Earlier today, I saw a fellow Marine and classmate walk into the veteran office, someone I haven’t seen in a long time.
I asked if he is graduating this May, and he said he is. Which means since he will be returning to active duty full time shortly thereafter.
Though he says he’s thinking about staying a full time civilian.
“The grass is greener on the other side,” I replied. “And you can step on it.”
He laughed and agreed.
A couple of Saturdays ago, I had orders for a Marine Corps muster. When I arrived, I saw Marines in their boots and utes, in their woodland cammies with their sleeves unrolled. I saw collars with black ranks blending in with the uniform, making it hard to see the rank of the person you were speaking to.
I saw shiny bars and birds. I saw crew cuts, the high-and-tights, and they looked fresh. The Marines must have gotten their haircuts the day before if not the morning of, in order to look good for us Individual Reserve Ready Marines.
It’s all part of the look, the image to draw you back in, to finish the remainder of your contract in the uniform.
These are what these musters consist of: they have representatives from the local VA speak to us about the healthcare and the benefits we rate; they have local companies speak to us about job opportunities; they have local organizations speak to us about resources we should know about and benefit.
And lastly, the prior-enlisted recruiters come on stage and give us a death by PowerPoint of the various ways to re-enter the Marine Corps. For those of us who still have a little motto gas left, who can’t find anything in the civilian world and who ache to return base, to have the daily –and sometimes monotonous –routine of waking up, go on a moto PT session, shower, put on a fresh set of cammies, and drive to work.
For some of us, there is a need to find a purpose. We had a purpose in the service: to get the mission accomplished, whatever our occupation may be.
Once you return to the civilian world, you either know what your next mission (or purpose) is, or you go in search of one. All the while, transitioning from the military life you’ve molded yourself –and likely the reason why you decided not to reenlist –to the civilian life you didn’t know you would hate.
Thus, there are the yearly musters. For those of us who miss it, who still have some moto gas left and it needs to be refilled.
Walking in, I admit, a longing came in. Seeing the pull-up bars and the uniforms gave me flashbacks of wearing green-on-green and my hair in a sock bun, gelled and hair sprayed to keep the humidity from messing it up.
I was suddenly back at the shop, shooting the shit during chow time, taking off my blouse and try to do a pull-up or work on my flex-arm hang. I pictured myself in boots and utes, with a smaller waist and a slimmer face. I remember thinking how proud I was –and still am –to be a Marine.
I wasn’t the strongest or fastest Marine, but I know not just anyone can volunteer themselves, raise their right hands and swear in four to eight years of their lives. Not everyone joins, knowing they will have to face the dangers that we know could become.
I missed it, but as I took a stroll on the grass, making a shortcut to enter the building, I didn’t miss it enough to return.
I’m fortunate to find my new purpose, one in which I can still serve my country. I found it in being a reporter, exercising the First Amendment, and trying to find the truth to give to the American people. And I’m having a damn good time doing it.
Besides, I like walking on the grass and putting my hands in my pockets. I like letting my hair down and then putting it up in a messy bun when I get hot. I like wearing makeup and wearing different shades of shadows and lipsticks, and not just the usual neutral colors on a daily basis.
It’s something about those little gestures that makes you appreciate the little things, and it’s a reminder that you shouldn’t take those freedoms for granted.