Friday, December 16, 2011
An few interesting USMC observations......An Officer, A Gentleman or Not?
So, I squeezed some extra cash from Splenda and made my way to SoCal for an early Christmas with the kids. They won't be able to come home, which is both good and bad. Bad because they miss Utah, the snow, and family. Good because they have time alone to be just their own little family and establish some traditions of their own. Every family needs that. You take the good from your own past, incorporate them with your spouses, and create your own. As sad as I am to not have them there for Christmas morning breakfast, I am so happy that they get some time alone, to be their own little fam. Christmas eve night and Christmas morning are the most special, and I am glad that they get to have that time just to themselves.
Anyhoodle..... I digress........
Spending time on base and doing some different activities has been an interesting exercise in people watching. I thought airports were the funnest place, but I think a base family activity, interacting with people at the base commissary, and their version of the Sev are all just as fascinating.
Over the past couple of years, since Corb embarked on his USMC leg of life, I have learned several things. They are hardcore bad -A brothahs. They have to be. They are loyal, honest and full of integrity. At least the majority of them are. There is also a small pool of them referred to as "garbage Marines". They don't take pride in their title of Marine. They tend to be lacksidasial in their oath of integrity and respect. I can't always see it on the face value, until I see their children, and then the differences are very clear.
The base has community centers that host a lot of family events for different holidays. We did the Harvest one around Halloween and then they happened to have a Holiday one this week. Just observing the children tells me a lot about the Marine.
Most of the children are obedient, disciplined, and respectful of lines, other people, and property. They don't run around like a bunch of banshees but run around having a great time, being kids but being disciplined kids. However, in the mix I will always see the exception. I was particularly astounded Thursday night.
Holiday event. They have FUN at these things. Big bouncy things for the kids to romp in. Games, food and other activities. Of course, there was Santa. The line was long, but in order to get to any of the other stuff, or the food, you had to stand in the line for Santa. I got a spot saved in line and slowly inched my way towards the entrance of the center and once we finally got in the building, Kar and Chloee joined me. People are very polite. "Excuse me" "Oh, I'm sorry" "Thank you" - all very common. I love the atmosphere.
In front of us in line was a family with small children. About three of them. The youngest was a toddler and he was in the middle of a horrific fit. Of EPIC proportions. I couldn't imagine what could possibly be so awful that he would be completely unhinged. And the parents did nothing but wrestle and take turns holding him while he screamed, cried, hit and attempted to limp noodle out of their arms. This went on for several minutes as we inched forward. All around us people were trying not to stare while also attempting to ignore the noise the small creature was making.
The community center had been decorated to the T! Obviously, it had taken days, and many hands to make it look like a Winter Wonderland. There were places to pose for pictures and in the main room there was cotton on the floor to simulate snow, with trees, lights, tinsel and bows everywhere. Nothing was left undecorated. It was very nicely done with cones and ropes to indicate that people were to stay on the main path and not venture out into the decorations. We were commenting on cool it looked, when I realized that the noise in front of us had stopped. I looked around to see what had placated the monster only to be sorely disappointed. All along he had wanted to get down and destroy the decorations and now he was given free reign. He crawled under the ropes, kicked all the cotton around and basically began destroying the set up. As little ones behind us who didn't get the pleasure of the hissy fit, and saw him break the obvious guideline, a few of them followed suit.
REALLY?!?! At what point do these parents not understand respect for the hard work and efforts that were put into an event FOR THEM! I was proud of Chloee who wasn't even tempted. She noted the ropes, asked what they meant, and when told that they were to advise us to not go past that area, she accepted it and amused herself in other ways. I looked around much closer (and now with several other families in the large room) to see if she was an anomaly or if she was the norm.
Interestingly enough, she was not the only well behaved youngster. The majority of the children understood boundaries, understood rules and complied without whining, cajoling, or begging. It's just natural to them to observe their surroundings and act appropriately. I find this fascinating. Absolutely fascinating. This is not to say that they aren't normal kids, they most certainly are, but when it comes to respect, they are on a whole different level. They get naughty just like others and have to be reminded about things, but in general are extremely respectful of others, waiting their turns, listening to directions etc.
The ones that I noted as the exception? I started looking a little closer at the parent who is the Marine. Most cases it's not hard to tell and the majority of them are the fathers due purely to logistics. I compared the physical appearances (don't judge until I finish my thought) of them to the others whose children understood respect. I also compared their facial expressions, their conversations with their children and their spouses, and their general deportment. It doesn't take too long to see the differences. There are Marines who love and respect their duty, their title and their job. And there are those who don't. And while I only see a few of them in their actual jobs, you can tell by how their families behave.
Am I guilty of being judgemental? I will argue not. Just an observation and some food for thought. The Marine Corps prides itself on their values that are deeply instilled during boot camp and then expanded on throughout their careers. Most of the men and women who undertake the journey to become a Marine do so with these things deeply ingrained and quite obviously passed onto their spouses and families. I overheard the woman behind me on the phone with her husband, telling him to come and meet her and the kids. Yes, it was okay, he didn't need to change, there were others in their cami's having just gotten off work. I could tell that he was concerned with proper presentation. Even at a family festival event. I paid attention to his wife and children. Very respectful, kind, friendly and the kids well behaved. She was there by herself with two little ones and a stroller and she had everything under control simply because she wasn't having to wrangle wild, hellion little ones
I think it comes down to Pride. Not a bad pride. A respectful pride. Signs at all the markets and commissaries are hung with pictures of what is acceptable dress and appearance when on base. Period. No questions, you are to be cleanly dressed and groomed. So it goes that not only do Marines develop a sense of pride in their duty, country, fellowman, and jobs, but in themselves. They are better than a sloppy G with pants around his butt cheeks and hat on sideways. There is a place for that, but not in the Corp and not on Base. And most certainly not in their children.
For the next several days, I have been more observant of the people on base. I can now usually tell right away, who are the ones that have that sense of honor and respect instilled and practiced, and those that don't. To the guards at the gate and the manner in which they wave us through, to the men I pass in the commissary. I even walked past a neighbor who had clearly just gotten off work (still in his cami's) who allowed me a wide and respectful berth of space when he clearly didn't need to. Just out of respect.
So why is this so appealing to me right now? Why does it strike a chord with me? I wonder if it is the sense I am getting of general disrespect that our society seems to have fallen into. I am sure many agree, there are some wonderful people out there, but in general it feels like there has been growing a seed of discontent in the general masses. That discontent seems to lead to disrespect of oneself, and then to others and to basic society norms.
What will it take to get us back to manners? Back to civility? Back to basic kindness and respect? For some, like a true Marine, it's already there. They've got it down to a science. They leave bootcamp with it, if they didn't have it in the first place. For the rest of us, it's a matter of choice. We can't all be Marine's, let alone Officers, but we can be Gentlemen. And then, it is our responsibility to instill that same conduct in our children. Sure, they will ultimately choose for themselves their paths in life, but having the basic, core values of honor, respect, love, integrity, and service to others, embedded in them, will in turn lead to a more civil and respectful society.
At least that's just my observation.