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Battalion PT: Pain Time

Wednesday, January 31st, 2007

Wednesday

Quote of the Day: “When you’re through changing, you’re through.”

- Bruce Barton

If I’m going to do this running crap, I can’t use it as an excuse when it comes time for mandatory exercise. Especially when I’m the one enforcing participation.

Would anyone care that I ran a marathon 3 days ago? No, they would just know the Company Commander wasn’t out at the Battalion PT session.

I was still so friggin’ tired. I won’t be fully awake for another few days so this post-marathon week is just a daze. It just so happens that the once-a-month PT session with the Battalion was today and that meant I lost even more precious sleep, having to get in the office by about 0545.

As a little bonus, it was raining for about the 4th or 5th time since I got to San Diego. People were already parked near the PT field when I came in with their lights on, like some kind of pick-up football game. They were waiting in their warm, dry cars hoping someone would come along and tell them PT was cancelled due to inclimate weather.

Yeah, right. We are Marines and sometimes we have to remind the young ones of that fact. How would it look, really, if we said “You know what? It’s drizzling a little so we’re gonna just canx PT today.”

What are we, Air Force?

If it ain’t rainin’, we ain’t trainin’!!!

And furthermore, if I can get my 38-year-old ass out there only three days out from a marathon, none of you bastards have even the most remote right to not be up for a little run.

Standing out in the light rain, a week prior, would have been a bit more miserable, I have to admit. After going through the Miami monsoon, this warm SOCAL spit seemed minuscule by comparison.

It hurt to run from the first step. But what could I do? I was at the lead of my Company which was the lead element of the Battalion. I would run on bloody stumps before I let them see me even wince.

The Colonel got the idea in his head that we needed to get everyone’s pulse up so about 1 ½ miles into it, he stopped and then instructed everyone that we would go at a dead sprint by Company, every Marine for himself for ¼ mile.

When he said go, I bolted. I THOUGHT it was just that I was in the front to begin with that I was ahead of everyone but as I accelerated (with every muscle in my body screaming “What the FUCK?!”), I noticed that no one was passing me.

I snuck a look over my shoulder and most of the Company was far behind me. There were two that were still ahead of me, one being the Guidon bearer who had the disadvantage of carrying a wooden pole with a flag on it. The other was a young Marine who decided to make his move but it just so happened at that moment that the flag-bearer switched position on the Guidon and unknowingly blocked his would-be-passer’s way. The guy double clutched which gave me just enough of a step to accelerate past them and pour on everything I had left.

I surged forward leaving both of them behind me.

A few moments later, I was coming to a bend and my body suddenly wanted to know when we were going to be done. When we rounded the corner, I saw two cones on either side of the path and wondered if that was where we were supposed to stop. I was the lead man so I wasn’t sure so I kept up my pace while I snuck a look behind me to see if anyone had stopped at the cones.

Nope.

Rounding the next little corner, it suddenly became apparent where the finish was: at the concrete barrier where the PFT turn-around point was.

And it was still a ways away.

My body was not too happy about this.

I never slowed down, even sped up a little, opening up my carburetor and pouring all the gas straight into the engine. I would pay for this but for now, the most tired and one of the oldest Marines on the course was handily kicking everyone else’s ass.

But then I heard footfalls and two Marines raced past me like I had fallen down.

One was my First Sergeant who is a physical specimen I can only marvel at and another was another well-built Marine I didn’t know.

Fine, you can have it. I was full throttle and I would be happy with 3rd place. My body had taken a vote and Mind really didn’t have a choice in the matter.

When I crossed the finish line, I was destroyed. But I had to stay standing and cheer on the others that were coming in.

Of particular note were the ones that came jogging in, obviously not playing the game. It took everything I had not to punch them in the neck and simultaneously kick them in the groin.

Yes, my complete fatigue was taking its toll.

We finished up the run and afterwards, the Battalion had set up breakfast consisting of water, orange juice, coffee, fruit, bagels, and pastries.

This put me in an interesting position. Did you not notice what day it was? It’s, of course, the Starbuckiest day of the week so I couldn’t exactly waste my coffee-drinking performance on Einstein’s. I mean, come on.

So I abstained and then made a quick drive to SB’s to do my weekly duty.

Back in my office, I sipped the Breastmilk of God Himself while wondering if I was going to recover anytime soon from the morning’s events.

The answer was “Hells NO!” and I went home at the end of the day feeling like the bottom layer of a full porta-potty left out in the desert for a month.

Third place. Humph.

Free Advice for Today: “Volunteer. Sometimes the jobs no one wants conceal big opportunities.”

- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

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New Office Spaced

Tuesday, January 30th, 2007

Tuesday

Quote of the Day: “Whenever I hear anyone arguing for slavery, I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally.”

- Abraham Lincoln

I just realized that I never showed you all my new office. I should take care of that today while I deal with enough lactic acid in my body to make a horse cry.

Here we have the wall I look at from my desk. Upper left is me and the Vice President of the United States in 1990 when he visited me in Saudi Arabia during the first Gulf war. It’s Dan Quayle you dolts, not Robert Redford.

Lower left is me is General Hagee, the Commandant of the Marine Corps and a couple of balloons in the back making the picture look all important and stuff.

Top is a clock and notice it’s straight up 0700 cuz dat’s the way I roll.

Dead center is the sword holder Carrie got me back in November for my birthday.

Bottom is the K-Bar plaque a few members of my bootcamp platoon got for me on a recent visit. Also note that there are two weapons on the back wall so if someone decides they don’t like what they are in my office for, I’m screwed.

Top right is General Krulak and me at the 29 Palms O Club back in 1998. I had had a few beers, the truth be known.

Note that the Quayle picture, the General Krulak picture, and the General Hagee picture are all exactly 8 years apart.

Bottom right is the latest edition of “Me and the Commandant” this time starring General Conway with a supporting role filled by Sergeant Major Estrada, the Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps.

Lastly, note that my coffee table has a plethora of reading offerings to include my original Green Monster from 1987 and of course Katherine McPhee because I stills gots the McPheever!!!!

OK, now for the wall to the left of the office picture above.

Upper left is of my avionics school group back in 1988. If you could see closely, one of my shirt straps broke that morning which meant that the front of my shirt was not as tight as we like it to be so I compensated by arching my back and pudging out my gut. Not only would I NEVER do this these days, I looked totally gay.

Below that is when I was part of the Colors Detail in the Kingdome when I was a MECEP student at the University of Washington. I am dipping the Marine Corps colors as they sing the National Anthem. We (Seahawks) played the Packers and got crushed.

