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Granpa, the US Marines Colonel by thadeusz
When I was a baby, my father, Paul Walker, was teaching English in highschool. The whole family lived in Los Angeles, where I was born, and we were happy. My mother, Melinda, was a specialized nurse who worked with a gynecologist. I think now that she despised my father because of his "poor job".
My mother had long blond hair, as I can remember. She never worked at home. On the contrary, my father worked late at night and tried to get a PhD. He started very young to lose his hair.
My parents got a divorce when I was 6: my mother left with her gynecologist and got 2 other children in New-York. I have never met them and I don’t even know if I have brothers, sisters or one brother and one sister !
My name is Ron Walker. During my school years I had relatively long blond hair coming down to my ears. My mother had chosen for me a very traditional haircut, with hair coming down to my ears, with a nice parting on the left and a tuft of hair going up above my forehead. I was used to it and thus I liked it without any other reason. So when my mother left us, I kept this haircut for a long time.
Later, when I became a teenager and when my busy father let me choose for myself my haircut, I kept the basis of this "motherly" haircut but I let the hair grow much longer. I could thus play with my long blond hair covering my ears completely, but not long enough to go below my shoulders. The tuft above the forehead was now long enough and thick enough to be another object of play while I sat studying. The major change could be seen in my neck where my hair was now also long enough to reach my shoulders, or nearly so. I was very proud of my personal haircut, especially because it irritated some of my teachers. Nevertheless, they could not really object: I was an excellent student and my father had told them that he approved my choice.
My father stayed alone with me after the departure of my mother. He took good care of me. He nevertheless worked very hard not only for the courses he gave and the papers he graded, but also for his own research in English literature in order to get the PhD he so much desired.
My grandfather, Terry Walker, lived alone since the death of my grandmother. He was a US Marine, and not only that: he was a Colonel stationed at the Fort Worth Marine Base. He had another son, also named Ron, younger than my father but also a US Marine. Ron was a Sergeant in the US Marines and he was my godfather. He was not very often in California: as a Marine he was often very far for extended periods.
At the end of my 11th grade two important events occured in my life. Firstly my father succeeded in ending his thesis and secondly on the basis of this thesis he was offered a job as Lecturer in Omsk State Pedagogical University, in Russia. It was a very well paid job. This was a great opportunity for his career and he realized that he could not refuse that job if he wanted to get rid of his teacher job in a plain highschool. His problem was: "What am I going to do with my son ?" Indeed, taking me with him in Russia would have placed me in a difficult situation. I knew nothing about Russian (contrary to my father who seemed to know all languages) and I was not at all prepared for the Russian school system, so different from ours.
My father hesitated but finally he found a solution. He chose to leave me in the US, but he had trouble finding real close friends. In fact my dear father did not have close friends outside his work: he had constantly been working on his thesis and had had no time to socialize. He finally chose to let me stay with his father. I did not like this decision: as I said before my grandfather was a Colonel and every time we met he made negative remarks about my haircut and my clothes (which I chose alone since I was 15). There was nothing I could say to change my father’s mind and a date was set for my departure to Fort Worth where my grandfather had a nice little house on the Marine Base campus.
My father, prudent as ever, wrote a letter giving parental authority to my grandfather. Carefully, my father specified that "Colonel Terry Walker has from now on all parental authority on my son Ron provided he uses that authority to send him to a good school and make him get his highschool diploma". Dad got this document notarized through a notary public and sent it to my grandfather.
When the departure day arrived, I was shipped to my grandfather’s town by plane. I was slightly more than 17. In order to show immediately to my grandfather that I did not like this situation, I chose to wear my "best" thorn jean, carefully bought in that state: this is what we used to do at school. I had a very antimilitaristic t-shirt with a picture of John Lennon. I had more clothes of that style in my suitcases where I had also placed all my schoolbooks.
Grandpa, as I called my grandfather, met me at the airport. He was, as usually, in uniform and he looked very neat with a very short haircut. He looked so neat that I hated him for that. He took me to his house on the Marine Campus. We dropped my suitcases there, but Grandpa did not stop at his house: he took me first to a barber since he had decided that my haircut was "unbearable". He chose to go to the barracks barber, since, according to him, this was the best barber in town. He told me to sit on one of the three chairs and ordered, more than he asked, the oldest barber to take care of me. He explained what he wanted:
"This is my grandson and his haircut is dreadful. Give him now a short buzz cut, but not too short: my grandson does not need an induction cut".
