So I slept in today, as I thoughtfully planned out my Fall Semester schedule to start late on Mondays. I’ve earned this kind of schedule, most definitely after my time in the Marine Corps. Waking up at 0430hrs for early morning training for six years of my life.
Before enlisting I was not a morning person, still not a morning person today. What kept me honest in the Corps was probably of the reasons that I am a honest man at heart. Cannot go against the grain, well most of the time, as I never wanted to be in trouble. So here I am sipping on some English Breakfast Tea with a mighty tasty egg and bagel sandwich. Have to leave for class in about half an hour.
I wrote an essay about a remembered event of my life last week, it was during the time I was serving overseas in Japan. Love when asked to remember a time in my life, the Corps always comes to mind automatically, mainly those years were the best years of my life. Putting aside that fact that I had to live two lives, yet it was still the years I enjoyed.
So having a few of my friends proof my piece, I finally read my essay again this morning. Proud of myself and my vivid memory of certain areas of my life that I can recount, every detail and what I was feeling. Since I approve of it and am willing to submit it today to my professor, I would like to share with you, the reader.
Without any further delay, here is my essay, entitled “Seasick Marine”.
As morning physical training for the detachment of Marines concluded, the eastern sunrise was awakening the rest of the Japanese island. Okinawa, Japan is seventeen miles wide and seventy miles long; about the size and shape of some counties in Texas. At the age of eighteen I was following my original orders to serve my country overseas on this tiny island that I now call home… or at lest “temporary home.”
After getting my uniform on and lacing up my spit polished black boots, I was ready to start my day. Walking to work was one of the highlights of my morning that always made my day worth living. I passed the crisp clear blue waters of the East China Sea and the pink bougainvillea flowers in full bloom. Halfway to work I could see my quarters on the rocky, sandy beach on base. For some reason, at this point on my walk each day, the history of generations of Marines before me would come to mind.
On this particular day, when I arrived at work, a large manila envelope was sitting on top of my computer keyboard. The first thought that came to mind was far from an award for my service to my country. (This clearly speaks to the high level of esteem I held for myself.) Perhaps it was simply more paperwork to complete before the day was over. “Lance Corporal Harwood please report to Lieutenant Weeks’ office,” was the written command from Gunnery Sergeant Lepley. Gunny was the chief enlisted staff non-commission officer who was in charge of our platoon. With a slight hesitation, under my breath I responded verbally to the written command, “Aye, Gunny.”
“Harwood you have received orders with only a twenty-four hour window to be ready to deploy to Korea,” were the words that started from the Lieutenants mouth and finished with, “we have complete confidence that you are the right Marine to represent not only our Country but our Company. So good luck and we will be here when you get back.” As the “shock and awe” of how quickly new orders surfaced, I felt my face get warmer by the second. It was if I’d been transported back to elementary school and I was just been told I’d be driving home from school that day. I was frightened, surprised and ready to go. I responded to the Lieutenant “Aye, Sir. I’ve heard and understand the orders and I’ll fulfill them to the best of my ability!”
Once back in my quarters, after the brief from my superiors, I was feeling pretty excited. You could practically hear the flutters of butterfly wings inside my stomach. Supposedly, transferring to Korea was not a possibility while serving abroad in the Asian Pacific, but now the “impossible” was happening fast. With my government issued “ALICE pack” filled with clothes and toiletries, ready or not, I was about to embark on a new mission, to a country I had theretofore only read about in books. This was top secret mission and would only be addressed when we got to the port to ship out.
The Austal was the high speed passenger vessel that would take us across the East China Sea to Korea. It was quite luxurious. I’m sure it was an odd sight to see us Marines aboard this vessel. One would probably assume that we were headed on a long-awaited vacation cruise but we were not. Reality sunk in seeing as piles of crates of supplies and cargo were loaded onto the vessel. It was then that it occurred to me how out-of-the-norm this was to use a high-speed civilian luxury transport to move Marines. I wondered what could be so important in Korea that needed more Marines and needed them so quickly. I started to notice that I was the only one with some measure of trepidation developing as I heard the Marines traveling with me to start trading similar questions.
As we slipped out to sea, I turned to see the island nation of Japan become smaller and smaller in the distance. I was leaving the home of one former enemy and headed toward another. In the middle of our journey, the day turned to night and the sea was starting to turn on us. The vessel swayed side-to-side, to and fro. It wasn’t long before many Marines began to get seasick. To make matters worse, a tropical storm met us along the way to Korea. With the crashing noises of glass breaking, slamming of carts and crewmembers running to their posts, even the escape that sleep might provide became completely impossible. Nervousness turned to panic as we were jolted with a loud siren that was followed with shouting orders, “Reveille, reveille Marines! Everyone put your life vests on now!” This once calm and luxurious cruise had turned into a carnival ride gone horribly wrong. I felt as if my face had turned to the color of wasabi and my farewell dinner from Japan seemed to want out! When the grouchiness of the East China Sea turned into full-fledged East Asian Cyclone, waves too much for the vessel to take on began to cross the bow. It became clear that if something didn’t change soon, this ride was going to become a swim! Apparently though, the captain was a fast thinker and the deft crew was fast in following his or her orders. The ship was spun around as if on a dime, revved to thirty-nine knots, and we sped to safe calm waters away from the threatening sea. Finally, we were given the “all clear.”
It took quite a while for my body to trust that the turmoil had past. Slowly I stared to feel human again and other than very uncomfortable sleeping conditions, the rest of the voyage was relatively painless.
Waking up to witness an explosively beautiful sunrise, I began to see the silhouette of land turn from black to dark blue to gray as the sun climbed higher in the morning sky. Our vessel was approaching the shores of Korea.