The middle pic with the white rectangle is of our avionics group on a det to Japan. It was a miserable 3 months because I missed Alex’s first birthday but the day before I came home, I found out I was accepted to the MECEP and would become an Officer.

The yellow certificate with two tanks represents the undefeated football season at First Tank Battalion. The only football experience I had was in 6th grade and I sucked. This didn’t stop me from joining the Tanks team at the tender age of 31. We went undefeated but I got my ass handed to me daily.

Below that is my NCO School picture. We graduated a month before the First Gulf War started. I came in third place with a 98%. The last class’s honor grad would not have made our top ten so obviously I was in the wrong class to get the #1 NCO sword. But I’m not fucking bitter or anything.

The top middle picture is my going-away plaque from tanks. It’s signed by a lot of guys that went on to be big heroes in the Iraq War.

Below that is the Blue Monster which means a lot to me because it’s normally only given to Tankers. As the Adj, it was a huge honor to get one of these.

Continuing right, top, we have the group picture of those that went with me to Desert Shield/Storm. If you look real closely, you can see someone holding a rifle up in the top left corner of the group. It’s some really skinny guy who rambles a lot on his blog.

Below that is my OCS picture. I have only run into one of the Sergeant Instructors from that picture. That was a very dark time in my life. OCS is never fun but my daughter was a newborn and I was a Sergeant being treated like a recruit. Sucked.

Top middle are my three Drill Instructors, Staff Sergeant Garcia (Retired Top), Staff Sergeant Wertjes (Retired Sergeant Major), and Sgt Robinson (unknown). I am often asked if I am one of them and it mortifies me every time. I quickly correct them and tell them they are MY Drill Instructors and still look after me to this day.

Below that is my bootcamp platoon.

Upper right is me as a Recruit looking far tougher and younger than I really was at the time.

Far right bottom is another collection of my Bootcamp Brothers. I do believe I might be the only one still left in the Marine Corps. Last man standing, if you will.

In the foreground, you can see my iPod hiding under that paper. I listen to it through the speakers during the day.

The bottle to the left has sand from Badwater, reminding me I have something to do in the future.

I’m not Catholic but Hermione sent me the little prayer to the left. I told you I would keep it in view at my desk!!!

The Post-It to the left is my work address and numbers I call daily but still can’t remember. The Post-It to the right is a note from my daughter telling me how great I am.

My in and out boxes are on the corner and following it around, the pink cup with pens is my third place trophy in the 2006 Wild Wild West Marathon: the ONLY time in 18 marathons, 2 ultras, and 4 half-marathons that I have EVER placed in anything. This was in my age division. It shall rest on my desk as long as I have one.

Looking from the entrance to the back corner, you have a front shot of my desk. The candy jar has tape on it that says “Chill Pills. Take one.”

The “We Don’t Promise You A Rose Garden” poster is signed by the Drill Instructor, Chuck Taliano.

All the furniture is brand new.

Panning left, you have the back corner with my wall locker, fridge, and microwave. The various plaques are just the things you collect over the years if you stay in long enough. Below that is a panoramic shot of the Presidential Classroom alumni. I was a volunteer instructor and still keep in contact with some of the students.

The R2D2 thing is a space heater that I don’t rally need but it blocks the ugly outlet action behind it.

Note the plants I decided I needed to spruce up the office. They are fake as fake gets. If I kill them, I possess galactically bad green thumb.

Panning again to the right you have my degrees. I didn’t want them right behind my desk because it would look pretentious. Instead, I thought they could be pretentious over on the other wall.

The bottom one is my bachelor’s degree in Technical Communication from the University of Washington. To top is my Masters degree in Information Technology Management from the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, CA.

Note the two covers on top of the bookcase. I’m always nervous I’m going to grab the wrong one and walk outside without noticing.

Another dead on view of what anyone that comes to see me sees. Well, I’m usually sitting there so I guess this is what they see when I’m out running.

Free Advice for Today: “Keep a note pad and pencil on your bedside table. Million-dollar ideas sometimes strike at 3 A.M.”

- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

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C-130 Rollin’ Down the Strip…

Monday, January 29th, 2007

Monday

Quote of the Day: “I detest life-insurance agents; they always argue that I shall some day die, which is not so.”

- Stephen Leacock

The plan SOUNDED good.

I would get up, hobble over to Starbucks, take a walk on the beach, try not to step into the ocean, and be ready for the ride to the base where we would fly home like we flew here: in the belly of a C-130.

My plan lasted until I got down to the lobby.

I ran into Genna again and again, she was already running around in infinite directions trying to take care of this, that, the other, a few other things, and then some more. I asked her how she was doing and during our conversation, I found out a few more holes in my plan.

First, it was like 0500 which meant that it was really kind of 0300 to me and my internal clock was so hosed that even after a marathon, I couldn’t sleep worth a damn.

Second, Starbucks doesn’t open to like 0530.

Third, walking on a dark beach was not exactly what I had in mind but I had not thought of this during the planning phase.

Genna started asking me about the flight and I guess she didn’t understand the Spartan nature of flying on a military hop because when she found out that there would be no food or drink on the all-day flight, she wanted to fix it. Her plan was to send a bunch of water and some bagels with us so she asked if I would come with her to help get them.

Sure, I thought. My plans were toast and I could get some coffee in the process. What I didn’t know is that she had planned to walk which, at first, wasn’t too bad because I was feeling eerily well after the run. I could actually walk without too much pain involved.

We walked to the only thing open (Walgreens) and bought a case of water that I offered to carry but it became heavier and heavier on the way back. And not back to the hotel, back to Einstein’s to get bagels. My solution was to dump the water in some bushes and hope that some bum didn’t happen upon a goldmine.

When we got to Einstein’s, Genna thought it a better idea to order sandwiches to send along with us and of course, she had to order approximately double what we would really need but that’s just Genna being Genna.

I ended up carrying one of the boxes, retrieving the water and carrying that too, so by the time we got back to the hotel, I was sweating but to be fair, my body was completely without reserves. I get tired going to the bathroom for a week after a marathon (not “going to the bathroom for a week” like that, come on, stay with me here…)

By the time we got all this accomplished, we were late. I had threatened all the Warriors to be in the lobby ready to roll by 0600 and it was 0615 by the time we got back.

Damn Officers and their hypocrisy!!!

The firefighters drove us to the base and we gave them a tour of the brand new C-130 that, as we found out, rolled off the assembly line in November of 2006. This thing was so new that none of the paint was even pitted!!!