I reacted immediately: "But I don’t want a buzz cut, that’s too much military like."
And Grandpa reacted: "My boy, here you are on a military base. The barbers don’t know other haircuts than military ones. So if you want, walk to town and find another expensive barber, but do it rapidly before they close."
I had nearly no money, so I decided to accept the free haircut.
The barber first placed something to protect my neck. He then caped me with a clean but green cape. He asked me:
"Will this be your first head shave ?"
"YES", was my quick and brutal answer.
The barber turned my chair, so that I could not see in the mirror what he was doing. He then did something to his clippers before starting them. I did not know what he had done: I knew nothing about clippers. First the barber pushed my head straight ahead in such a position that my chin was more or less against my breast. He used that position to let easily and nearly kindly his clippers plow what I feared to be a deep groove in my beloved hair. I hated that instant when I could feel that some metallic part of the clippers was for the first time in contact with my skin, or so I thought. The barber continued with grooves made all over my head, one carefully made next to the other and always from back to top. At a moment, I could not resist and I started to cry silently. The barber noticed it and told me:
"Don’t cry my boy. It is only hair. It will grow back. In any case I arranged it so that I left a lot on your head. Try it by passing a hand on your head."
I did what he suggested and I discovered that the barber had left lots of hair on my head. In fact I had really felt something hard touching my head, but it was only the guard. It was only later that I discovered that the barber had fixed his clippers so that he was in fact leaving more than 2 cm hair on my head. Sadly enough, he was not done yet. Grandpa was looking and asked:
"Corporal, do you really need to leave that much hair on my grandson’s head ? He is nearly 18 you know."
I did not know what this could mean, but the barber nearly apologized and said:
"Colonel, it is his first time. Next time I’ll make it shorter if you so order. But if you think that it is better, I will make it shorter now."
"No Corporal, leave it as it is. We don’t have time for a second haircut."
I thus discovered that this kind barber was a soldier, probably also a US Marine. The way he had answered Grandpa’s question had provoked a new set of thoughts and I stopped thinking at all the barber’s moves. This distracted me from the rest of this first haircut.
I only remember that the barber kindly pushed my head on my left shoulder and then on my right shoulder. While doing so, he "cleaned" the sides of my head. He also used his clippers from top to front to cut my "top" hair. He ended with the neck to which he gave special attention.
When he told me that he was done, I looked at my new appearance. I did not like it: it was too squarish, too military like, for my taste. It certainly was not a John Lennon haircut type !
Grandpa simply said: "Not too bad, but still too long for me. Next time make it shorter. Put it all on my bill." And he added: "Ron, clean the floor. It looks filthy with your dirty hair."
I wanted to reply, but I remembered that Grandpa was much older than I was and that he looked important in these settings. The barber was already handing me a broom.
As soon as I was done, which was easy, Grandpa made a sign. The corporal respectfully saluted and we left.
Grandpa told me then: "We are going to get you decent clothes."
He took me to the clothing department and told the soldier who was there:
"Sergeant, this is my grandson and I cannot tolerate that he keeps his filthy clothes."
Grandpa seemed to like the word "filthy" to humiliate others. Or was it simply to show his power ? In any case he continued his speech to the Sergeant:
"Give him first some Cammi T-shirts, green fatigues and most important a cap to protect his new haircut."
The Sergeant gave me all that in exchange for my carefully thorn jeans and my great John Lennon T-shirt. I did not like it because again it looked too military for my taste, but I did not dare disobey Grandpa’s orders. In any case, I tried the clothes handed to me by the Sergeant and while I did so, this Sergeant got hold of my real clothes: I never saw them again. So I had to keep these military looking clothes but I promised myself, silently, to replace them as soon as possible with the civilian looking jeans and T-shirts I had in my suitcase. Maybe, I could accept to wear non thorn clothes without rebel propaganda as long as I had to live under Grandpa’s roof.
Grandpa took me to his office and he told me then to sign a form to acknowledge the reception of Marine clothes. He added:
"It is not very important, but sign it otherwise it would be a theft."
He added to the document I had signed a copy of the notarized document written by my father, the document giving him full parental authority during my father’s absence.
After that Grandpa congratulated me on signing a promise to join the US Marines Corps as soon as I had my highschool diploma.
I immediately objected:
"Grandpa, I don’t want to join. I don’t want to become a US Marine."
