Friends and Enemies


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


Fly Like An Eagle: Steve Miller Band

Whenever I hear that song I am instantly transported to the back of my Amtrak in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Just before midnight on February 27, 1995 I was part of an amphibious landing that consisted of 1,800 U.S. Marines and 350 Italian Marines. Our job was to secure the airport as well as the seaport.

I pulled duty in the ship store and was able to buy an old ghetto blaster at a discount rate. I just wanted to create a little levity so I popped in the Steve Miller Band cassette and we all let the music relax us before we hit the beach and our mission began.

When Fly Like An Eagle comes on, I remember the distinct smell that wafted into our vehicles as we approached the shore. Someone said it was the smell of dead bodies in shallow graves. I can feel the sting of the salt water and the taste of it on my lips. The smell of diesel fuel and the roar of a 903 cubic inch Cummins Turbo Diesel. At full throttle it’s more of a high pitched whine then a roar.

I remember thinking at that moment that I would never forget that song. It was like something straight out of a Hollywood movie. I guess that is fitting, as most of us were Hollywood Marines out of the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego. We were stationed at Camp Pendleton in Southern California. Isn’t that how most civilians view Marines heading into battle? Blasting The Rolling Stones “Sympathy for the Devil” or Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries?”

I happened to be the rear crewman for this operation. I’m glad I played that cassette on that midnight ride to the eastern shores of Africa. A little something to remind us where we came from. A little something to lighten the mood and relax the nerves.

“Feed the babies
Who don’t have enough to eat
Shoe the children
With no shoes on their feet
House the people
Livin’ in the street
Oh, oh, there’s a solution

I want to fly like an eagle
To the sea
Fly like an eagle
Let my spirit carry me
I want to fly like an eagle
Till I’m free
Fly through the revolution”

Operation United Shield’s objective was to safely “assist in the final withdrawal of United Nations peacekeeping troops from Somalia.” These peacekeeping forces were there to try and assist in providing humanitarian efforts. By 1994 the United Nations decided that the situation In Somalia had become to dangerous to stay any longer. We went there to assist them in withdrawing.

The children in Somalia fit the description of those lyrics. They were starved, poor and mistreated. Many of the children carried weapons. I didn’t think about the lyrics when I popped in the cassette, it was just a lucky coincidence that it happened to be this particular song.

Another odd coincidence: Today is the 19 year anniversary of the completion of the successful and final withdrawal of U.N. Forces in Somalia.

My platoon was among the very last off the beach on this day in 1995. The song will always be my soundtrack for this memory. There was a large firefight that night and I ended up on a different ship than I embarked from three days earlier.

Some of the men I served with say that hundreds of Somalians died that night. I honestly don’t remember that. I often wonder to myself if that is something that I saw and blocked out subconsciously or if it was just so dark and hectic that I literally just didn’t see it happening.

The song conjures up all the old memories, the highlights of my life so far. The saddest part is, Somalia isn’t any better now then it was then. Operation United Shield was a success but the United Nations goals of achieving enough stability on the region to administer humanitarian aid was a failure. They won’t let us feed the children.

That’s what I think about when I hear this song.



Daily Prompt: Always Something There to Remind Me