We eventually got on the plane, took off, and spent the next 8 1/2 hours in the air. I knew it would be longer than the ride up due to the prevailing winds but damn, it only took 6 hours and 15 minutes to get here. I slept, read, listened to my iPod, slept, stared at others sleeping, and basically tried not to go completely insane. I was mostly successful.

I got home and Carrie came to pick my shredded ass up. Getting home, I realized that three races in three weekends was rough, not only on me and my body but on the family. I was glad I had the opportunities but even more glad I was on break.

For a week.

Then the training starts for the the San Dieguito Half on February 11th. And the LA in March.

I’m insane.

Free Advice for Today: “Every day look for some small way to improve your marriage.”

- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

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Miami Marathon: I’m As Wet As I’m Ever Gonna Get

Sunday, January 28th, 2007

Sunday

Quote of the Day: “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.”

- Peter Drucker

One hour.

And one half of one hour.

That’s all I get in the sleep department.

But it was time to get up, take a shower, put on the band-aids, get dressed, and take a look at a very tired human being with bags under his eyes before heading downstairs. The next time I graced this room, I would be very tired but done with my 18th marathon. All I would be seeking is another shower and unconsciousness in the bed, left alone with the satisfaction of another medal to add to my collection.

Before that happened though, I had to begin the journey by going down to the lobby where I soon found an empty couch. I was down like prom dress.

This was a novel experience. I was not responsible for any of the logistics, I simply had to wait for the word to get in the van and go. Of course I was responsible that all my Marines made it to the lobby but with Sgt. Carter there, all I had to do is wait for him to come over and give me the thumbs up. It was a very Nero-like experience (me laying on the couch and waiting for him to come to me) and I was able to doze until we were all ready to go.

I didn’t want to talk to anyone, I just wanted to lie there with my iPod and wait. Waiting was OK. I was inside, warm, and comfortable. How many races have I been stressed, confused, tired, cold, and waiting in the elements? Too many to count.

This was good. Couch. Dozing…

“Saddle up!!!”

We got all the bikes loaded, all the people loaded, and got on the dark road. It took about an hour (I think. At least it seemed that long) and somewhere along the way, the rain started coming down in sprinkles. Bad omen.

Our driver was one of the local firemen and the idea was that he was “connected” to the police who would be directing traffic. The goal was to get as close to the start as we could so the bikes wouldn’t have to be lugged all that far.

The first couple of cops we came to were very cooperative, taking our driver’s “creds” and allowing us through. But then he came upon a detective who, we were informed, just got promoted two weeks prior, who was resistant to our progress. This was colorfully expressed by our driver who vowed to “get that guy” and expressing his displeasure at such treatment in his own colorful way that included talking to everyone up to the Commish about this guy.

When we got to the start/end area, we had a small tent set up and unloaded all the bikes. The rain was starting to come down harder and harder but it wasn’t a factor. Yet.

The small group of us that were running either the marathon or the half started toward the mass of humanity in the starting chute. It took about 5 seconds before I lost everyone and found myself alone. Well, alone to everyone/anyone I knew. I DID have a couple of thousand people around me but you get the idea.

Oh well. Marathoning is an individual sport and I would lose anyone I was hanging with almost immediately so I donned my iPod and got my head ready for the race.

Twenty minutes before the start, the dark skies opened up.

And I mean “opened up” like a water tower tipping over.

Standing in the crowded chute with the announcer blaring incessantly about this and that, it took about 30 seconds before I was as wet as I was ever gonna get. I stood there shivering in the dark, water cascading off my body in sheets, and watched the water drop off the bill of my running hat like a waterfall.

By the time we started moving, it was as though I had walked over to the edge of a swimming pool, jumped in fully clothed, climbed out, and started running.

Water “scwooshed” out of my shoes each step.

The first mile had one of the very few hills in this race and suddenly, I found myself running uphill, in the pitch-black morning darkness, with an hour and a half of sleep under my belt and soaking wet in the pouring rain. With over 25 miles to go. I realized at that precise moment that this might be the most miserable moment of my entire running career.

When you run, you go through highs and lows. You are not too worried about the lows because you know there will be a high later on. You don’t despair because no matter how bad it is, experience tells you it will get better, and worse before it’s all over. Until the end of course when it’s not “IF” it will be bad, it’s simply “WHEN?”

This has been a hard learned lesson.

Which failed me today.

It never got any better.

Somehow, the rain and the sun were coordinated. Forty minutes into the run, the rain ceased just as the sun rose meaning that the total shower time was a full hour. Of torrential, monsoon rain.

F^#%^% Florida!!!

Instead of the downpour, I then had to deal with the humidity. I know this may come as a shock to some of you, but did you know it’s friggin’ humid in Florida? I know, freaky.

I never got in the groove. Not when the miles clicked by. Not when the half-marathoners split off. Not when I started getting stomach problems and started spending many long minutes in the port-a-potties trying to ignore the painful expulsions as I watched sweat drip off my running hat bill with clockwork precision. (TMI?)

It was about the halfway point when I made the dreadful mistake of asking if things could get worse.

God has a way of answering such questions.

The iPod, for the second marathon in a row, decided to take a powder. In Phoenix, I reasoned it was because of the cold and now, I either had to accept that water got into it or that it was dying slowly, unable to keep a charge. Whatever the reason, I was left in musical silence.

At the same time, I became painfully aware that I was faced with a serious chafing problem. The rain had been so heavy that my clothes had stuck to me like cellophane and when the rain stopped, the humidity guaranteed that I would not be drying off any time soon. Also, the rain had washed away the lube I had applied and therefore was left exposed to wet shorts and underwear: ideal conditions for a chafe-a-rama.

Ain’t running glamorous?

The bitch of the whole thing was that I had planned to phone this one in. After last week’s half marathon and a marathon the week before that, I didn’t even fool myself into thinking that this was NOT a two-liner (pass the start line and the finish line, not worrying about anything else). I was going to glide, I was going to smell the roses, I was not going to hammer in any form and really expected to just bring home a 4:30 time.

But with all the obstacles, it became evident that it was going to take effort just to get the “easy” time. As I’ve stated, I never got into the groove so every step was misery. I was not having fun. I even had to pull out the thought that I had never failed to finish a race and even contemplated the medal I would be earning for motivation to keep going.

Sad, I know.

By the end, I still brought it in strong but I wash completely stripped. I was exhausted mentally and physically. I was glad it was over and not at all proud of what I had just endured. I felt very little accomplishment.

