I’m 10 years old, in the lobby of a hotel somewhere in the Philipines. I don’t remember where my parents are or why I’m standing there alone, but I feel awkward and nervous. The room is full of sailors and Marines. There are pool tables. A giant (he seems giant to me) of a Marine approaches and asks me if I know how to play pool- which I don’t. “Well C’mon. I’ll show you” He shows me how to hold the pool stick which is way to big for me. “Oh, you’re a southpaw.” He shows me again as if he was a lefty. Before long I am laughing and chattering away as if he is the big brother I’ve never had. Then my dad shows up. The Marine seems to recognize him with dismay. My dad is not only in the navy but even worse, an officer. “I was just showing her how to play pool.” he says sheepishly. My dad chuckles “Thats OK” and steers me away. I turn around and wave. He smiles and waves back.
I’m five months pregnant. Geoff is away on work-ups and it is mid July in N.C., hot and miserable- just like me. I am attempting to mow my lawn. I get about three rows into it and decide it’s too much. I go inside and lay down on the bed. Hours later I wake up feeling a little better and eventually walk back outside- to find my yard neatly mowed as if the lawn fairy has paid a visit. I see my next door neighbor, a recon guy, doing something to his pickup in the driveway. I have hardly ever spoken to him. I walk over. “Hey, did you mow my lawn?” “Uh….Yeah” He looks up briefly then goes right back to the engine. “You didn’t have to do that- but thank you!” “Umm…No problem. I just thought you know….you didn’t need to be mowing.” He glances up makes eye contact wtih me for just a second then his eyes move down to my stomach, then back to the engine. I stand there idly chatting about nothing in particular for a few minutes. He seems uncomfortable. I start walking back to my yard. He calls out “I can mow again if you need me too” ” Oh, Geoff should be back next week- but thanks again. I really appreciate it.”….He turns back to his engine. “Yup”
Erik is four years old and I am driving him to the base library. A Marine cuts me off on Holcomb Bld. I slam on the breaks and swear. Minutes later as I pull into a space in the library parking lot I notice with panic he is pulling into the space beside me. “Oh my God, did he see me swear at him? What is he doing? ” He gets out of the car. I get out of my car nervously. “Ma’am? Are you and your son alright? I’m sorry I cut you off. Sometimes I do stupid things I really regret and I’m sorry. I just wanted to make sure you were OK.” I am absolutely speechless. Now I feel like the bad person for having sworn at him. I stand there trying to come up with some sort of response. “Thats OK” I finally manage. “I do stupid things all the time. ” He peeks in the window and smiles at Erik. ” Glad you’re Ok” He gets back in his car and drives away.
My life has been full of Marines like these. And I will always have a soft spot for them. For every Marine that has ever held a door for me, made me laugh, apologized (unnecessarily) for his language, flirted with me or helped me in any way I want to say Thank-You- You are stronger men and women than I will ever be.