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Friends and Enemies

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In response to today’s Daily Prompt:

Witness Protection

When you do something scary or stressful — bungee jumping, public speaking, etc. — do you prefer to be surrounded by friends or by strangers? Why?

Personally, I’d rather have my friends around in uncertain situations. Someone to give you that knowing glance when you are struggling. To provide support when everything might not be going well. A friend in the crowd. 

The scariest situations I’ve found myself in I’ve experienced both ways. I had a 7 1/2 month stay in the Denver County Jail back in 2001. I didn’t start out with any friends in that situation. I’ve also been in combat zones with fellow Marines, surrounded by my brothers in arms. Both situations were scary as hell.

When surrounded by strangers I have found that if all of you are in the same boat you have nothing to lose by supporting each other. In the Marines we began boot camp as complete strangers but we ultimately learned to pull together in order to overcome extreme adversity on a daily basis. I still talk to the Marines I served with to this day, but there was a time when we were all strangers, wet behind the ears, most of us broke, young and dumb, the adventurous sort that can’t afford to go to college. I only spent four years in the Marines, but the friendships I made there have stood the test of time. Nearly 20 years later we still look to each other for moral support and guidance. 

In jail it’s a little bit more shady but the same approach works wonders. It’s easier for a room full of strangers to be able to relate to each other because none of us really know each other. So we are all in the same boat. Going to court appearances, shackled to each other at the wrists and ankles. There is no dignity to be found in the county jail. There is no privacy, you eat together, sleep together, shit together and suffer together.

There are unwritten rules that you need to learn fast or else you will find yourself a social outcast in a real hurry. My first full day in my squad bay (pod) I tried to take a shower while another guy was in there. There were two shower heads on opposite sides of each other, and every gym in every high school I’ve ever been in, guys showered at the same time. So I walked in there and stripped off my towel and started taking a shower.

The dude on the other spiget wasn’t too pleased with this, and he stormed out of the shower mad dogging me the whole time. I had to find a friendly face I could talk to to find out why this guy was so pissed off. It turns out that in this squad bay, the showering is done one at a time. Lesson learned. 

During my time there I made many friends and very few enemies. Of course there were a couple of jerks that I was forced to stand up to, but my ability to get along with others always made it easier. In the real world I’m anti-social but in extreme situations I find a way to do what’s necessary to survive. Knowing how to make more friends than enemies is a great start. It’s nice to know that a few people have your back.

Looking at it from my current perspective as a college student I prefer presenting in front of people I know. I don’t really know them per say, but we’ve been in class together for a few months and there isn’t a single one of us that gets to get out of it if we want to pass the class. I still get awkward and nervous but I know I can count on my little clique within the classroom.I look to them for encouragement.

I’ve been in classes before where a person might be giving a bad presentation, one where it is obvious that this person might not pass the class, and someone in the crowd starts peppering her with really intense questions, knowing they don’t know the answer. I witnessed one man badger a poor girl with questions just to watch her squirm and go through the embarrassment of not knowing. The one thing I have the most trouble understanding in life, the capacity of us humans to be cruel to each other. The worst part is having to accept that you cannot change it, and you have to carry on knowing the problem will never go away. 

I had to help that girl a lot in class, and after watching her go through that I admired her ability to shake it off and not let it destroy her. It was obvious she had already moved on from it or just didn’t know or just didn’t care. My skin was hot from watching it, but she was entirely calm as far as I could tell. I clapped loudly and shouted a compliment her way when she was finished. She made the best of it and pulled through. Maybe her presentation wasn’t an A+ performance, but her composure in a tough situation was commendable.

So I prefer friends in scary situations. I’ll be your friend too if you need me. If someone is picking on you I got your back, we might not win but at least we’ll go down together standing up for what’s right. Kindness, compassion, and good will towards all. The “Do the Right Thing” mentality. 










Sent from my iPhone

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Denver Street Photography |The Young Marines

confidence of youth
oblivious to wisdom
right behind your back

Young Marine Creed

1. Obey my parents and all others in charge of me whether young or old.
2. Keep myself neat at all times without other people telling me to.
3. Keep myself clean in mind by attending the church of my faith.
4. Keep my mind alert to learn in school, at home, or at play.
5. Remember having self-discipline will enable me to control my body and mind in case of an emergency.

I served in the Marine Corps between 1993 and 1997. My father was a Marine, and his father before him. I am proud of my service, yet I don’t talk about it as readily as I used to. When I was young, I just thought it was the right thing to do. To serve my country, to take an oath of service.

I, (NAME), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.

I received the Combat Action Ribbon for service in Operation United Shield. I did not discharge my weapon or engage in any hand to hand combat. I didn’t even learn that I had received the Combat Action Ribbon until years after I had been honorably discharged from service.

I am conflicted by this. I never mention it in person to anyone, because I don’t feel I deserved it. Yes, there were bullets that occasionally whizzed over my head on their way to some unknown destination, and there was a firefight on our way back to the ship, but I was not running for my life or anything. I was just in the right place at the right time.

I am conflicted by my feelings about life in general and how they relate to my past. I am non-religious, and I struggle to understand how so many people take their religion seriously enough to kill for it. I don’t pretend to have any idea if God is real, or how humankind came to be. Maybe God is real, maybe he (or she, or it) isn’t. So when I look at that oath, and think of how I swore to GOD that I would protect my country against all enemies, it just seems strange to me. What am I swearing to? To fight whoever they tell me is bad for the United States and its interests?

It seems as if I was bred for war, along with every other young man or woman from a family with a military background. It becomes a sort of right of passage, something I needed to do to prove to my dad and his brothers that I could be a Marine too. I didn’t hesitate, I didn’t think about dying, I just signed the papers and turned my life over to the Government.

The friendships and experiences I had in the Marines, I wouldn’t trade them for anything. That being said, I would not encourage my sons to join right now. I love them too much. I don’t even know who is good and who is bad anymore, it doesn’t seem so cut and dry. I thought about my daughter, and what I would say to her if she wanted to join in her future. Then I thought about the constant stories in the news of women in the military being raped, and I instantly knew that I would discourage her from taking that path.

I don’t want to fight anymore. I don’t want to feel angry all the time. I want to think about peace and promote it. I want to teach my children to be caring and compassionate towards other, to help their fellow man in any way they can.

I look at this picture, and I see those Young Marines, and how proud they are, and I read their creed, and I think to myself, these are all good traits to encourage in our youth. I look at this group here, and I wonder if any of them are destined for that wheelchair behind them or worse. For what? Fossil fuels? Water rights? Democracy? I want to fight for LOVE. I want to believe that fundamental changes in the way we live our lives is a real possibility. I want the human race to learn to co-operate the same way they are teaching my 3 year old. Everyone needs to share and take turns. We are not individuals, we are humans, all of us connected by that one common thread.

This is in no way meant to disrespect the Young Marines organization, the Marine Corps or our Government. The Young Marines goal is to keep kids off drugs and out of trouble. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. These are just the questions I have but am scared to talk about to people in real life. So I put them on this blog to see if anyone else feels the same way I do. I am looking for that human connection, so I can feel like I belong. Maybe this is why change is so hard. I am struggling in the decision to post this entry, because I am worried about who I may offend, and what friends I might lose in the process. All of my fellow Marines that I served with have access to this blog. I feel like I am dishonoring myself and the Marine Corps by having these thoughts. That is how deep it is ingrained. That is why I am a skeptic, because I have experienced what it is to be a Marine first hand, and it isn’t easy or glamorous. It isn’t like the commercials you see when youre watching football. It is blood, sweat, and tears. Mental anguish.

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Denver Street Photography |The Young Marines

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