I came in at 4:31.


So I had to put a lot of work, and I mean A LOT, just to get the “easy” time. I was not too happy about this. And while it wasn’t my worst time by far, I have done too many of these to put this much work into a race just to get a mediocre time. I think the conditions had an effect on my mental state because in hindsight, a 4:31 is not a bad time, ESPECIALLY considering how much work it took to even do that.

Afterwards, I found one of the hand-crank cyclists and together, we found the tent (which I would have never found alone in my state considering I had only seen the location early in the dark morning.)

Practically everyone else was done and most had returned back to the hotel. I sat in the tent for about 40 minutes before a couple of the Marines and a Doc came walking up and explained that they had just spent an hour at the finish line looking for me. How they could have missed me is still a mystery since I was practically alone running through the finishing chute.

I really appreciated them waiting for me there though.

As though my mind wasn’t scrambled enough after what was arguably one of the more arduous marathons I’ve run, there was a professional wrestler there. This guy not only looked a lot like Hulk Hogan but also trained him. I guess he was big in Australia which was weird because the world-record holder for the wheelchair competition was Australian and practically flipped out when he saw this guy. He got autographs, pictures, the whole deal. What kind of guy flips out over celebrity?

By the time I got back to the hotel, I was wiped with a capitol WIPED. This morning, all of the Wounded Warriors had talked smack about how hard they were going to hit the town tonight and I didn’t say a word about it. As I knew would happen, they all took showers and were fast asleep by the time I got back.

I took my shower and hobbled downstairs for some free buffet chow which wasn’t all that wonderful except for the fact that sautéed dogshit would have been a feast after the marathon. What do you expect 15 minutes before the buffet ends?

I ate, hobbled back upstairs, set the room up for a nap of Biblical proportions, and crashed so hard for about an hour that I believe my heart likely stopped altogether. That’s not to say I was only in bed for an hour and no, I’m not implying anything seedy. I SLEPT hard for an hour but the other couple of hours were spent thrashing around and reacting to the pain in my legs.

Marathoning is fun.

When I couldn’t stand it anymore, I filled my bath spa with hot water which took about FOREVER. My raw parts stung as the water level inched up and I finished up with a shower, keeping to my habit of using every single amenity a hotel has to offer. It’s just my way, folks. I cannot change those stripes.

I asked Sgt. Carter if he wanted to go eat and we headed down to the lobby. When we got there, we ran into Genna, the assistant coordinator for Achilles (brunette in blue, NSC.).

She hadn’t eaten so she joined us as we ambled (I used “hobbled” to often in this post but what we were doing was far from “walking.”)

We got to a steak house where I ordered a porterhouse, but in my defense, the place WAS called “The Porterhouse” so what else would I order? We had salad, we had bread, we had steak, we had fries. Genna was picking up the bill and offered to get us dessert but even though my body was screaming for sustenance, by this time I could have sooner shoved an entire elephant down my throat so I politely passed, culminating in a loud belch. That’s the “Gentlemen” in Officer and a Gentleman, folks.

We made it back to the hotel and to tell the truth, I don’t remember much else. I know I must have caught the elevator up, found my room, undressed, and fallen into the bed but I doubt if I could pass a polygraph. I just remember be tired and sore.

I do remember a fleeting thought, though. The same one I have at such moments.

I finished a marathon today. Number 18.

You would think it would become a non-event after so many repetitions

You would be wrong.

Free Advice for Today: “Just to see how it feels, for the next twenty-four hours refrain from criticizing anybody or anything.”

- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

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Saturday Night Supplemental

Saturday, January 27th, 2007

Saturday Night

Quote of the Day: “Perpetual devotion to what a man calls his business, is only to be sustained by perpetual neglect of many other things.”

- Robert Louis Stevenson

I wanted the ending of today’s blog to be the article so here’s a supplemental follow-up to today’s events.

From the expo, we were bussed to the fire house of the local fire department. The firemen had asked if they could have the honor of feeding us our marathon-eve pasta dinner and since they had the fire house open area to store the bikes, it seemed a perfect set up.

We got there where I took a quick nap in the van while all the other racers tuned up their bikes. I guess you could say that we were all tuning up what was going to carry us 26.2 miles tomorrow.

We ate a pasta dinner with bread to the point we were readily stuffed. I made sure I thanked everyone involved because I knew that they had just provided the fuel I would need for the race tomorrow. Now all I needed was blissful sleep.

We got back to the hotel and I thought it would be a good idea to jump in the hot tub and really thought I would be competing for space on the eve of a marathon. But when I got down there, I had it all to myself which was great until another dude showed up. He was Jewish which to me looked strange since he had swim trucks on but had the long, scraggly beard and locks on the side of his head. I guess this area was a big Jewish area. Seemed a strange place have old people, tourists, Hispanics, and then Jews mixed together.

I ended up going to my suite and getting ready for the race much like I’ve done many times before. I lay everything out and mentally walk through my morning routine to be sure I have everything down and won’t have to do much thinking when I get up. Because not much thinking will be getting done.

Everything was set. I was ready for the race, alarms were set, and nothing lay between me and about 7 hours of sleep except…..

I could not sleep.

I tried multiple times but kept tossing and turning. I had to get up at 0230 (which to my body was 11:30 PM) to be ready and in the lobby by 0330.

I tossed around angrily, turned on the light, read my book, and tried again. Then the same routine but watching television this time.

Still no luck.

More reading. I finished the book.

Finally at about 0100 I think I might have slipped into a restless sleep.

Oh, this is gonna be fun.

Free Advice for Today: “When meeting someone you don’t know well, extend your hand and give them your name. Never assume they remember you even if you’ve met them before.”

- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

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Expo Interview

Saturday, January 27th, 2007

Saturday

Quote of the Day: “The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it.”

- Flannery O’Connor

Two Saturdays in a row, two expos.

Does life get any better than this?

I awoke this morning wallowing in Capitalistic luxury that would make Karl Marx beshat his burlap panties. The Double Tree Resort suite is a great place to wake up in, even if you are fighting a 3-hour jet lag so that getting up at 0800 seems like 0500. But there were Starbucks to be had.

I knew we were going to the expo today but I didn’t know exactly how much beach time we would have so I decided to kill two birds. So I caught a couple of seagulls and ripped their heads off in front of a group of small children.

I don’t know why I did this.

I got dressed and wandered the two blocks to SB’s where I once again indulged in a blended Big Mac in the form of a triple shot white mocha. MMMMMMM…… does a body good.