"It is too late to object now, my boy. You are over 17 and you signed the promise: so it is a closed case. The only thing you can get is a deferment to accomplish your 12th grade. We don’t want soldiers who don’t have a diploma. By the way, as of now you will call me ‘COLONEL’ like all the Marines on this base. I don’t want you to call me ‘Grandpa’. UNDERSTOOD Candidate Walker ?"
"I am afraid I understand you tricked me !"
"That’s not the proper way to speak to your Colonel, Candidate Walker. One of my men will tell you what is proper speech here on Base."
Via the intercom, Grandpa, well the Colonel, called someone in his office: Private First Class Binham. This Marine entered nearly immediately the room, saluted the Colonel (whom I no longer considered as my "Grandpa" because of his treacherous behaviour with me) and said in a loud voice:
"At your command, Colonel."
The Colonel told him exactly this:
"This young man here is my grandson. Forget that relationship. He signed today a promise to join the Corps as soon as he has his highschool diploma. He is now in Cadet uniform. You will take him with you. Make sure he has the rest of the necessary uniform and a label ‘cadet’ on all pieces of equipment. You are to take him everywhere with you and show him how a US Marine must behave. He will leave this Base in six week and be shipped to a Junior Military Academy to get his last credits. DISMISS NOW."
When I heard that I purposely put my new cap on my freshly shorn head in what I knew was a non authorized position: cap visor in the back. I had not realized that it was strictly forbidden to be "covered" once inside a building.
Bingham saluted the Colonel, made a perfect about turn and started to leave the Colonel’s office walking in a military way. When he reached the door of this office, he looked at me. He noticed that I had not moved and said:
"Salute the Colonel and follow me, Cadet. March in step."
I purposely forgot to salute the Colonel, the grandfather who was a traitor, and I took great care to leave this office marching as I had always done, lazily. I kept my new cap on my head before I was out of the Colonel’s office. I knew very well that this was sheer impoliteness but I could not resist.
As soon as we were outside, my mentor, Private First Class Bingham gave me his first lesson:
"Cadet, you don’t wear your cap in the correct way. Look at me, place your cap as I do: in such a way that your visor is in front, exactly two fingers above your nose line."
Bingham took me back to the clothing department where he made sure that I got everything I needed as "US Marine Candidate", since that was now my status. He checked that each item was now correctly labeled: I was no longer a civilian wearing a military uniform, but I was a "Candidate Marine" and the corresponding label was thus "CM R. Walker." I received the required BDUs and was told to put it on immediately, everything was done in a hurry. I also received some sports equipment of an ugly olive colour and marked "USMC". Bingham also gave me military boots, socks, green underwear to be worn immediately and finally everything I needed for my bedding.
I realized that I was not to go to the Colonel’s house and that I would have no access to my suitcase and to my books.
After discussing it with the clothing Sergeant, Bingham decided that I should sleep in the same room as himself, on a bunk in a big room. I disliked all that but I was blocked until I had a brilliant idea: I still had my phone and I knew that my father had not yet left California. So I phoned him and told him what had happened. My father did not really comfort me. He simply said:
"Your grandfather is a bitch. He tried the same trick with me but I read carefully the paper he wanted me to sign, and when I had read that piece of stupid litterarture, I refused to sign. I think he used the same trick with your godfather and he did not read the text, like you. Well, you are in now ! Try to get the best out of it and when you join, sign for the minimum of time. I will soon be back and since Omsk pays well, I will have money to send to the best College. Courage my son."
I had not noticed that this conversation had been transmitted through the loudspeaker of the clothing department phone. When I was done, Bingham suddenly said:
"That’s why you did everything you could to look rude with the Colonel ?"
"Exactly, I don’t want to become a US Marine and I hope to be expelled."
"That’s the wrong attitude: your grandfather, our Colonel, will keep you here. He will punish you if it is necessary. He will not hesitate to break you if he thinks it is fit for the Corps. If you keep behaving like that, the Colonel will send you to the brig. So try atleast to simulate some interest in your new life."
"As a Cadet, in the brig ?"
"Yes, he would not hesitate if he believed it was for the good of the Corps. So behave as if you liked the present situation."
"I don’t want to be a US Marine. I am against any form of military."
"It is too late. Your father told you so. The Colonel is tricky but he is also a good leader. Now that you are in cadet uniform, do everything you can to learn in advance how to behave in order NOT to be punished. Your life will be much easier then."
I made some noise and some signs of exasperation and Bingham said:
"Learn with me now and this evening I’ll take you to the bar and you will discuss your problems with the other Marines in our room. There are more ideas in many heads than in one ! But one think is sure, you are a future Marine."
