The weekend was pretty uneventful. Just another weekend with a bunch of my friends who just also happen to be Marines. It was our medical stand-down which meant we sit in lines for about three hours to do something that takes less than ten minutes.
I was more annoyed with the fact that we all got there at seven in the morning, got started around nine, and my phone was at fifty percent by noon. Standing in line was the least of my problems. But the bigger let down of all of this was that it was my very last drill with the guys. It’s like on the very last day of doing absolutely nothing is when the time ticks the slowest. I just wanted to get out… But it wasn’t going to be that easy.
See, our unit has a… “tradition” that we hold. Our reserve center is located conveniently next to a very large river that runs right through my town. It’s actually like right behind our building. Whenever a Marine checks out of the unit (getting out of the Marine Corps) they get bum rushed and tossed into the river by their Marines in their platoon. I have so many videos on my phone of Marines getting checked out the traditional way. It’s always a gratifying way to say goodbye after serving “x” amount of years with us.
Unfortunately for me it’s January. The river was completely frozen over from one side to the other. I thought I was getting out of it for sure. But it was me that was checking out. So a few of my friends felt the need to answer the call to break a hole in the ice and make sure that I get thrown in there.
The entire day I was getting taunts from my friends. A few sergeants purposely talked about how cold it was among the other sergeants then looked right at me. They kept rubbing their hands together saying “Oh man. Water be cold tonight! Watch yourself.”
So as the training schedule went on I kept saying to myself “Naw the hole will just freeze over again and again. They wont toss me in” but a few corporals made sure to do some “recon” and make sure it was still nice, cold, and wet for me. I started to really worry. I came prepared for this event and packed a few dry clothes for me in the car. Problem was I forgot to bring them inside.
So my squad leader came up to me and wanted to say a few words. Saying it was an honor serving with me for the past four years and such. Then my platoon sergeant came up to me. He wished me luck with the new branch of service that I’m going to and said if I ever needed anything to give him a call. He told me that I was an outstanding Marine and that he hated to see me go.
Right after we shook hands he then grabbed me by the shoulders and spun me around in front of the whole platoon. He shouted “He listen up Marines! This prick is checking out! You know what to do” and everyone just gave me a devilish looking smile. I could feel the cold already.
So our company first sergeant formed us up. Right when he called to dismiss us I felt someone just jerk at my arms. Both of my friends, who happen to be police officers as their job outside of the corps, put me in a wrist lock. Then another friend of mine, who is 225lbs of muscle and a fire fighter, went for my legs. I just kept hearing “You going in boy! You going in! Waters cold, boy!”
We were all laughing, people were filming, and other Marines, who were also checking out, were being carried out one by one. I, of course, was last in the line. It was literally like listening to a beheading. Everyone stands and waits in anticipation. You hear a few yells and screams then splash! The Marine goes into the ice cold water. You hear everyone going “Ooohh! Ahh” and a bunch of people clapping. Then it repeated over and over.
My platoon kept laughing at me when I kept pleading with them saying “Fellas! We can talk this through like civilized men!” one Marine shouted “We’re Marines! Ain’t nothing civilized about us!” Doomed… I was doomed…
So they finally got me down to the river bank. I could barely see the hole they punched through for me. They started to swing me with a count down. I could hear it going. One, two, and three I went in. I remember just flying in the air looking at the icy water hole coming closer in the moon light. I went completely under water. The initial shock left me breathless. I kept flapping my arms like I was drowning. It must of only been a foot deep cause I hit a rock on my butt right when I hit the water.
I came out swinging and pulling in as many people as I could. People were laughing when they shouted “How is it in there!?” I shouted back “I’ll murder all of you!” while all the Marines laughed. I got to the top of the river bank and everyone was patting me on the back and shaking my hand. Then they rushed me inside while someone went to my car to grab my dry clothes. The walk was only one hundred feet at best, but my uniform already started to freeze over.
Hot showers were turned on and we all jumped in. There were four of us in the showers all shouting laughing. We were asking who tossed us in and talking about how cold it was. In the locker room we had a bunch of Marines changing and they were all shaking our hands and wishing us the best with our lives after the corps.
When I stepped outside I saw all of my close friends of each platoon standing outside. One Marine had a cigarette in his hand. He looked at me and said “Come on… It’s your last day here and we all know you want one last smoke with the Marines. So you wanna?”
I couldn’t say no to these guys. I went through hell and back with most of them and trained the rest of them. So why not…
We did a quick recap of my four years in the Marines. We all laughed about my promotion ceremony (I tripped and fell on a volleyball net… Damn Navy…), how the Moroccan military squinted their eyes at me, acting crazy in the hot desert, joking about me falling in a swamp hole in North Carolina, and all of the other crazy/stupid things I’ve done.
Finally we all said our last goodbyes and there I was standing in the parking lot. I was enjoying the last seconds of my drill. I thought about all of the years spent with most of the guys. And I thought to myself, would I do it all over again? Who knows. All I know is that I’m glad I did it in the first place.
But onto the Air Force.
We shall see what they have in store for me.