Every now and then, a story goes unmentioned; but yet needs to be told. No need to worry as this blog brings it to you in ways unimagined. It has been near month now since the departure of the 9th PSF from here at Camp Lemonier. I am sure none of you saw the homecomings of numerous Marines as they returned home to friends, family, loved ones. CNN might have been busy, along with MSNBC covering the latest great bailout to save the economy or special project needed for immediate recovery (right). Perhaps a local news talking head made it’s way to the various tarmacs as these Marines arrived – then again, I’ll bet the under on this one as well.
It has been a month since they left, and every day here is still as empty as the day before. I met a number of them the day they hit the sand. My first introduction was calling out for the Gunny while down at the surge tents needing a few of his Marines to come and clear out extra supplies from the Induction Season with the Chiefs. Of course, at the time, Sergeant Vince Reynolds thought all hell was about to come down with some Navy Chief barking out for a Gunny. See, to many of them, Navy Chiefs – in fact Navy in general has never given them a warm and fuzzy. I’ll touch base on that subject at the end. Vince got me to Gunny Chris Smith, who in turn got me a few Marines pronto (again, every service needs to move like a Marine when directed). They were greeted with coolers full of sodas, Gatorades, food; Christmas in September? Until the berthing was ready, this group was packed into a surge tent, minimal ventilation, and double stacked. Take 150 people and put them in a room for 60, with 130+ heat. The bond began, and we were friends from day one.
This was the finest group of professional and friendly Marines I have ever truly been associated with in my life, let alone my career. Their actually job? Within less than 48 hours, the 9th PSF can land, install, and have a perimeter set for security and run an airport. Unlike the People’s Republic of Massachusetts whose mantra is “don’t kill the project” – they hit the group running, get the mission, and make it happen. However, here in DJ, they were completely out of their MOS and element. They provided the Security for the ECP=Entry Control Point. For those Squids, the Main Gate.
Being used to the traffic on 93, I would often be up early and head to Club Ray. Get out of the house before 0630 and you make a 45 minutes drive with traffice 20 minutes before the rest hit the highway. Work ethics carried here. I would be in the office, out of the CLU around 0530ish. Galley for breakfast to go. Mostly cereal vice bacon and eggs – (I think someone guessed that of me once). That time of the morning, I would see the night shift coming down the “main street” heading to the DFAC. (Yes, I said DFAC, get over it). I made it a point to say “thank you” as they went past. About a month or so of these exchanges, one of them stopped and asked “Chief, why do you say thank you every morning”? Plain and simple. Not enough people thank a Marine for the job they do. I slept soundly in my CLU night after night. No on attacked, no one threatened me – because they did the job they were tasked. Simple…
Professional? I can take a good portion of the Al Gore Internet to list all of them by name, but I don’t want to keep it from all of those on Welfare spending all the time to find a job to better them self and no longer be dependent on my tax dollars. But a few need to be mentioned by name. The CO and XO along with their immediate staff of Company/Platoon Leaders were nothing short of phenomenal (please, don’t start reciting the “Classic Poem” in your head now). They “get it”. Jay Testa is still trying to recover from the infamous photo op veiled as a Goat Roap. John Parris has a lifetime pass on any attempt at making a body disappear from evidence on that trip as well. Gunny Large organized the departure of Hercules and his partner. However, all of this pride and professionalism from every one of the troops came from the Sergeant Major James Martin. My career, and more importantly, my Sailors careers will be better just from knowing this man. Hard ass and gentle all wrapped in one Scottish Package (I may not have much longer to live with that statement), eh MacMartin? No one cared more for their people, or made sure the bull*** kept away from letting them do their job. The job is what they did – admirably.
I mentioned earlier about Chris and Vince. Along with Warrant Officer Scott Light and James, these 4 individuals were my family while here. Deployments away from family and love one suck, but saying good bye that morning after spending 7 months together have left me empty. Someday, they will be on my porch in Red Sox Nation. Of course, another toast to Vince making NCO (finally) with a Sam Adams and not a 1664.
So why am I writing about this? I ask anyone who is reading – take a minute of your time, and send an email of thanks to the 9th PSF. Everyone has heard the saying “Thank a Marine” – well do so. The SGTMAJ will ensure all his troops get your warm wishes. Too often people will drive around with a bumper sticker of yellow ‘supporting the troops” on the back of the minivan, only to be heading to a PTA meeting to vote on restricting access of military recruiters in the High School. Well, an email of thanks means more than any sticker might display. They did their job, not the one they are trained for – and exceeded. I have less than 5 weeks to make it home safely. I hope I do so. The Puerto Rican National Guard arrive this month to take over the Physical Security now that they left (the 218th Army has been covering until then).
If you are looking for a silver lining to them departing, I can tell you this – Camp still owns Camp.
Please – send a letter of thanks to Sergeant Major James Martin today and let him know they are heroes, and sadly missed by someone still.