Marine Genes II

As a small boy I suffered from a genetic malady which plagued me for years. I recall many adults leaning into each other conspiratorially whispering: “Oh he looks just like his mother!” Since my mother did not resemble in the slightest any of the swashbuckling heroes I aspired to be, I took this badly. Really, anyone who as ever asked a little boy what he wants to be when he grows up has never heard him vigorously shout: “A mommy!” This was my curse it seemed.

The best kept secret at MCRD San Diego in the summer of 92 was that my father was a 33 year Marine Sergeant Major. During third phase the Drill Instructors told us if we had any VIPs in our families who were showing up to graduation they’d better know about it right stinkin’ now. It would not do on game day to find out someone’s uncle was a general and sitting in the cheap seats.

Humbly, I approached the DIs and informed them: “This recruit’s dad is a retired SgtMaj.” As this news broke so did all hell. Eyeballs exploded in DI skulls as this revelation swept through the squad bay. I was the platoon guide and was summoned into the duty hut to give details on my father and clarify some specifics on his exploits.  They also wanted to know if my parents were coming to the DI dinner taking place a week or so before graduation.

“Get in here Guide!” I was never sure if the word guide meant what they told us it meant. The way they said it I could swear guide actually meant dung.

The night of the DI dinner we recruits were meticulously preparing uniforms for our final week of inspections and other madness. Throughout the squad bay we sat on our footlockers polishing shoes and clipping away Irish pennants.

Suddenly our DIs burst into the squad bay having attended the dinner. Our Strong J swept by and remarked: “Guess who I met tonight guide. SgtMaj Burke, hard as hell. Almost had to lock my body…but I didn’t” My dad always had a presence about him. Drill Instructors were suitably impressed.

The next day our Series Chief Drill Instructor mentioned to me he had seen my father at the dinner. “He looks like a hard man,” he said. “Is he your real father?”

Son of a…stupid curse strikes again!

Semper Fidelis,
America’s SgtMaj

/ / / /


  1. 1. You weren’t platoon guide for nothing.
    2. Was platoon guide myself.
    3. In my case, prior military service swung it.
    4. There were far better men among the 35 originals (began with 60) that graduated.
    5. Wasn’t the honor man either. That award went to an eighteen year old kid from New Jersey who looked a lot like you -if memory serves.
    6. Remember meeting a member of my platoon at Camp Pendleton a few years later.
    7. He was a Corporal; I was a lieutenant.
    8. We had a cup of coffee and jaw jacked about other members of the platoon.
    9. Thought he had probably had to work harder for that second stripe than I did to get where I was.
    10. Hat tip to Terminal Lance for evidence that things haven’t changed.
    V/R JWest

  2. Lin, not far, I assure you.

    JWest, I usually don’t say much about being platoon guide. I found it did nothing to enhance the rest of my career. At MCT (back when grunts had to go) squad leaders were chosen based on their size and thugability. I was neither large nor a thug.

  3. A.S.M.
    That was a great story. My dad was USAF and tried to warn me to not go in the Army. When I saw the AF guys later (not counting Iraq) they looked like they were doing a 9-5 job and took coffee breaks etc.
    My dad didn’t show up at my Basic graduation– it was too far I guess.

  4. 1. Like your comment: size and thugability.
    2. Resemble that remark.
    3. Went through shortly after the McClure Incident. The DI’s were no longer thumping recruits.
    4. Tried conclusions with a trouble maker in the showers -half my platoon running cover and watching for the DI’s.
    5. Turned out, the hats knew very well what was going on. I was doing their light work for them.
    6. Sort of won, but the joker turned out to be one of the 40% that fell by the wayside, anyway.
    7. Thugability, indeed! I’ve got a new favorite word.
    V/R JWest

  5. I admitted to my Platoon Sgt that my father was a retired army First Sgt – and under duress that he had jumped at Normandy and finished up wearing a silly green beret. When he came to he commissioning ceremony he &Gunny Wilson had a good laugh – my dad said he could almost accept a Marine in the family, but a 2nd Lt?

  6. Man you are hilarious.

    I have cousins, who are military family -7 kids, and all but one went into service.

    They are also, hilarious. Same kind of story telling: set-up foreshadowing comedy, then interesting diversion that really isn’t a diversion, as it suddenly leads to punchline.

    I would buy you a beer were we standing at a bar. . .

  7. America’s SgtMaj:

    It coulda been worser. My dad still reminds me, to this day, that I look a whole lot like the milkman that used to deliver back in the day.


  8. Sonia, I refuse to be dominated by my genetics!

    Pax, natural camo?

    CI Roller, maybe there were no reclining seats?

    JWest, bootcamp was the first time I ever questioned the American gene pool. I like to say it was the first time I ever met “stupid” people. Fortunately most of them didn’t make the cut either. Most of them.

    Harry, my pleasure! Thanks!

    Jim, I would say your dad might have had a legit complaint except anyone with a penchant for wearing women’s head gear can’t be taken seriously. (See how many of my Soldier buddies get fired up here!)

    Anonymous One, and I would accept. Semper Fi!

    Grimmy, the proper response to that is to scrutinize your dad’s profile and then state: “That’s a relief!”

  9. Its hard to look like an elite ninja bad-ass when you are 17 years old and couldn’t grow a facial hair to save your life. That was me.

    Great story. Thanks for sharing. I was a product of a Navy dad (1947-50), Marine Grandfather (WW2) and Marine Uncle (Vietnam). None distinguished.

  10. SgtMaj, you say that the squad leaders were chosen for their “size and thugability”… Almost all of the Marines and former Marines I’ve met have been short. (As in 5’7” or less). Almost makes me wonder if there’s a bias toward short people in the Corps…

  11. @Saker:

    Not the official answer, of course, but smaller folk eat less.

    That can add up to a substantial savings over the years, dont you know.


  12. You’re looking at this all wrong, ASM – who’s to say your parents weren’t both anomalies of their genetic line, and your dad was actually descended from mild-mannered shopkeepers and your mum from bloodthirsty Highlanders? All your BAMFitude could have arrived thru your X chromosome…

  13. While my brother in law was going through SOI at Pendleton my mother in law sent me a package of his tax stuff (I was stationed at El Toro at the time).

    I called and when the young Marine on duty answered the phone I said something like, “This is Capt Simmons calling, may I leave a message for Pfc Blair.” Did this 2x and never heard back from the BIL.

    3rd time I called (because my mother in law was getting anxious about the tax documents), I got a deep gravelly patented-senior-staff-non-commissioned officer voice asking me, quite pointedly, why the captain wanted to speak to the pfc?

    “I’m his sister in law. His mother sent me some documents from the IRS and I want to arrange to drop them off.”

    “Thank you, ma’am.”

    Brief silence and then the deep gravelly patented etc voice saying, softly and with great menace,

    “Blair, I’m going to kill you.”

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