On the way back, I took a detour and ended up on the beach that I would follow to get me back to the hotel. Wandering along the water edge where the sand was packed tight seemed like a good idea since the only shoes I had were my running shoes. I figured if I didn’t walk on the packed sand, the loose sand would get into my shoes and I’d play hell trying to get all of it out before the race tomorrow morning.

See, I was thinking.

Walking along the beach in the morning sun, sipping on Starbucks, being serenaded by the gentle breaking waves of the Atlantic (or is it the Gulf? Where am I? I need a map…), life was grand. I was enjoying this right up to the point I was about to break left and head to the hotel.

At the precise moment that I hesitated to turn, the water decided to make a freak run up the beach and suddenly, my right foot was overrun by cold water.

SHIT!!!!

Just in case you missed it, ALL I had to do was avoid AN ENTIRE F@#%@$#%@ OCEAN. Doesn’t seem so hard in hindsight, huh? I mean, the largest body of water on the planet on the edge of an entire continent I could chose to walk and somehow when all is said and done, I couldn’t manage to avoid the f^$#%#$ ocean!!!!

OK, so now I have a wet shoe to deal with all day.

Lovely.

We met at the designated time and were bussed to the expo. Again, I really didn’t need anything but just to be part of the crowd was enough to get my running juices flowing. I went through the familiar litany of getting my bib number, my chip, my shirt, and my goody bag. All this seemed so blasé since I have been running so much lately and even the aisles started looking strangely familiar.

The one thing I did spring for was a tube of BioFreeze for a whopping $12. If you haven’t tried this stuff, it’s, in my opinion, the best stuff out there. It allows me to walk the day after a marathon. Buy it, use it, love it.

After a couple of hours of wandering, I met up with some of the other Marines and we walked to a nearby outdoor mall, mostly to people watch. I thought SOCAL had some freaky people. SOFLA is freak-central! And makes SOCAL’s Hispanic population look like Canada. Every sign had a Spanish equivalent and sometimes not even an English version. Half the damn television channels were in Spanish. Don’t fool yourself people, Florida belongs to the Hispanics and old people. Along with the tourists, driving there was death-defying.

But we met up with the firemen and had a good time talking and eating some pizza which seemed like the designated nutritional input for this trip. Nothing like sitting at what we found out was the gay hangout of the area with a bunch of New York firemen and Marines. You can imagine the interaction. Luckily (for them), we were not approached.

When I went back to the expo, I was ditty-bopping around with baseball cap on, listening to my iPod (you know, being really social) when I saw some young guy come up to me and say something. I reached back and turned off the iPod and he asked me if I was the leader of the Marines from Balboa.

Ummm, yeah… and you are?

Ends up he was the Miami Herald reporter that was assigned to cover the Achilles team. He had recognized me which surprised me since I had only seen him once and I looked totally undercover.

He started asking me questions and I realized I was being interviewed. I really wasn’t nervous but I was extremely aware that what I said might be used in or out of context so I was really careful not to say anything stupid. I came out with some pretty good sound bites as I described the Marines.

The main thing the reporter keyed on was heart warming. He said that every Marine he had talked too showed absolutely no regret about joining the Marines even after they were injured. I explained to him that the only regret the Wounded Marines ever have is that they were taken out of the fight. They have the most guilt for getting hurt and medivaced while their buddies were still there in the fight. Given the chance, any of them would strap on their uniforms and return to their units.

He seemed to like this novel concept even though it was given knowledge in my mind. I tend to forget the civilian perspective.

The article came out really good and I was happy to see my thoughts were used to wrap up the story and make the reader’s heart swell with the red, white, and blue. Here is what he wrote (skip to the end if you want to see my quotable quotes):

South Florida, U.S.A.
SOUTH FLORIDA, U.S.A. BY NICHOLAS SPANGLER
Wounded vets ready to roll in marathon

By NICHOLAS SPANGLER

nspangler@MiamiHerald.com

On the day before the ING Miami Marathon, 17 soldiers from the Achilles Track Club gathered in a Sunny Isles Beach hotel suite. Very few were going to run because their legs have been amputated or simply blown off, and if you think running 26.2 miles in Miami heat is a tall order you should try it on prostheses.

There can be pain in the stumps and it’s hard to balance, especially on a slope.

So instead they’ll roll on specially designed wheelchairs.

”There are some very sharp turns,” said team director Mary Bryant. This was over carb-loaded bagels at the Doubletree Ocean Point Resort & Spa. “Don’t wait until you’re turning to brake. Make sure your tires are pumped up to 90 pounds. Now, the starting line opens at 4:30 a.m., so you’re going to need to wake up at 3:30. We will not hold up the team for one person who’s not awake. We will not hold up for two. So if you’re going to party tonight, if you think we won’t leave without you — we will.

Marathons tend to be precise about this sort of thing. Wheelchair athletes start at 6:05 a.m., the runners five minutes later.

Sensing that this pep talk was lacking in pep, Mary rattled off some finish times from Achilles teammates in previous years — 2:01, 1:53, 1:36 — excellent times, getting better. ”You notice the trend here?” she said. “We’re all one team. It says Achilles on everyone’s shirt.”

The soldiers bustled out. A van convoy would transport them to the Miami Beach Convention Center for race registration and all the opportunities for blowing money South Beach has to offer.

Two of the soldiers are called Doc. The first Doc was Elmer Dinglasan, 37, out of Tampa. He was happy to talk. He’d been a trauma medic assigned to 1st Battalion 2nd Marines in Iraq’s Anbar Province. He’d lost both legs and kept one knee and was the owner of two prosthetic legs, one pretty average and one a $35,000 medical marvel.

”I plug it in every night,” he said. “It even has a USB port.”

He felt mad after Sept. 11 and so decided to help.

”I was supposed to go to a hospital,” Elmer said. “But I requested to go with the Marines. I knew I was going to be basically in a war. I was out doing a vehicle patrol, Humvees. It was a mine. I was on the third vehicle. Usually it’s the first two that get hit — they save the medic so he can save someone else. But the first two vehicles missed it and the blast was right underneath me. Fortunately, I was the only one who got injured.”

That really was a great, miserable stroke of luck.

”I kept asking my Marines what had happened and they wouldn’t tell me,” Elmer said. “I was blinded by the light of the blast and I couldn’t really bend down to see because of my flak jacket. But when they put me on the ground, and I could see my right foot, that it wasn’t pointed the right way, so I kind of knew then. It took 45 minutes before the medevac came in. I think then I passed out. I didn’t want to let my Marines down.”

