personal reflections of a true leader

MCCES Company Promotion Ceremony for Corporal Harwood. (Left: MSgt Charles Smith, Center: Cpl Harwood, Left: GySgt Harspain)

To the family of Master Sergeant Charles Smith,

On a brisk morning in the Mohave Desert, I had drove passed those dusty gates of the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twenty-nine Palms, California; my new and final Marine Corps home of my active duty military career.  Leaving the beautiful shores of Okinawa was hard enough to transition from, paradise to the dry godforsaken desert.  Upon my arrival to the Marine Corps Communication-Electronic School, I was shadowed by my faltering choices from my previous command.  Meeting the leadership of my new duty station a unique leader stood out,  Master Sergeant Smith, with a cheerful smile and a pat on my back was his huge welcome into a new company, “don’t sweat the small stuff Harwood, everything will be A-OK!”

Several months had passed and he grew to understand my recent choices in Okinawa, were part of the brotherhood, a choice to take blame for something that I had no part in.  He could see the leader deep down inside me, that many from my past command in Okinawa where sure did not exist.  Taking a chance on this Navajo Marine from the Four Corners of New Mexico, he had my back from the day forth.

His followed into a new chapter of my career, I was being promoted into the next generation of non-commission officers.  The day of my promotion ceremony I told him that his faith in my abilities as a fellow comrade was more than words can express so I requested that he have the honors of pinning on my new chevrons during a huge company ceremony for me.  From my experience in the United States Marine Corps; your husband, father, son, brother, and my leader whom we called “Top”.  Was a huge part of my Marine Corps life and many other Marines lives, his willingness not only to command but to also have true faith in his Marines was more than any other leader could ever have on his troops.  He always had our backs, because he’d always know when we individually needed that older brother kick us in the butt, the fatherly talk to encourage us to do better, and most of all to be that friend who was willing to take under his arms and tell you “quit sweating the small stuff”.

I was personally saddened to hear of the passing of a true United States Marine who was nothing less than a gentleman.  Who was the sure thing of my mentor in my life after the Marine Corps.  In all honesty I am grateful for knowing such a true leader and thank you for sharing him with us, his troops.  In honor of Top Smith, I leave you all with this quote from our 40th United States President, Honorable Ronald Reagan, “Some people spend an entire lifetime wondering if they made a difference in the world.  But, the Marines don’t have that problem.”  Rest in perfect peace Top Smith, we’ll continue on not sweating the small stuff and we’ll see you on the other side.

Respectfully submitted,

Anthony Harwood, Corporal, USMC


true talk 001

Sitting in Starbucks with the boys sipping on java, individually crafted for each of us…

I nod at Kirby and say, “Kirby, you and him would be cute together! But he’s a total tear down and rebuild sweetie.”

Kirby responds, “Oh no no honey. He would be too much of a liability, which in turn would cause my stocks to plummet!

We sit in silence and on three we gay boys burst into laughter.

sporatic journalism

It has been a long minute since I’ve posted a blog, though I’ve been keeping a detailed free hand journal on my person for the past year and some spare change. Life for me has changed dramatically as I have moved from the east coast city urban lifestyle to the more slow paced country laid back west coast lifestyle. Also left a relationship to become single to find myself back at home and surprisingly enough to also find a new person of interest to commence courtship. Is there such a term for gay courting, if not I believe I will make it a new term or a term undefined to the casual gay individual. We are now more than serious, which is great to evolve a friendship of six years into a full on committed relationship with your highest regarded close friend.

Being back in the conservative homeland I call home these days, has me on a tight leash and collar of subtle silence about my personal lifestyle. Coming from a place where white conservatives freely call our President, “The Black Satan,” real talk on that sad fact of stereotypical name calling. Good job Tea Partiers you just made a joke of yourselves by calling yourselves the “Defenders of the Constitution,” with a touch of redneck class. At times I have bloodied my tongue just from engaging in a full on fist fight with these conseratives. Thank god I traveled the world to understand humanity and that we as American take life for granted by fighting with one another. If we cannot fight with one another our government has no problem starting occupations in foreign countries to make them a “democratic society.”

Other than bloody tongue episodes that are unleashed, I have come to another understanding…I can just keep to myself and not give such ignorant people any of my valuable time and energy. So I am here enjoying my Mother, siblings and their children, as well as my friends from childhood. At the same time still on track with my academic studies in journalism and finishing up all my required courses for pre-medical studies, then it will be time for the MCAT. Not to mention the spontaneous road trips, constant farm work, and non-profit organizations that I participate in while I am living here in the Four Corners.

As you can tell as my blog reader, I have so much on my mind and in my heart to share and help you give many an insight to where my studies and experiences in life direct me. So far I am satisfied with my current status and situation in life, but I do miss the majority of those I have met along the way. Though I have a firm belief that the great Creator will reunite us all one day soon. So until then keep living life as if it were your last day and smile more that others are able to say “Hi” to you.

\\ B

a chapter closed, another begins

I am writing from an undisclosed location in the United States of America.  Alive and thankful to have those in my life for support and encouragement.  “It’s all about me from here on out.”  Will be my new motto for the rest of my life.  Though it will be hard to carry out because I am a gentle soul who cares deeply about people.  So investing my personal time to help those I love and know in my life, is what has made me in dept to my own happiness.

When I took a short bumpy route that I was sure to be a short cut towards success, was blocked with so many trials and temptations.  Was told by a close friend that he lives his life as a ‘live wire’ and that every decision he makes is almost toxic to him.  But that way of living is nothing to judge but to appreciate, because nothing is stopping him from living a life.  So yesterday I broke down and decided to finally do my thing and get myself in order.

Instead of being a victim but a strong survivor of living as a United States Marine Corps veteran who is currently still in the process of transitioning into the civilian lifestyle.  It is tough not having that comradery that I once knew and the love of brotherhood I felt comfort and secure with, now in a world of individualism one must not succumb to failure.

Denial can lead to destruction, but to accept ones faults can lead to success.  It has taken a long time on this short path for me to finally get life.  Though some lives are longer and shorter than other but we are never promised a tomorrow.  Just have to be thankful for what we are each blessed with and make sure that each day we live to the highest extent of enjoying life.

So now that I have this insight into what makes one happy and successful, it is not an easy lesson that is learned over night.  Ones habits to go above and beyond for others is a habit that needs to be broken in order for one to be selfish and unveil one’s eye to see personal achievement and happiness.

My advice to you, is drop everything that you are doing for others and start living your life.  You only get one shot and lifetime to enjoy what the Creator has bless you to enjoy.  Get out there and LIVE LIKE A LIVE WIRE!

english breakfast tea

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.

after our mission in korea, about to aboard the austal for okinawa