Gunny Dacey



I don’t think I could be a Marine.

It has nothing to do with the service, and everything to do with me. I know this, because I was in the Marines a long time ago.

OK, not really IN the Marines, but for a week I was with them during Midshipman Cruise, for what someone with a sense of humor called “orientation.”

As our bus neared Camp Pendleton that summer, our collective stress levels began to go up. We had heard the stories and seen the movies – some guy in a Smokey hat would start yelling at us – telling us to line up, shut up, and listen up.

But I had a secret.

What the other Midshipmen didn’t know – and I did – was that the kindly senior enlisted advisor from our little Navy ROTC unit was spending his summer at Camp Pendleton. I had never even heard him raise his voice in two years. He was patient, soft-spoken, and polite – even to us. This was going to be a cake-walk.

The bus stopped, and there waiting at the door was good ol’ Gunny Dacey. I relaxed, and couldn’t help but smile at the nervous faces all around me. Gunny could look scary, but inside was a teddy bear.

When he strode aboard, I could tell something was wrong. He had changed. The gentle smile and laid-back disposition were gone. In their place were a scowl and the wild-eyed stare of a mad man. In a voice I had never heard before he screamed at us to, “GET OFF THE BUS!” He yelled for us grab our luggage and get on the pavement A.S.A.P.

What ensued can only be described as bedlam. Like something out of Keystone Cops, Midshipman careened off each other as they deperately tried to grab their suitcases. As the Gunny’s voice got louder, people began grabbing the wrong bags. Someone shouted, “Just grab a bag – any bag!” I swear I heard someone whimper.

In the midst of it all, I stood and tried to calm the herd. “All is well! All is well! It’s just Gunny Dacey. I know him!”

That’s when he saw me.

He focused all his venom and fury on me. “Bacon, get off this bus! NOW!”

My feet began moving before my mind engaged. I grabbed a bag (any bag), and I think I may have whimpered too. He yelled at me all the way off the bus.

The next five days were more of the same. By the end of the week, we were exhausted, sore, and broken. As we boarded the bus to depart, the Gunny – the kindly old Gunny that I had known for two years – gave me a big smile and in his gentle voice said, “We’ll see you back at school.”

It takes a special kind of person to be a Marine, and I salute them all. Not only for what they do, but for what they go through as they are forged into the elite warriors they are.

As for me, I’m hoping that whoever grabbed my suitcase will read this and give me back my stuff.


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