upon that last ridge without flank coverage. On March 15, Capt. Puckett. retuned to control until December when the 28th returned to the states. As you can see, we only lost 3 Company Commanders from enemy fire.
B Co XO was wounded on D Day and never replaced.
Battalion Headquarters is a little diffcult to analyze. They only suffered 69 casualties and transferred several officers into line companies. They had eight officers and most of their senior NCO staff when HQ Co left Iwo on March 26. There is no real record that I have found recording the personnel shift within Hq. Co.
I don't know if this is the information you are looking for, but it is the best I can do.
DON'T UNDERESTIMATE TODAY'S MARINES!!
11-01-10, 08:42 AM #11
I wouldn't underestimate todays Marines, however I think the point I was trying to make is that you and your fellow Marines set the mark that we all try to emulate to this day. I don't think there is a Marine that has served in a combat zone since that hasn't wanted to tarnish the standard you amazing Marines set. I know that all you have to do is read todays award citations to understand that the honor, courage and valor that you Marines showed us all is still in force today.
11-01-10, 03:06 PM #12
11-02-10, 07:34 PM #13
Lt. Clark King
To Bob Allen: Lt. Clark King was my late father. Thank you for writing about him. After the Marine Corps, Dad went on to coach football at VMI. After several years he earned his Phd from the University of Virginia and spent almost forty years teaching at VMI. I will share your story with my brother, sister and children.
Lisa King Stratienko
Lookout Mountain, TN
11-02-10, 08:06 PM #14
Unknowingly, I had made the best choice of my life. I started to say, "except for chosing my lifetime help mate." But I am not sure I did the choosing. I was only in the Corps for two years, but my choices since then have been controlled by the things I learned in the Marine Corps. I have rejected some things, but I have accepted the real things on which the Corps is built. I will never regret that decision I made on the spur of the moment back in 1944.
11-04-10, 07:29 AM #15
I went to Parris Island to see a friend graduate about 5 years ago and I got the opportunity to meet one of my former Drill Instructors. He was the SgtMaj. of 2nd Recruit Training Battalion and I was honored to thank him for helping to change my life. I now work in a job that lets me make a real difference in people's lives and the honor, courage and fidelity I perform that job with was instilled in me about 22 years ago next month. I wouldn't trade my service for the sum of the national debt.
Sorry for the delay in between posts, I don't get much time on the computer, I get a chance when it's slow at work or in between jobs.
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