Growing up under the green blanket.

My dad was a Marine Sergeant Major whose career spanned over 33 years and two wars.  Living under the roof of such a person, there were a few immutable rules which in retrospect I wonder weren’t unique to my father’s house.

One of the rules was there would be no closed doors within his home save the bathroom door. If the door to my room happened to be shut it would violently crash open, splintering under the sound waves of my dad’s concussive voice: “WHY WAS THIS DOOR CLOSED?”  The concept of knocking before opening a door was utterly foreign to him. I still shudder to think what would have happened in the event the unspeakable heresy of a locked door were to have occured within our home.

In hindsight this somewhat strange mandate might be explained. My mother would occasionally agonize at the mere possibility of her son even using the word drugs. The solution in my father’s mind was to eliminate this possibility by forbidding the closing of all doors I might hide any drug use behind.

This is interesting considering my dad’s complete indifference to the quality or quantity of girls I  dated, how late I stayed out, or how much alcohol I imbibed.  Of course, knowing how late I was because my drunk friends were honking car horns in the driveway at 03:30 in the morning was a  completely different matter.

Another interesting phenomena I noted growing up was my dad’s utter disregard for clothes while in the house. In the middle of the day, with the windows wide open, my old man would swagger throughout the place swingin’ in all his magnificence.  I never understood this and am happy to report it is a trait I have not inherited from him.

I’d  express my consternation that the entire world could see his nudity parading about the living room. Windows rattled in their panes as he gave his customary response as to his worries about what other people thought: “I DON’T GIVE A #@%$! I’LL WALK AROUND MY HOUSE BUTT NAKED IF I  $%&# WANT TO!”

Whether or not this invited onlookers or kept the neighbors well away from their own windows we may never know.  

During this time I worked in a 50’s diner and was dating the hostess. Late one night after work she gave me a ride home and I invited her inside.  We were chatting in my room when the old man burst through the door with a loud ka-boom naked as the day he was born: “Hey son….Whoa! Huh, see ya’ in the morning!”

He shut the door behind him as he left.

Semper Fidelis!
America’s SgtMaj

/ / / /


  1. That’s funny. In my house, Navy dad, all hatches were closed. This was good for my sister and brothers as they used illegal drugs frequently. I never understood until later why my sister hung dried oranges in her room and lit incense all the time. I just thought it was what hippies did.
    I always thought it was a defense mechanism with him. He could hear a mouse fart in the garage on the back side of the house, so if a door opened in the middle of the night he knew something was up.

  2. SGM, My dad was in the Air Force…and did 22 years. I grew up near jets taking off– in some places like SAC it was around the clock.
    I got to where I felt that nothing could hurt us with the AF flying around protecting us….
    (My dad couldn’t understand why I joined the Army)
    When I grew up and bought a house- it was near a small airport. Nobody flying patrols…but the sound of planes taking off soothes me still.
    …and my dad didn’t walk around naked…

  3. I shudder to think which of my eccentricities my kids will remember when they’re older.

    The one my parents had, which I realized only later was unusual, was to know where my sister and I were at all times — not when we were outside of the house, but when we were at home.

    When I went off to college, whenever I left the kitchen where my roommates and I would congregate, I’d announce my destination. “I’m going to the shower (or my bedroom).” After this had gone on for some months, my roommates turned to me as one and said “We don’t care where you’re going.”

    I never announced my destination again, but I agonized about my peculiar habit. I kept asking myself “How neurotic can I be?”

    Then I went home.

    I sat in the kitchen with my parents talking and, when I got up to leave the room, both turned to me and asked “Where are you going?”

    A-ha! My neurosis is explained.

    I’ve always assumed that my parents, both of whom weathered WWII and the Israeli War of Independence, needed to know where in the building to look for bodies in case a bomb hit.

  4. My Father was Navy but I don’t think I can blame his eccentricities on that. Although, when the sailing “Ship” he built sank, he went down with it…saluting…and wearing his cowboy hat.

  5. My mom was a clean freak.

    Every Saturday, we’d all get started at exactly 8 am and get to scrubbing.

    Top to bottom. Everything. Poor ol’ dad had to repaint the walls every few months because the paint would be scrubbed off during the “cleaning”.

    Once the inside was done, by the early afternoon, the cleaning would then go outside and the yard, front and back, would get the works too.

    I still recall my first reaction to the first “Field Day” I went through in the fleet.

    We worked it as the Corps loved to have us work it. The next day, the inspecting ossifer pronounced it spiffy.

    My thought? “mom would have a cow at this mess!”


  6. Well, after 30-odd years of mild embarrassment at my parents (which included all doors except that for the toilet always being left ajar, primarily to prevent surreptitious impregnations despite the fact that my big brother & i were forbidden from inviting members of the opposite sex upstairs – once i hit my teens, my brother couldn’t invite his mates to his room if i was upstairs too) i’m delighted to discover that compared to some of you guys, they were actually quite normal.