My guide then led me to a big Quonset Hut with two rows of 12 beds and as many cupboards. He let me place the elements of my new uniform in one of these cupboards, in a special order. He also told me to make my bed with the covers I had received and he explained how I was as of now supposed to make my bed ! "Like a good little Marine" was his motto.
Bingham took me to a place which I later learned to know as a parade ground. There he tried to explain how to march, how to turn, how to salute and other things which he considered as essential for a good US Marine. He made me perform all these as exercises. He forced me to do it again and again, until he considered that my moves were acceptable. He then gave me five minutes rest and after that suddenly he started it all over, shouting his orders. He repeated that several times, I lost the count: I started to obey rather mechanically. I didn't do it to please him but simply because it seemed impossible to survive if I didn’t let him mold me into something which looked like a US Marine. At the end he seemed satisfied: he loved the Corps and could not understand why I didn’t accept the "great opportunity" I had to join as early as 17 !
Bingham told me then that it was already time for an evening meal. He took me "marching in steps" to the Mess hall where everything had to be done rapidly since the hall was not that big but had to serve many meals for many soldiers. We had dinner together and I must confess that I don’t remember very well what I ate during this first meal in uniform. During that meal, Bingham drank a beer but reminded me I was too young to get one. So he fetched me a Coke and he congratulated me on my fast progress towards what he called "the honorable title of US Marine".
After dinner, which did not take much time, my mentor took me to the bar foreseen for Marines up to the rank of Corporal. I learned that Sergeants and other NCOs had their own bar, not to be confused with the Officers’ bar. Life there appeared to be very structured in a pyramidal way !
Private First Class Bingham introduced me to his friends as "Cadet Walker" and told my full story to his friends, saying that I had "funny reactions". He described my adventures as "funny adventures" and "a good opportunity" for me. One of his friends, Lance Corporal Juan Delarosa, took this story seriously and started to discuss more sympathetically with the poor boy I was. He started as follows:
"Cadet, tell me in your own words what happened."
I told my story and Juan asked then:
"Do you like the fact that you are now in uniform and that you will keep this uniform for a long period of time ?"
"NO, I hate this. I don’t want to become a soldier."
"Not a plain soldier, my boy, but a US Marine !"
"I don’t like that either, I want to go to college as soon as I get my highschool diploma."
"In which grade are you ?"
"I am going to enter 12th grade. But my Grandpa, your stupid Colonel, wants me to go to a Junior Military Academy."
"That could be a very good school, Cadet. Much better than the one I had. Much better than most of us here ever had. Bingham never got his highschool diploma."
He bought me another Coke and asked the others of our group:
"Anybody has a good idea for this Cadet ?"
One guy, a certain Pedro Almovaro, asked me:
"What did your father write in his letter to the Colonel ?"
"That he must let me get my highschool diploma, but that is his only condition before giving full parental authority to your colonel."
"Well," Pedro replied, "try to fail your courses."
"That’s nonsense", said another.
"Well there might be something in it", said Juan. "Let me think, I’ll tell you tomorrow evening my idea, if it seems to work. Now it is bedtime for all of us, especially for this Cadet who has not learned yet to make his bed the Marine way."
"Yes he has learned that, along with many other things,"said Bingham proudly, "he is a good learner and he will sleep in our hut, on the bed next to mine."
It was time to go to bed. It was the first time that I was going to sleep in undies and with many other men, grown ups, next to me. I was far from my father and my home for the first time. I felt lost and I started to cry silently. In fact I thought that nobody had noticed it, but Bingham, who looked like a big and good brute, had noticed everything. He felt unable to cope with the situation and mentioned all that to Juan.
The next morning, when it was time to wake up, Bingham helped me to find my way. According to the rules I had to take a shower in a small place and I was ashamed: it was the first time I was completely naked in front of real grown ups who were strangers to me. I got dressed as quickly as possible in what Bingham called "the gym uniform". After "gym" it was time for the complete Cadet uniform and for cleaning our room. Being the youngest one, it was my turn to do most of the chores. Bingham took me then to the Mess hall for a solid (and good) breakfast and returned to his usual duties next to the Colonel’s office.
Juan and Pedro took care of me. Juan started by saying:
"I think I have a good idea for you. But it requires discretion and goodwill from you. Smile while training today and accept a more Marine-like haircut in the afternoon."
