Rifle and pistol badges can mean quite a bit to young Marines. To be “unq” or “unqualified” with the rifle is the most egregious of crimes and can cause a Marine unbelievable shame and ridicule. The marksman badge or “pizza box” is the lowest of qualifications but at least the bearer can hit paper with a weapon. In all fairness, there are those who cannot hit the target with a bayonet let alone live ammo. Nonetheless, Marksmen are looked down upon for their lack of ability. Next are the Sharpshooters, whose skill is such that they can at least say they aren’t Marksmen. Finally are the heroes who are qualified to sport Expert badges. They righteously look down upon the rest for their inability to manipulate a rifle accurately. The only thing better than an Expert is a multiple award Expert and, of course, being a double expert in both rifle and pistol.
There is such a thing as a Distinguished Marksmanship badge. These are reserved for Marines who have too much time on their hands and get to lounge around rifle range competitions shooting instead of deploying. Distinguished Marksmen tend to respond to such accusations with: “Jealous much?” Very.
I recall being justifiably proud of my Expert rifle badges. It took me a couple of years to figure it out. One day while on the range in Okinawa I thought to myself: “Well maybe I’ll try out some of those marksmanship basics they taught me in boot camp.” Lo and behold, I qualified a high expert by the end of the week. Go figure.
Seeing a picture of my dad during his tenure as a Marine I noticed his Sharpshooter badges. With all the disdain I reserved for lesser marksmen I asked: “Dad what’s up with those weak Sharpshooter badges?”
My father, a combat veteran with two tours of Korea and three in Vietnam, replied: “Yeah? How many have you killed with yours?”
Dad always did have the ability to take the swagger out of my step.