    My best friend’s dad has always walked around the house/garden naked. They had 2 daughters, with predominantly female friends & none of us considered it particularly odd, although he’d often put underpants on if there were guests in the living room/kitchen, especially if they hadn’t met him before 🙂

  7. Hunh. Dad was in the Navy and all we ended up doing is rolling laundry for packing and storage, “combat loading” the car, and referring to anything that moves as Sir or Ma’am. The latter could also be because my parents are both from the Deep South. Oh, and growing up learning sea chanteys. And cutting my teeth on a model of the Graf Spee (literally. My folks say I managed to eat two of the forward guns before they pried it out of my wee paw.) And not reading much besides military history until I was in my teens, and most of that Navy history. Ut oh . . .


  8. Ha! Butt naked! Now that’s a funny memory.
    In our house, my Army Dad insisted that everyone be on the driveway on Friday afternoon to wash the family cars. We never questioned it, we were just there. All the tools in his work area –in fact the entire garage, had a specific place. and that place was memorized, for fear that he might discover a pair of pliers out in a different spot, then have to hear, “Did SOMEONE use my pliers?” Or the yearly house cleaning drill. It involved the entire family going outside and hosing down the house, wiping down everything in sight, every speck of the great outdoors –gone.
    This all explains why my own house is such a mess today.

  9. We were chatting in my room when the old man burst through the door with a loud ka-boom naked as the day he was born: “Hey son….Whoa! Huh, see ya’ in the morning!”

    He shut the door behind him as he left.

    But that begs the question… did she stay or did she go after that?

  10. I am curious to learn- did your Mother have a pair of “Emergency Pants” stashed near to the door – just in case the minister/priest turned up for coffee?



  11. Little Red, all adults in my house were sir and ma’am too. Although my early reading was Conan and Tarzan comics as well as John Carter.

    Kanani, my father’s tirades about the state of my room are legendary and probably worthy of it’s own post. To this day I still manage to make my room look like a bomb went off in it.

    Randy, you know my girlfriend reads this right?

    Pax, my dad used to answer the phone: “Heaven, God speaking…” So the vicar wasn’t exactly excited to make surprise visits.

  12. That’s hilarious – when a dad walks into a son’s room to find him with a girlfriend the last person you expect to be naked is the father! But then the army has always made plenty of room for eccentricity, perhaps military charities should be set up to help the poor children that have to live with it?! 😉

  13. Not so fast Sergeant Major. Tom Ricks can shoot from the hip, but I expect you to assess the situation, take aim, and put two good shots downrange.
    First off, the notion of a professional military doesn’t fall under the rubric of American traditions. We have less than 40 years of experience with it and it has not been an unqualified success. The draftee forces have a considerably better track record than the current structure, but then again, they mostly had significantly better civilian leadership. We fight best with a professional cadre, a mass of draftees that includes a slice of all our communities, and a civilian leadership than respects both those cadres and communities.
    Both you and Ricks get it wrong. He says, “It has been too successful. . . .” and you immediately take the alternative to be a “military comprised of amateurs . . . .” You both read like the jackass politicians trading punchy sound bites on the two percent of facts you dispute, while you do agree on 98% of what matters.
    The point that matters you can both agree on: “The drawbacks of the all-volunteer force are not military, but political and ethical.”
    Why alter how we recruit our armed forces? Because the American people and their politicians can’t handle the political and ethical drawbacks. This isn’t a question for the military; this is a question for the Americans that involve themselves in our political processes.
    “My Pappy told me . . .” doesn’t cut it either. It took us sixty years to get my dad’s stories out and when they faulted leadership it involved GOs and political considerations. The notion that fragging stories and debating the draft go together is crap. I’ll trade you druggie stories and talk about leadership over your liquor or mine, but not in a two minute blog. My experience with two year draftees was that on average they were better than the four year volunteers you get today.
    We didn’t blow VN because of questionable reporting or a draftee force. Leadership at the highest levels, political and military, was rarely on the same page and neither was ever in the same war as the Vietnamese. There was no leadership at strategic levels, only command; not a particularly relevant consideration in discussing the draft today. Perhaps it is relevant to discussing our performance over the last decade though. Similarly, you might be onto something when you discuss conscripting politicians.
    Please don’t confuse military maxims with Marine Corps lore: “A poor plan executed well is better than a good plan executed poorly.” Get your butt back to work: no poor plans and no poor execution.


  14. Randy, you know my girlfriend reads this right?

    Hadn’t even given it any thought to be honest, not sure of the relevance even if I had.

    Question still stands… 😉

  15. My dad, a 1st Sgt & special forces soldier, had a few quirks as well. He’d never tell us kids not do something, even if was clearly stupid, just a “wouldn’t do that if I were you”. I’d have a lot fewer scars if I’d listened., so when I was a young Marine 2nd Lt., I’d listen close when my platoon Sgt’d say ” not such a good idea Lt”…

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