I had nothing to lose, so I told him that I accepted.
The day went on, slowly since I was waiting impatiently for Juan’s idea. But Juan was training with his comrades and he even told me to show goodwill and to join them with a smile, which I did: I had nothing to lose.
Later during the afternoon, Juan told me that he knew the Colonel had tricked me into signing, but that he had devised a way "to trick the tricky Colonel". He added that in order to achieve his plan I had to appear as if I liked my new status and my future life. He thus suggested that I should now get a real Marine very short haircut. Juan inspired confidence and, in any case, nothing worse than my present situation could occur. So I did what he told me to do.
We entered our hut and Juan told me to take off my cap (this was normal since we were inside but I did not have that reflex yet), my uniform jacket and my T-shirt. He then told me to sit on a stool. He took his own clippers saying:
"As a soldier, I never go to the barber: it is too expensive for me."
He then started slowly, nearly kindly, to shave my head once more but with a very short guard. He pushed my head down so that my chin was again against my breast. I could feel that he was taking away what was left of my hair on the back of my head. That gave me a good thrill. He went on pushing my head, still with the chin down, on my left shoulder. Then on my right shoulder. This was no longer a forced haircut, but a haircut I had voluntarily accepted and it gave me chills of pleasure.
But he was not done yet. He pushed kindly, nearly brotherly, my head backwards while walking in front of me and he started to do the same, from base to top, from my forehead to the top of my head. When that was done, Juan told me:
"Now the sides if you really want to look like one of us."
"Is it necessary for your plan ?"
"It certainly is, for your happiness now that you have signed what you did not want to sign."
"Go ahead then."
Juan took off the guard of his clippers and explained me what he was about to do:
"I have reduced the hair above a specific line above your ears. I am now going to take all the remaining hair off your sides. After that, you will look like a real Marine."
He did what he had announced, pushing my head on my shoulders and then pulling it after shaving it without any guard. He also turned it, but he never did it brutally. The whole process took more time than the first haircut, but it was done kindly. When Juan told me that he was done, he sent me to the bathroom to get a shower and look at the new me. I must confess that I liked his work. I undressed and I did not mind his presence while I walked in the hut completely naked. I had become another boy, or finally I had become a man ?
As soon as I was again in uniform, Juan told me to sit on one of the beds and explained his plan to trick the nasty Colonel.
"Ron, I guess you are good at school ?"
"Yes Juan, or at least I was in my former school. I don’t know if I will be in the school where the Colonel wants to send me. But why did you guess that way, my friend ?"
Juan appeared shy and thinking about my question, he then answered:
"Because you are a white man and I am not. None of the men in this hut is a white man, except Bingham who is not very bright. That’s why the Colonel chose him as secretary."
Juan stopped speaking as if he wanted to weigh his next words."
"You, Ron, you went to a good school thanks to your father who is a university professor. I went to whatever school I could and I did not get my highschool diploma. Most of the men here are in the same situation, or they have a diploma from a bad school. They cannot do anything in life with it, but you will be able to do lots of things. Now my plan."
Juan, who had been moved while he described his school situation, became suddenly very precise. He was, and still is, a very clever man. He suggested me the following:
"Ron, your father stipulated that the Colonel should let you have a highschool diploma ?"
"And he wanted you to go to a good school in order to go to College ?"
"Yes Juan, but why is it important ?"
"Keep quiet when you are not questioned, Recruit !"
But this was said with a smile, and juan added:
"And the Colonel mentioned a Junior Military Academy with Marine values ?"
"Yes Juan, but why all these questions ?"
"Ron, there is only one such Academy in the neighborhood and it is an excellent school. I wish I had been sent there. The discipline is tough, but the courses are good. Moreover they also have advanced courses. Do you follow me ?"
"No Juan, please explain further."
And Juan explained to me then what his plan was . It was very simple but also very tricky. I will describe it later. He concluded as follows:
"Of course, once you will have your diploma, you will have to enlist, but that is no longer avoidable. But in four years or so, you will be an officer with a college degree and I will proudly serve under your command."
"Why proudly under my command ?"
"Because you did not cry while I was shearing you to the woods, you even smiled. But in order to achieve that you must as of now behave as if you really liked being in uniform."
My next step was to clean our room of the remains of my hair. I did it while singing and under the strict supervision of Lance Corporal Juan Delarosa.