Elmer used to have a lot of dreams, back in the hospital, stoned on morphine, he said. “I’d have my own legs. We’d be out playing in the mud, in our dugouts. And there were some explosions, some serious stuff. . . . I never used to listen to jazz. But it seems to help me, with all that.”

He has few regrets about joining the list of 23,114 U.S. soldiers wounded in action in Iraq. If he regrets anything, he said, it’s that he’d been wounded so soon. “That was my first duty station, first tour in Iraq. I’d do it over again. My only resentment is that I couldn’t stay in the military very long.”

He isn’t a very competitive person, he said, and won’t much mind if he wins today or not. Elmer just likes to ride.

“I fell in love with it. You get some air in your face, you get to be outside. Plus, for me, the exercise is really important. Otherwise I’ll swell up.”

Elmer said he hadn’t really trained for this race. None of the soldiers admitted to training, as if a 26.2-mile race were an OK way to pass the time but nothing to get worked up over.

Downstairs at the hotel were Dustin Tuller and Hilbert Caesar, Dustin in a wheelchair and Hilbert wearing a prosthetic, Army men possibly not averse to a friendly side wager, just between buddies, on the outcome of the wheelchair race, and some guys from Miami-Dade Fire Rescue who’d volunteered to drive the Achilles racers to South Beach.

And there was the second Doc: Doc Jacobs, 21, a medic from Bakersfield, Calif., the fourth generation of Jacobs soldiers. His left leg was gone and his right was scarred. He wore a big plastic prosthesis.

”It feels different,” this Doc said. “But it feels good. It feels good just to walk.”

He didn’t want to talk about how it happened. He looked away. ”No,” he said.

After the convoy hit the Convention Center everyone scattered. Among the hundreds of marathoners strolling booths, picking up sneakers and caps and wheat grass juice and vitamins, it seemed there was only one soldier, Captain Jason Grose, 38, able-bodied leader of the Marine contingent that had flown in Friday night on a C-130 Hercules from San Diego.

”The guys who’re missing limbs, the ones who’ve got [post traumatic stress disorder], the main thing I do is try to treat ‘em like Marines,” Jason said. “A lot of these guys, it’s the only thing they have left. They’re not going to be treated like half a person because they lost a limb . . . They are still Marines and they’re about to do something the average person cannot. That is the ethos of the Marines.”

If you have a story idea, e-mail nspangler@MiamiHerald.com.

Free Advice for Today: “Understand that happiness is not based on possessions, power, or prestige, but on relationships with people you love and respect.”

- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

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Rock Star Miami-Style

Friday, January 26th, 2007

Friday

Quote of the Day: “The older I grow the more I distrust the familiar doctrine that age brings wisdom.”

- H. L. Mencken

The morning started with me crashing two of my three automobiles.

How did I accomplish this, you ask with a little too much giggling in your jackass voice?

Well, it involved backing out of my garage in my Pilot and talking to my wife, not paying attention. It was made possible by taking a wider-than-normal turn last night when pulling in Uranus so that it was just a little bit to the center of the driveway. (Can you see where this is going?)

I’m discussing something with Carrie as I back out when I hear this crunching noise. And not the good kind. (Is there a GOOD crunching noise?) Carrie then makes the most intuitive statement: “You crunched it!”

I pulled forward and got out of the Pilot to discover, yes indeed, I had just backed out one of my cars right smack into my other car. The right back fender caught the front of the left fender of Uranus and scraped back almost to the side mirror, cracking the fiberglass frame just a bit. The Pilot lost a little paint but with some rubbing, nothing much is visible but a little cosmetic idiocy I will be hearing about until I can hear no longer.

OK, the day begins.

We make our way to Starbucks because I’m flying to Miami today and… you know what, let’s face it, there really doesn’t have to be much of an excuse to make an unplanned stop at SB’s.

I get my venti triple shot white mocha blended Big Mac and Carrie orders her own concoction because I punted the ordering of said offering into the stands last weekend when I tried. This happened to be what we were discussing when I played smash-em-up with my own cars, but I digress.

We drove to the MAC terminal where I met the other Marines and Sailors who were flying to Miami to participate in the Miami marathon. I was the only one running the marathon and two others were running the half. The other five were using the crank-wheel bikes for the race and there were two wives along for the ride.

After discarding my shaving cream because it would obviously blow up the entire C-130 into a million burning pieces as we all plummeted to our deaths somewhere over Arizona, we loaded up and I settled in for the 6 hour and 15 minute flight.

C-130 flights are the shit because although you can’t hear a thing (score!), you can sprawl out. And since I take good advice when offered (thanks, Paola), I brought along my pillow, a sleeping bag, and two books along with my sound-cancelling headphones and iPod. I was all set for a sprawl-a-thon, read-a-thon, and warm snuggle-a-thon.

Not much happened on the flight other than the Doc with the missing leg (who you might remember from my American Idol post) was across from me and when he curled up like a cat, he pulled up his prosthetic leg, twisted it so it stuck straight up in the air at an odd angle, and fell asleep looking like he had been in a wreck and was mangled. Quite disturbing.

When we got to Florida, we were greeted by volunteers from an organization called Achilles who sponsored us coming out for the race. There were also volunteers from the NY and Miami fire departments to give us a ride to the hotel and who will be providing a staging area for the bikes along with our marathon-eve meal.

All these wonderful people were falling all over themselves to shake our hands, help us, and tell us how much we appreciated what we did. It was difficult to adequately express how much of an honor it was for US to be THEIR guests.

We drove for an hour through Miami and South Beach on a Friday night. Maybe it was the long trip talking but I didn’t like the place. You all know how I feel about new places and I had never been here before. The strip was lined with condos, apartments, hotels, motels, and just about every form of lodging you can imagine. There were shops, restaurants, clubs, etc. packed along the way and maybe it was just too much. I just felt swamped, closed in, and in a foreign land.

But I have to hand it to them, they have the best mannequins on earth here. We went by what I assume was a lingerie shop and the mannequin in the window was an extreme example of a fully stacked specimen of the female gender. The Marines in the van wanted to bust the glass and take her with us. (BTW, NEVER Google Image Search “sexy mannequin” looking for a blog picture to post. Just… never do it.)

The organizer who was driving made a joke along the way that we “were here” when we passed a cheap motel. The joke was on her because we didn’t expect royal treatment and would have been happy at a roach motel near the beach. We’re Marines.

