37. Bowl of Veggies

Bowl of Veggies

Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another. Proverbs‬ ‭27:17‬ 

The SEALs slipped through my fingers yet again. At least this time they went out with an unforgettable bang. Well, three bangs to be exact. Though I wished I could have met the man face to face, I’m sure I’d have left without any idea of who he truly was. By this point I wanted the best of both worlds, to somehow meet him without giving up my Easter experience. Sadly, I probably already did see him on Cinco de Mayo, though he and his team’s ghostly presence whisked past my unobtrusive eyes.

When I returned to DM school, Wright mysteriously didn’t show up. One of the instructors informed us that they dropped him due to an injury he sustained over the weekend. While attempting to clip a cigar with the cutter, rather than putting his thumb through the finger hole, he slipped it between the blades before smashing what he thought was his cigar. This drunken act severed one of his tendons, so he was sent to a nearby hospital for surgery.

With my new bro gone, I pushed through DM school on my own. We continued our challenges and lessons, traveled to Quantico to shoot, returned to Dam Neck for our final tests and then I graduated May 1st. I narrowly missed finishing as the class honor graduate. This irked me not only because it was a close call, but back in BSG I missed it then too by a slim margin. 

My transition into RTT went relatively smoothly, despite now reassuming the position of new guy. This platoon had a whole cast of new characters. A few came in pairs. Schreiner and Wright were the male models, Vines and West were the gingers and Hill and Hubbard fooled us all into believing they were cousins.

Each set sported a full-size and mini-me version. Schreiner stood up around 5’11’’ weighing in at about 190 pounds of lean muscle, while Wright was his smaller but no less pretty counterpart. Vines was an average height and build and West was a feisty little knee biter who could stun you with his sense of humor. Though they weighed the same, Hill towered over six feet while Hubbard, a thicker shorter look alike, packed thicker arms and legs.

Other, more peculiar characters colored the scenes. Garcia’s muscles were about as big and defined as they come without injecting steroids into his ass. Most of the guys couldn’t match his strength or speed during Crossfit even while he was hung over. Harris was at least six feet tall with two gigantic arms that could either rip through most of my bodyweight in bicep curls or support him with the most graceful cartwheel you’d ever seen. 

Hank literally was a giant, standing at 6’ 7’’ and weighing in at about three hundred fifteen pounds. Along with his gargantuan frame rumbled his stereotypical deep voice, the likes of which could rattle your chest like a subwoofer. A picture of West holding Hank’s finger, who was the size of a toddler by comparison, later became a meme amongst our platoon. Though many hilarious men filled the ranks of RTT, Manazir was one of the funniest, and pulled the most pranks. 

When facing away from me while in the sleeping quarters of the restricted area, the lean Texan heard me coming. While looking down, with his back towards me he elevated his voice.

“Are you serious Decoup, I sat in some fuckin’ gum!”

“Oh dang, that sucks man,” I said while approaching. He turned around with his balls hung out of his unbuttoned cammies, stretching his sack into a veiny, translucent elephant ear.

“WOOOO!” he shouted, laughing as he flashed his junk. “Gotcha fucker!”

Lorens was my boy. He spent time with me in second platoon before heading off to CQB school around when I left to become a DM. Though he didn’t look much like Garcia, his similar body type, intensity with workouts and taste in music could have established him as Garcia’s mini-me. When on the bus driving to the shooting range, Lorens sat in front when a random thought popped in my head.

“Hey Lorens.” He poked his head over the seat in front of me.

“What’s up Decoup?”

“Guess what.”

“What?”

“My name backwards is Knarcpuoced.”

”Oh my god,” his face contorted into a squinted, full-toothed grin, “That’s fuckin’ hilarious! Knarcpouced… Oh, what’s mine?” He looked down at his nametape. “Sssnneroll. Snerol!” From that point on, Lorens only referred to me as Knarc.

The strangest of all the members was a guy named Rudd. He literally ate a twelve egg omelet drenched in syrup every day for breakfast. Rudd in all likelihood was a legitimate sociopath. My benevolent personality paid off because Rudd was the kind of guy who created a hit list of the people who pissed him off. When referring to one of the senior guys who gave him shit, he’d often say, “I’m gonna kill that fucker.” He wasn’t joking.

Rudd’s arms bore many streaks of self-inflicted scars, not because he tried to commit suicide but because he intentionally wanted to enhance his pain tolerance. He too once was a member of second platoon and when Lance Corporal Smith caught wind of Rudd’s strange obsession, he agreed to let Smith showcase his mettle in front of us all. 

“Hey guys, check this out!” Smith said, towering over Rudd’s dense body by about a foot.  They faced each other while all of us stared at them. Rudd looked up to Smith, emotionless, hands at his sides, legs spread slightly beyond shoulder width apart. To our surprise, Smith cocked back his right leg and slammed it into Rudd’s balls hard enough to lift his heels off the concrete. Rudd didn’t flinch. 