I remained in this group and trained as much as I could under the supervision of my new and future comrades Juan and Pedro, and also Bingham who had in fact only an office job: my new friends did not consider him as a real Marine. My friends made me perform several exercises until obedience to these Marine orders seemed ingrained. I no longer thought when one of them barked an order, I performed the required action nearly automatically. The Sergeant in charge of our group was impressed by my progresses and mentioned them to the Colonel who reacted by saying in front of Bingham who overheard it:
"It is normal, this cadet promised to enlist as soon as he has his highschool diploma. Too bad his father did not let him enlist immediately."
In August, I was called to the Colonel’s office early in the morning. My friends had drilled me now and I entered his office in the proper way for a real US Marine. The Colonel looked at me and said:
"Well done Cadet. At ease now. Too bad your father imposed this special clause ‘getting a highschool diploma’, otherwise you would already be a full US Marine. You will leave this Base today at 12:00 and be shipped to your new school. You will go to the famous Marine Military Academy and after one school year, you will have your diploma and be shipped to MCRD San Diego. Behave well there if you don’t want to be punished here. DISMISS."
Not any grandfatherly word ! Not a single kind word. But I did not care, I had my plan.
Juan came towards me, and I told him that I was leaving for my new school. He then added a good advice:
"Ron, I am catholic and I know the priest in your future academy. It is Padre Costello. In a way I am close to him and he knows me well. If you have any problem, go to him and tell him that I send you. You don’t have to be a good catholic for that."
I was then left alone to make my bag and I left in a Base car towards the airport. I was still in uniform since I had no other clothes.
I arrived at the Academy in their little van. Most new cadets came with relatives and were still in civvies. I was alone and the only one to be in uniform. This impressed the man in charge at the reception. He was a retired Marine Staff Sergeant, in uniform, and he could not refrained a question:
"Are you trying to make a joke with your uniform ?"
"No Staff Sergeant," and I gave him the documents the Colonel had charged me to transmit to the Academy.
"OK, you are Ron Walker coming here for his 12th grade before joining the Corps ?"
"YES, Staff Sergeant."
"You seem to be already well drilled, Cadet."
"Staff Sergeant, I was a Cadet in a regiment for more than a month and the Marines took care of my first education."
"Good, but now you are a Cadet in this Academy. Go and register at table 1."
"Staff Sergeant, could I also speak to Padre Costello ?"
"Not now, later, after prayer."
"At your command Staff Sergeant."
And I went to table 1 hoping to have given a good impression.
I was thus formally inducted as a Marine Cadet and sent to the barber: it was the usual thing to do, but my hair had been shorn the Marine way by my friend Juan just before departure. The barber tried to complete this haircut and to really let me be "shorn to the woods", but after a few minutes he abandoned the fight saying:
"I cannot shave this cadet more than he already is !"
I then received my Academy uniform: a set of Junior ROTC uniforms for a Marine Cadet. A nice ceremony uniform and for most of the time a forage cap. There was also a set of sports uniform looking like my previous one but marked "MMA". Besides that, nothing really different from my previous (and first) uniform.
I joined the new cadets and together we started then, as a special group and in a special barrack, a period during which we learned how to behave as an Academy cadet. This included salute, march and … making a bed in a military way. Thanks to the training given by Juan and my other Marine friends, I excelled during this "plebe" training. At the end of this period I was even publicly congratulated by the Gunnery Sergeant in charge of our group. There was a parade during which I proudly received a Marine insign to pin on my forage cap. I did not like the idea of becoming a soldier, but this ceremony was well orchestrated and it was nevertheless moving. Most parents of new cadets were present, my grandfather was not.
It is on that occasion that I met for the first time the Padre. I simply told him that I was a friend of Juan, how I happened to have been pre-drilled by him and the fact that I had now to get my diploma in order to be able to enlist. I did not tell him my complete plan.
After this ceremony, I had to be permanently in Marine uniform, which did not change anything for me. Some of the other new cadets did not like it but I had already had some time to adjust. We were dispatched to several companies. I landed in C company and was placed in a comfortable room which I had to share with an 11th grader. I was of course one of the 12th graders.
I chose college level advanced courses, such as Advanced Mathematics 1 and 2, Advanced Physics 1 and Advanced Chemistry. This means that I had to attend classes and to study for these courses when the other cadets had free time on campus. I also had to study on Saturday (the whole day) and on Sunday afternoon. I did well in these courses. I carefully failed in Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry (12th grade level) in order to be ineligible for my Highschool diploma.