What she eventually pulled into was the Double-Tree Inn Resort. Yes, folks, it was where the “woop-de-doo” people stay, as our host calls them.

When she found out that the C-130 didn’t serve food or drinks (the stewardesses apparently had the day off), she insisted we go straight to the 27th floor and get some pizza and Gatorade. I had to be the asshole who enforced the no-alcohol policy and I’m sure many of the Marines were sorry I was along for the ride.

We got up to the suite and there were many people already there, most of which had some kind of injury. The Achilles people sponsored people from all over the country and from many military hospitals to come so the camaraderie was thick. There was even an Australian bloke who held the world-record for hand-crank marathons. Even YouTube likes him.

We ate pizza, drank water and Gatorade, and shared in the good vibes and appreciation showered on us and the others present. It was a great time and I was humbled to be among them.

Eventaully, I went down to the lobby to get my room set up. I was rooming with two other Marines so when I checked in, I asked that we get a rollaway bed since there was only supposed to be two beds. In such a situation, I, the Officer, would be in the roll-away and the Marines would get the beds. They before me, always.

But the desk clerk tells me there are no more rollaways. This is when I turn my back to her and dial Genna, one of the organizers. She said she would be right down so I grabbed my stuff and headed for the room, hoping Genna could get this straightened out.

When I got to the room, one of the other Marines had already checked in and when my key didn’t work (par, course), he opened the door with a smile.

The first thing I noticed was a rollaway that couldn’t have got there AFTER I had asked for one thus, it would have had to already been there.

I said, “Oh good, my rollaway is already here.”

This confused the Marine…

“Sir, we have our room..” which he Vanna Whited to me. It was a regular size room with two double beds…

“…and it comes with the CO’s Special…”

He led me through the enormous living room area separate from his bedroom and into an equally huge room with a king size bed, walk-in closet, and a cavernous bathroom with a shower and a spa tub.

I was shocked.

“Well, I guess we don’t need the rollaway” is all I could muster. I was stunned.

This was a monstrous suite and this room was nothing short of a wing. Along with the second room and living room, it had a kitchen and a dining room.

I called Genna and told her not to bother with the rollaway and that in fact we now had an extra.

Once again, rock star treatment. And once again, I was not ever going to get used to this and hope never to do.

We have a three hour time change to deal with and don’t have to be anywhere until 0900 tomorrow which is 0600 but there is a Starbucks right across the street so life is good.

The one detail of the rock-star room that made me feel really dumb is the boday (is that how you even spell it?) There was a toilet AND one of these things and while I was not dumb enough to think it was a high-speed, poorly designed water fountain nor a really busted-up shitter, I really didn’t know how to use it.

My GUESS was that you squat, crap, and let the water, well, pardon my vocab but, wipe your ass. But if this is true, I don’t know why you would want to squat when you can SIT on the toilet. And, I don’t know why you would want a weak jet of water shot up your ass (or just into the crack and let it flow? I don’t know..) because other than a sensation I won’t be clamoring for, I figure your ass would still have, er, … “residualAND be all wet so you would have to get it dry somehow. So now you would be signing on for wads of wet toilet paper falling to pieces all over and in your ass in addition the whatever super-spray couldn’t take care of for you. Yeah, that’s a great feeling/look/visual.

Then I considered maybe I had it all wrong but then upon further logical deduction, I couldn’t find an alternative method. This simply had to be the way, as useless as it may be.

The three of us stood there, turned the water on, and I kind of left my body and witnessed three Marines staring at the stupid thing with looks of utter confusion. Like three dogs hearing a high-pitched tone with our heads cocked at similar angles.

I laughed my disembodied ass off.

Free Advice for Today: “Every day look for some small way to improve the way you do your job.”

- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

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Wrapping Things Up With Liver-Spotted Hands

Thursday, January 25th, 2007

Thursday

Quote of the Day: “Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much.”

- Oscar Wilde

Have you ever had a short week and then adjusted your mentality to account for the day off? On Monday you say “This is really Tuesday for me…”

Thursday totally has the Friday vibe. You go around all happy, half-assing everything because it’s “Friday.”

The vibe was certainly there today but because I’m me, I felt the need to double up my efforts to get everything done before I left. If you read yesterday’s blog, you know that I am pretty much stripped down to a sad husk of a human being but regardless, I was looking at four days away from the office and everything needed to get tied up in a bow if I was to even have the remotest chance at enjoying myself.

I also thought today would be a good day to get permission from my boss to go. I know, like everything else, I was battling the alligators closest to the raft but luckily, my Colonel OK’ed the trip and I will be able to get on the C-130 tomorrow heading to Miami.

I was also invited to a birthday party. First time that has happened since, I don’t know, I was a kid (no comments about how long ago that was, jackasses!)

The party was for a woman who works at the YMCA at Balboa. I’ve gotten to know her as a result of sheer exposure (stop it!). She is a friend of the friends we have at the hospital (shout out to Paola and Amy) and ends up crashing every function that happens at Balboa. In fact, I’ve started to referring to her as “Ghetto Ass” since it’s the term she used on her self when planning to crash yet another function some time ago.

I’m such a charmer.

I was looking forward to attending this party all day, even though I was utterly exhausted and still had to go home and pack for the trip. My plan was to go home, pick up Carrie, go BACK to San Diego, spend a few hours harassing Evelyn, make an exit, get home and pack, and collapse for a few hours of blissful sleep.

This plan got canxed from the get-go when Carrie tells me on the way home “Let’s not go.”

Her reasoning was that she wasn’t feeling good and our two friends (thanks Paola and Amy) flaked out. Carrie’s argument was that the only one we would know was the party girl and SHE would be uber-busy with all of her friends.

My initial reaction was GOOD! This gave me a chance to get home, spend a little time with the family, and get some rest before taking off for four days. But in another way, had I really been happy that I wasn’t going to a party at a San Diego club?

What is that I hear, the clarion siren of my elderly years making their debut? I thought I had to grow up before I grew old.

Free Advice for Today: “Keep it simple.”

- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

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Overreaching

Wednesday, January 24th, 2007

Wednesday

Quote of the Day: “Thomas Jefferson once said, ‘We should never judge a president by his age, only by his works.’ And ever since he told me that, I stopped worrying.”

- Ronald Reagan

I should be resting.

Not only should I be recovering from last weekend but resting up for next weekend’s marathon.

But I’m not.

I’m working like a demon, driving into work in the dark and coming home in the same way.

All day, full throttle, first one in, last one out.