Danson was the fit nerd of the crew. He used to play soccer and therefore could outrun all of us, even me. The guys made fun of Danson for his squirrely voice, but he still held his own with his incredible knowledge, fitness and competence as a shooter.

My move to RTT proved to be worth the effort. Not only was Dad1 our platoon commander, but we were a small, tight-knit team with access to more high-speed training, better gear, more weapons and an awesome work schedule. Because there were three squads in RTT, we rotated each week, so rather than two weeks in and out we spent one week in the wire and two weeks out. Additionally, the outgoing squad usually scored a three day weekend. And, best of all, while we were in the wire, we didn’t stand post.

Our team’s purpose was to respond if we got attacked, so we always needed to be available for the extremely likely scenario of the Taliban raiding Washington State. So, to kill time in this restricted area, we filled our days with working out, sleep, food, movies and the occasional video game. While wandering my way back to our little nook at the end of the hallway, I heard an intense, fast-paced racket.

Click, click, CLACK, click, CLACK CLACK, click, click CLACK.

“Shit, man we got this!” Vines yelled

“ARRHHHH!” I heard Mack groan.

Wondering what was going on, I turned to my left at the end of the hall where the senior guys bunked to find Mack hunched over, hammering away at a miniature drum set and Vines frantically flicking his toy guitar up and down to keep up with the overwhelming rhythm cascading down the screen.

I couldn’t believe it. Life in RTT was heaven, both in and out of the wire. In second platoon, our time on duty used to be an agonizing prison sentence with six hour posts, minimal freedoms and random extra duties. Now, we spent our days laughing, sleeping in, working out, watching movies and playing Rock Band. We could even go to the roof and sunbathe in our silkies.2 Hard to believe the Department of Defense trusted us to guard nearly two-thirds of the United States’ nuclear assets.

On top of it all, I finally became one of the cool kids. No longer was I wishing to be the strong, fit, attractive guy on the football team, I was that guy. I wasn’t the emo teen on the outskirts of social society, I was the cocky bro at the center of it. I went from the drifting, lonely young Marine falling back into his old ways to feeling like a confident, competent badass now with such good friends and purpose, I wanted to engage with life rather than numb it out. 

For the first time in my life I was being challenged on all sides to better myself and I sought every opportunity to rise to that challenge. As a member of a small team with a specific role, I now contributed to the success of the mission in a meaningful way. This new weight of responsibility fueled my efforts to always better myself so I could fulfill my duties as a support element for the shooters. 

While in the wire, we practiced immediate action drills frequently. I’d run to position observing the entrance while the assault team charged to the objective in the Bear. Everyone needed to know their place and be ready to execute the mission flawlessly. 

The shooters thrashed the new guys with knowledge of every map of the buildings in the area. They needed to memorize exactly each step and motion of the barrel of their weapon once entering a building. With floor plans constantly before them, they spent hours studying, rehearsing and drawing out each possible route they may take. 

I’ll admit, DM’s have it easier than the shooters when it comes to being a new guy, but my role on the team propelled me to take initiative. As the DM, I needed to know my overwatch positions, the quickest route to get there, the entry and exit points of each building, and I rehearsed running with my gear and rifle as quickly as possible to each location. Throughout the day I’d dip out on solo runs with my combat kit for both training and exercise.

When we weren’t running drills we’d kick our own ass in the gym. Everyone fed off each other’s enthusiasm, workout routines, and energy. Heavy metal always blasted in the grungy weight room that many of us would visit two times per day. A healthy competition propelled each of us to stay on the cutting edge of our competency and fitness, as we boasted our personal records for lifts and times to complete our Crossfit workouts. 

By this time, I’d steadily gained weight over the past year without sacrificing my run time. Weighing in at 185 pounds, I achieved my pique fitness. Some of the guys cheated, gaining 20 pounds in two months with testosterone boosters. Even the smaller guys would catch up to me on certain lifts, but I laughed when it came time to run as their feeble cardiovascular system failed to acclimate to such speedy weight gain. 

We all had something to contribute to the team, helping drive our sense of purpose and camaraderie. I unintentionally added something to the figurative and literal table. Always filling a bowl of raw cauliflower, broccoli, bell pepper and cherry tomatoes to accompany my meal, Vines finally took notice.

“What’s up with you Decoup, you eat like fuckin’ rabbit.”

“Hey man,” I replied with a smirk, “This body only runs on premium fuel, none of that unleaded crap.”

Vines cracked a smile. “Okay, okay.”

About a week later, nearly everyone had their own bowl of veggies.

  1. If you missed the post, I talk about and introduce Dad here.
  2. Silkies are olive green short shorts we all rocked with pride. For reference, properly fitted silkies barely cover a quarter of your thigh.

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