The first holidays (called "leave" in this Academy) were foreseen for Thanksgiving. I was supposed to go back to "my regiment". The day before I was supposed to leave, I was called in the Padre’s office. This wise man (who was a retired Marine Captain) told me that he was my academic supervisor. As such he had noticed something strange : I had excellent results for all my Advanced Courses, but I was failing in three easy, but essential, 12th grade courses. That’s when I told him that in fact I really did not want to become a Marine. I mentioned the exact terms used by my father in his letter and the fact that my grandfather had tricked me. Finally I mentioned that Juan had found a way to "trick the tricker". I told him my complete plan: fail enough 12th grade courses to have to stay one more year in this Academy and simultaneously take Advanced Courses to have already something for College level, and thus the MECEP program. I ended by saying that Juan had advised me to tell him the complete truth. That’s when the Padre really surprised me by saying:
"I understand, you don’t really want to join the Corps but you are not going to contest your own signature."
"NO SIR" was my reply.
"But you want to make it as profitable as possible, for you and for your friends."
"YES SIR, that is if I can."
"Cadet Walker, if you go back to your regiment, what are you going to do there ?"
"SIR, I assume the Colonel, my grandfather, will let me stay and train with the Marines with whom I have already trained. They are my friends, SIR."
"But you are not going to study there."
"In that case, I will punish you for failing easy courses and deprive you of your leave. You must spend your leave inside this Academy in order to get better marks in the courses where you are failing. I hope you understand me."
"SIR, does that mean that I must stay here during Thanksgiving ?"
"Yes, Cadet Walker. You must stay here and study. Understand me well, I am going to check whether you are studying but I am NOT going to check WHAT you are studying. Did you get that ?"
"I think I did, SIR. I am not supposed to study courses I know well."
"Exactly. Since you failed, you will have your head completely shaved as a sign of punishment. Start your punishment NOW. DISMISS Cadet."
I thus did not go back to my regiment but I stayed in the Academy where I studied my advanced courses only. The other (and failed) courses were very easy for me: I just reread my notes but I carefully managed to fail three of them.
During the other short leaves, I was again "stranded" in the Academy by my academic supervisor. He sent a note about this situation to my Colonel suggesting that I would fail my 12th grade and that I would have to repeat it. I received a letter from my grandfather: the Colonel was furious and threatened to force me to join the Corps immediately if I did not start to work better. The Padre reassured me on the basis of my father’s letter, but he had to let me go to the regiment during the summer holidays. I was now 18, I had no highschool diploma and I had to travel in Dress Blue as used in the Academy.
When I reached the regiment, Bingham (now Lance Corporal) warned me:
"Walker, you failed. That’s dreadful and the Colonel is furious. Take immediately that Academy Dress blue off and put on a regimental BDU. I prepared one for you on your former bed. Then go directly to the Colonel’s office. It is his order."
I did as I had been told and entered the Colonel’s office in the prescribed manner.
There the Colonel started to shout at the top of his voice, claiming:
"Cadet Walker, you are good for nothing. A dishonor for your family. I warned your father but that stupid academic replied that he did not authorize you to join the Corps without a highschool diploma. Luckily you are now 18. Sign this enlistment form and get ready to be shipped to Bootcamp."
Very calmly I replied:
"Colonel, you made me sign a promise to enlist, but that was when I was 17 and under the proviso of my father’s letter. By respect for my father and for my own signature, I will not sign another enlistment form which would make the situation too complex. With all due respects, SIR."
"What am I going to do with you in that case, Cadet ?"
"You will send me back to the Academy and this year I will get my diploma, SIR. Then I will go to Bootcamp without any objection."
"That’s what your academic supervisor wrote to me ! Work correctly as of now. But for the time being, you are punished. 8 days in the brig for failing three courses. DISMISS."
I realized that the Padre had not mentioned to my grandfather my good results in four Advanced courses. That was probably a way to protect me … or to convince my grandfather that another year at the Academy was necessary.
When I reached the brig, I was told that I had first to report to the regimental barber. This one had been ordered to give me a complete baldy. He told me that he did not like it, but that since I had made a promise he was going to treat me as a Marine guilty of a serious offense. He made me sit on his chair, caped me and started his clippers. I was used to that type of noise now. The difference between the regimental barber and the academy one was very thin but very important: the Academy barber had been ordered to give each Cadet a haircut compatible with his new status: Marine cadet. But he had also been ordered to respect the individual and thus avoid useless brutalities. For the regimental barber, it was exactly the contrary. As soon as I entered his place he started to bark orders. He told me to sit on his chair and to stop moving. He then started to use his clippers, giving me a brutal baldy. I am not going to give more details about this grueling moment since I tried to forget all about it as soon as possible. In any case, when I came out of the barber’s office I could not even feel stubbles on the top of my head, which was the case every time I went to the Academy barber. This regimental barber did not behave like the one in the Academy, nor like Juan when he shaved me just before I left for my Military School.