I’m tired.

I feel like I’m revisiting the 18 months I spent at First Tank Battalion, but I was much younger then. For years after I looked back and wondered how I kept up that blistering pace for so long and now I find myself back in the middle of it.

The pressure is self-applied and I know this. I get home pretty much a wadded up piece of paper with nothing left for the family, the blog, the webpage. I am a zombie, only able to eat, watch a TiVo’ed Daily Show, and maybe get some screen time before trying to read a couple of pages and crashing. I don’t know the last time I WENT to sleep rather than just faint dead away so that the next thing I know the alarm is yelling at me to get up again.

The guilt is stifling. I justify the lack of quality time with the family as just a phase, a short period of time while these races of opportunity pop up. But I know it has become routine and I really need to get better at balancing. I’m told over and over again by myself and everyone around me that I only have a few years left with the kids and then it will be the Cat in the Cradle situation.

I am also feeling pressure to keep the blog updated which, don’t get me wrong, I not only WANT to do but really NEED to do. The guilt oozes into my head and I know I won’t be 100% right with myself unless I can get caught up.

The webpage also throws its own pressure in there. Not only does it now compete with my insane schedule, my running, and my blogging, the sheer quantity of stuff I want to post has backed up to intimidating proportions.

I signed up to build a reunion webpage for my 20th high school reunion. I got pretty far and then I stagnated on it. It’s one more thing that gives me immense pleasure but I get behind in when it gets lost in the crowd.

I also agreed to do the same thing for my wife (she went to a different high school) and I have the same problem. But I can’t half-step on this much longer because the reunions are coming up and I don’t want to face these people without completing the project.

I won’t give up though. I won’t cut my losses, I will catch up. I will find a way to balance my life after catching up and I will be able to do the impossible.

Family time
Training
Racing
Blogging
Webpage
Email
Sleeping

I can see by the look in your eye you don’t believe me. That’s kind of why I don’t have a mirror nearby or a webcam; I’m not quite ready to check out my own eyes at this point lest I see the same look.

Vent complete. Thanks for listening.

Free Advice for Today: “Instead of using the word ‘problem,’ try substituting the word ‘opportunity’.”

- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

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Sergeant Major Puckett’s Building

Tuesday, January 23rd, 2007

Tuesday

Quote of the Day: “Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius — and a lot of courage — to move in the opposite direction.”

- E. F. Schumacher

I don’t know if I blogged about moving before, probably so, but suffice it to say that right before Christmas, we moved BACK into our building.

Let me explain.

When I took over the Company last summer, the Headquarters and Service Battalion was housed in some offices next to the Grinder (the big drill field where the recruits lose their poor little souls). Legend has it that we had lived in building 15 on the other side of the base but they needed to renovate it at some point so they kicked us out.

Well, now the building is done after many delays (pause for the readers’ shock) and we got to move all our stuff from our current digs to the newly-renovated building 15.

Don’t make the mistake of calling it anything else, either, because until today, it WAS known as “building 15” because today, folks was the official dedication ceremony where it became Puckett Hall.

The building is named after Sergeant Major Puckett (Retired and Deceased) who also happened to be the sixth Sergeant Major of the Maine Corps (there have been only 15).

For more about him, go here.

For today’s ceremony, the Sergeant Major’s widow was present and was able to cut the ribbon. Afterwards they got a our of the new building which, by the way, the Marines scrubbed from top to bottom for the dedication ceremony.

Here was the newspaper write up on it:

Brig. Gen. Angie Salinas, commanding general, Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego and the Western Recruiting Region, helps Mrs. Elizabeth Puckett cut the ribbon at the dedication ceremony of the Headquarters and Service Battalion building. The building was named Puckett Hall in honor of the late Sgt. Maj. Clinton A. Puckett. Lance Cpl. Alicia Small/Chevron

Service members aboard the depot gathered together with the family of the sixth Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps to witness the making of history Jan. 23.

Brigadier General Angie Salinas, commanding general, Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego and the Western Recruiting Region, declared the Headquarters and Service Battalion’s office building Puckett Hall in honor of the late Sgt. Maj. Clinton A. Puckett.

Puckett began his career in the Marine Corps when he joined in February of 1944. He went through recruit training here at the depot. Throughout the rest of his career, he went on various deployments during World War Two and the Vietnam War and was stationed at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., and Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego

He landed on Iwo Jima on Feb. 19, 1945, and also witnessed the famous flag raising on Mount Suribachi. He was also deployed to Korea and served as platoon sergeant of Company G, 3rd Bn., 5th Marines, when he earned a Navy Cross.

The Navy Cross was presented to Puckett for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against aggressor forces in the Republic of Korea on the night of June 21, 1952.

While on patrol, his unit was pinned on both flanks by enemy small arms and grenade fire. He covered the withdrawal of his men with machine gun fire and killed four enemy men. Despite his left hand being injured by grenade fragments, Puckett continued to accurately return fire until his patrol was out of the area.

When he returned to the outpost he discovered that three of his men were missing. He organized a small rescue party which he led back into hostile territory in order to retrieve his men. Although two of the men were badly wounded, he was able to get all three back to the outpost.

Puckett continued his service in the Marine Corps and on Feb. 1, 1973, became the Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps. Puckett’s personal decorations include the Navy Cross, Legion of Merit, Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart, Navy Commendation Medal with Combat V and the Combat Action Ribbon.

It only seemed fitting to name a building with an illustrious history in honor of such a prestigious man.

The Headquarters and Service Battalion office building, building 15, was erected in 1923. The structure served as the telephone exchange and the guardhouse in the 1920’s and 1930’s. This historical building, known as Puckett Hall, is now the home of H&S Bn. headquarters.

Behind the scenes it was a mad dash to get everything just perfect and when you are dealing with a brand new building that is 95% complete, all the “last minute” efforts were near Herculean. Cudos to everyone involved including the S3 and S4.

Everyone felt it was important to have everything look good for the guests (what kind of insult would a shotty looking building be to the widow?) and the building is a historical landmark. It was the first base HQ and years ago, it was the first building you saw when they used the gate right in front as the main gate.

For me, it’s great because I work in a new building with new furniture. When I walk into my office, I still feel like it’s someone else’s office. Someone of more importance. Like a Company Commander.

Oh wait….

But in all seriousness, everyday I walk into and out of that building, I consider it the Sergeant Major’s building. I just work there.

Free Advice for Today: “Instead of using the words ‘if only,’ try substituting the words ‘next time.’.”

- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

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