35. Long Walk on the Beach

Long Walk on the Beach

He has set a tent for the sun… Its rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them, and there is nothing hidden from its heat.

Psalm‬ ‭19:4, 6 

I arrived at a small Navy base called Dam Neck and made my way up to the second floor of an outdated barracks. When I opened the door to my room, my roommate had already arrived and was laying on his bed to my immediate left, pecking away at his fancy Iphone. I’d recognized him as one of the guys from RTT. He’d already completed CQB school but now came for DM school as well. Sometimes they send shooters1 to DM school to become what we called a “double threat,” or qualified both as an assaultman and designated marksman. They must have sent him because there were extra slots available for Bangor to fill.

Once I stepped and dropped my gear beside my rack he sat up and greeted me with his mild Tennessee accent.

“Hey man, how’s it goin’?”

“Not bad, how ‘bout yourself?”

“Livin’ the dream. You from Bangor?”

“Yeah, I came from second platoon.”

“Oh second? Did you hear Captain Smith is gonna be the platoon commander for RTT?”

“Seriously? That’s awesome!”

“Yeah dude, we’ve heard he’s legit. The guy looks like Captain America.”

“Hah, yeah, some of the guys on base even refer to him as Captain America. He’s by far the best leader I’ve met so far.”

“Yeah we’ve heard nothing but good things about him. Second platoon guys are pissed we’re snatching him up.”

“Yeah I bet. So, What’s your name?”

“I’m Wright. Yours?”

“Decoupcrank.”

“Decoupcrank?”

“Yeah, I know it’s weird.”

“I wasn’t gonna say that,” he smirked, “Just never heard it before.”

“Riiiiight.”

Designated Marksman course was held on the restricted side of Dam Neck, Virginia across a gated checkpoint. I felt special coming across this threshold because I’d heard one of the Navy SEAL teams was stationed on this side of the base. We Bangor Marines, myself, Taylor and another guy from RTT named Long, arrived later than the rest, so we played catch up by running our initial PFT before joining the rest in the classroom. Afterward, we waited outside the armory to be issued our EMR’s2 and spotting scopes.3 As we waited for our gear, I heard a strange noise.

Clink, clink, clink, clink, clink

The metallic noise grew louder as our ears determined it was traveling towards us around the corner of the building.

Clink, clink, clink, clink, clink

We stared in disbelief, tracking the man generating the noise as he rounded the corner. He was in boots and utes though his camouflage pants were not like any I’d seen before. They were long outdated, out of regulation tricolor bottoms with several brown patches on each leg. The man jogged with each arm grasping a barbell laying across his shoulders with a twenty-five and two and a half pound weight on each side. I guess SEALs warm their legs up on morning jogs with one hundred pounds on their back. 

The first week of DM school went by quickly because we arrived mid-week to make up for the two days lost on the upcoming four day Easter weekend. During this crash course we learned about the features of our rifles, ran with them and performed our first observation assessment. For the observations tests, instructors scattered ten objects such as a kevlar helmet, radio or backpack in the distance while each of us played “I Spy” with our spotting scopes with a time limit.

Once we wetted our feet with a sample of DM school, the weekend arrived. Wright and I ordered some chinese food for dinner to start off our Friday afternoon. 

“So what do you wanna do this weekend?” I asked.

“I don’t know, maybe we should check out the beach tomorrow.”

“Sounds good, I heard there’s beach access on-”

Deriveryyy!” Wright and I looked towards the door, looked back at each other, hardly keeping a straight face. 

“I guess our food is here,” Wright said as he got up to pay the happy Asian man delivering our food.

Once Wright brought the food back and the man left we busted out laughing. 

“Oh my god, I nearly died,” he said

“Derivery!” I chimed, then adding in a line inspired by a scene from Lethal Weapon 4 in a terrible Chinese accent “Want some flied lice?”

We continued laughing as Wright unboxed the food. He continued in his caricatured accent. “Ohhh, what is zis? We have wet napkin!”

“What?” I look over at him as he pulls out my Mu Shu chicken tortillas and rubs one in his hands, “Dude, you idiot, those are my wraps! Haven’t you ever had Mu Shu chicken?” 

He set down the paper thin pancake, “My bad, it looked like a warm napkin.”

“Nah man, you put the Mu Shu chicken in the wrap with some plumb sauce. It’s great.”

“Hey, I’m from Tennessee, remember? We don’t have all this authentic Asian cuisine where I’m from like you do in Seattle.”

“You do realize you’re stationed in Washington.”

“Touché.”

The following day was sunny, cloudless and eighty degrees.  We put on our board shorts, T shirts and flip flops. After we bought some SPF 8 tanning lotion, we shed our shirts and walked to the beach access about a half mile away. Once our feet touched the splash of the circulating tide, I looked to my left.

“Hey check that out,” I pointed north up the beach, “Isn’t that Virginia Beach?” I could make out the tall buildings jutting out in the horizon.

“Yeah, I think it is.”

“Crazy, I didn’t know we were so close.” I’d remembered taking thirty to forty minute drives from the BSG base in Chesapeake to Virginia Beach on the weekends. Though it certainly is further from Chesapeake, I didn’t realize we would be able to see it from Dam Neck. “It can’t be that far, wanna walk to it?” I suggested.

“Sure, why not.”

So we set out in flip flops, board shorts and shirtless for Virginia Beach from the Dam Neck waterfront via the most direct route: from one sandy beach to the other. After about an hour Virginia Beach barely looked closer, but we kept on going. By hour two my feet started to burn from the friction of my flip flops, so I cooled them in the ocean several times. About three hours later, after trudging through nearly three miles of sand and almost two miles of road, we arrived, parched, hungry and exhausted, quickly seeking out food and shade.

Our original intent was to spend several hours at the tourist town, but while eating lunch we decided to change our plans. 

“I’m beat dude, we should just head back,” I said, completely sapped with eyes glazed over.

“Yeah I’m down for just eating and leaving,” Wright responded, equally dazed.

For some reason, rather than buying a Taxi back to base, we returned to Dam Neck the same way we came, still shirtless and in flip flops. Even the bright idea of putting our shirts on or re-applying our minimally protective sunscreen somehow escaped us. By the time we returned, our feet, and shoulders were on fire.

“Oh my GOD!” Wright exclaimed, “Your back looks horrendous!”

“Yours too,” I said as I poked his shoulder.

“Ow!” he shouted. Not only were we under the beating sun for about seven hours, this was our first significant sun exposure for the year, so our pasty white skin turned to a bright red crisp having had no assistance from previously ushered out melanin. “Oh god it burns. We need to go get some Aloe Vera, right now.”

And so our bromance began with rubbing Aloe Vera on each others’ scorched backs after a long walk on the beach.

  1. Shooter is the term we used for those who were CQB qualified. Sometimes we used their official title too, Assaultman.
  2. EMR stands for Enhanced Marksmanship Rifle which is a semi-automatic weapon that fires 7.62 mm ammunition, accurate out to about 1000 yards. We had Leupold scopes capable of 10x magnification
  3. Anyone wielding a long range weapon usually is accompanied by a spotter with a higher magnification scope. Their job is to view the impacts of where the round hits and notify the shooter how to adjust. These scopes are also useful for observation with their 20x magnification.

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