When I arrived in front of the brig, the Sergeant in charge told me that the order had been changed. I had not been judged nor accused of criminal charges, and I was only a future Marine. So the "brig" was not for me. Instead, the Colonel had decided that during my holidays, during my stay in his regiment, I would have to perform kitchen and cleaning chores. I was thus ordered to go as quickly as possible to the kitchen where I would place myself under the authority of the Sergeant in charge.
This is how I spent my short holidays. Luckily I could spend every evening with Juan, Pedro and other friends. Bingham was rarely present: he was now the Colonel’s man and chose to stay with less suspicious character in order to rapidly become a full Corporal.
After 6 weeks in the regiment, I was told to go back to the Academy in order to study the courses I failed. The Padre told me upon arrival that I was there to study, but also to have some good time with my fellow Cadets. Juan had warned him of the "great tasks" I had been ordered to accomplish as punishment. The Padre also told me that he was Juan's uncle and godfather, but that he had been lucky enough to go to highschool thanks to the Marine Corps.
After that, I studied further. I helped 5 other cadets who had "also" failed and according to one of my teachers I did well. I studied more Advanced courses with two other Cadets who were in a special year of advanced learning. We had no other leisure, so the 8 of us learned a lot, rapidly and well. Sometimes, a Sergeant or Staff Sergeant appeared and reminded us that we had also to do some sports, and then the young boys hidden in our Cadet uniform suddenly came back.
I only had to "study" the three courses I had purposely failed: that was dreadfully easy. I thus had lots of time to take more and more advanced courses and thus get more College credits.
At the end of this second intensive school year, I graduated with honors from High School. My father was still in Russia, teaching in Omsk where he had met what he called in his letters "a charming lady". The Colonel and my uncle, godfather and superior as Sergeant were present in Dress Blue.
They took me back to Fort Worth where I was sent to where I belonged, as mentioned by the Colonel: the barracks without any celebration of my success. I had not mentioned that I now had 9 advanced credits in Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry and 2 other ones, one in Philosophy and one in Psychology. I had worked hard to get them but the time to show them had not yet come.
Two days later I was shipped to MCRD San Diego with a lot of advice from Juan and Pedro. Among other things, Juan told me:
"Go and achieve what we could not even hope to start."
I am not going to describe Boot Camp here. I am simply going to say that I left the Base as a Recruit and came back as a Lance Corporal thanks to the training I got in the Academy.
Juan was now Corporal and I started to serve under his direction. It was a great time for me and for my friends.
After a few months I told the Colonel that I had gained college credits. I wanted to use them to apply for the MECEP program, the program that enables good Marines to end their studies in a College paid by the Corps and then to become Marine officers. The Colonel destroyed my hopes because I did not have enough credits according to the rules.
The Colonel realized that I had more or less tricked him, but he could not do a lot. So he ordered me to stay in the regiment and during that time, at least one more year, he wanted me to get more credits at a distance, for College courses. It was an order. I had to continue serving my regiment but my free time was now devoted to more studies and thus placed under my Colonel’s (and grandfather) control. After one year, the credits I gained this way, added to those I had gained while I was in the Academy, represented a good capital enabling me to apply seriously for the MECEP program.
I applied to the Citadel: the Colonel had forbidden another choice. This was a good idea since the Citadel is a Military Academy, thus a place where I knew how to behave. It was also good for me since as a Lance Corporal in the Marines Corps, I did not have to go through the gruesome Plebe year.
Two years later I graduated with a major in Mathematics and a minor in Psychology. My father was present with Nina, his new wife, with my Colonel, with Corporal Juan and with Linda, a charming lady I have not introduced yet. Linda and Juan were active during the pinning ceremony.
A few weeks later I was sent to OCS and after a gruesome period, which was worse than Bootcamp, I graduated from OCS and became 2nd Lieutenant. Juan gave the first salute as a Marine officer.
I remained at first in the same regiment, but as an officer now, with Linda as wife and future mother of my first child.
The Colonel retired and all hopes for the sanity of the regiment are permitted.