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The Christmas Platoon

I have written a book called “The Christmas Platoon”. Available at Amazon, it is the true story of Platoon 1133 which was formed at San Diego Marine Corps Recruit Depot just before Christmas 1971. I was 4th Squad Leader and having grown up on a dairy farm in Southwest Oklahoma, even boot camp was like a vacation from milking 100 head of dairy cows twice a day and feeding and herding them. This book offers humorous descriptions of what many civilians will no doubt see as outrageous events and psychological explanations of how Marine boot camp training historically has so thoroughly molded Marines for life! Marines will laugh out loud as they read it and civilians may gasp and shake their heads, but that is no surprise for Marines! I am Bruce C. Fisher and was trained at Quantico as a computer operator back when they were the size of a refrigerator. The first one was an IBM 1401 with a whopping 17K RAM.

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Home Sweet Home for Thanksgiving

During the late summer & fall of 1966 Parris Island was my “Home away from Home”. Platoon “3090” was nearing the end of our boot camp training! PRT,rifle range,Elliott Beach were in the rear view mirror. We still had some major inspections ,the grinder….. It was getting close to Thanksgiving but no leave yet,we still had ITR at Lejuene. To say most of us were a little homesick, especially near Thanksgiving might have been an understatement! Then practicing on the grinder one day,our DI that day gave us a great and unexpected surprise. He halted us about half way through drill practice for some reason( I’m sure it was to praise us),then asked us if we wanted to call home for Thanksgiving. Aye Aye,Sir. We were like 8th & I the rest of drill.As we were finishing, I think the DI was Sgt. Stearns,said to us,” Are you ready to call home now”. AYE AYE, Sir. He proceeded to say to us,”Well face the direction of your home and call.Sgt. Stearns never changed always the “Ball Buster”

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What I Did At Summer Camp

Actually, I started boot camp in mid-september, but it was still so hot during the day at Parris Island, South Carolina ,that black flags flew for several days during the first few weeks there. Black Flag Days were designed to eliminate strenuous physical activities due to the high loss of recruits who would be overcome by heat exhaustion. The Drill Instructors side-stepped this handily. Faced with the herculean task of crammimg beaucoup hours worth of training into an 18 hour day, they simply continued the prescribed curriculum indoors or in some “out of the way” locale. Once you realized that these Drill Instructors were pushing you to the limit so that your chances of survival would be greater in actual combat, their methods began to make sense and, in fact, contained profound wisdom as well as a GREAT deal of humor. Each of us has a funny story or two from boot camp. I’ve been told I should share this one with all of you. There are three phases to Marine Corps boot camp. In Phase 1, they try to kill you, or at least it seems that way. You discover to your amazement that there are a myriad of rules and procedures that MUST be followed at all times. The hard part is that the rules are made known to the platoon one at a time as each is broken by an unsuspecting recruit. (Ask a former Marine what happened the first time someone called his rifle a “gun”.) Thusly, one learns how things are accomplished “The Marine Corps Way”. No recruit may speak to ANYONE without permission. No personal pronouns may be used when speaking, e.g. ” I “, “me”, “my”, “you”, etc. No one may laugh or even smile. (When we were photographed in our half-set of dress blues [the kind they bury you in, we were told] “If you so much as grin, I will break your skull!) Phase 1 lasted the longest of the three, or perhaps it just seemed to. Phase 2 consisted of two weeks at the rifle range followed by one week of “Mess and Maintenance”. Week one was “grass week” where each recruit learned the proper positions for firing an M-14. The essence of these seven days became individual studies on how long the human arm could function without circulation and still survive. Week two was live-fire week ending with qualification day. I fired Sharpshooter on “Qual Day” because I liked the medal. (No Bull) It was a Maltese or Surfer’s Cross with a Marine Corps emblem in its center and was, by far, the best looking medal of the three. Week three found us working in the chow hall somewhere scrubbing pots or peeling spuds. Three other recruits and I were sent to the Close Combat Course where we cleaned, painted, raked gravel, and one afternoon hand-rubbed linseed oil into the stocks of brand-new deactivated M-1 Garand rifles. (They were to be used during swimming qualification as “necklaces”.) The “SWISH” of the tomahawk startled us all but especially the recruit whose head it barely missed as it embedded itself in a nearby oak. “DAMN! I MISSED!” came the retort from the Close Combat Instructor. The recruit nearly fainted. Phase 3 was testing and “war games” in the field. Recruits were allowed to blouse their trousers and retain some hair on the very top of their heads (a “high and tight”). We began to feel “salty” and entertained the thoughts that we might actually make it to graduation. Some of us were wrong but that isn’t why I’m telling you all this. In the field at Parris Island you were taught many things, One of the most memorable experiences was the Day Infiltration Course. You had to crawl under barbed and concertina wire from point A to point B. As combat Marine recruits, we were burdened with 782 gear, pack, rifle, bayonet, and helmet. While you attempted to negotiate this course, an M-60 fired over your head, blocks of C-4 were detonated in sand bagged craters nearby, and Drill Instructors threw sulfur grenades at you to make you “HURRY UP!” All in all, it was a great way to spend an afternoon. When it was Indian Company’s turn, all four platoons in the series were seated in formation and prepared for instruction on the situation facing us. The instructor for the course, a gunnery sargeant with a thick New Jersey accent, took the platform and briefed us on this obstacle and what we were about to learn from it. “Dee traynin’ tuhday is about a classic Muhreen Cohr tactic…a fruntal assauhlt in dee face uv hostyle enumee fiyah”, he began. He went on to explain,among other things, that staying low to the ground was the key to survival. You did this by low crawling toward the enemy while consciously digging a furrow with your helmet. The reason for this was that the enemy fire would glance off the left or right of one’s helmet and although possibly injuring an arm or leg, one could continue the assault. “Ahr dayer any questions?” he asked at the conclusion of his lecture. One recruit raised his hand. “SPEAK!”, commanded the Instructor. “Sir, the private understands the frontal assault and how enemy bullets can glance off of the side of the private’s helmet, but what happens if a bullet strikes the private’s helmet in the center?” The instructor momentarily looked perplexed. It was obvious that NO ONE had ever asked this question before. In the time it took for the gunnery sargeant to spread his feet apart and place his hands on his hips, he had his thoughtful reply. “For our poipuhsez heah tuday, we will not be interested in doz bullets wit yohr name written upon dem. We ahr interested only in doz bullets dat ahr mahkt “to whom it may cunsoyn!”

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It doesn’t pay to mess with an old Marine

Many years ago my oldest son, Ted, started dating a young lady who happened to be working at the grocery store where my younger son, Tim, was a manager. As it turned out the girlfriend had recently signed enlistment papers to join the Army. She was waiting for the Army to schedule her for basic training when she met my son and quickly decided she would rather be with him than in the military. She promptly went to the recruiter and told him she wanted to back out. I assume the Army had no desire to keep her if she didn’t want to be there, and she hadn’t taken the oath so she was released from the contract.
I had never met Diane, the girlfriend. But soon after, Ted had the opportunity to introduce us and, for some reason, on that same day, she decided to play a prank on me. It didn’t work and I was clueless until Ted told me what she had done. I said “Tell her I have a long memory.”
A couple of weeks later, Ted was working in my office as a vacation fill-in clerk. While we were working he told me that this was the day that Diane would have departed for basic training. I said “Really! Payback time.” I looked up the phone number of Tim’s store and called him. He confirmed that Diane was at work so I asked him to call her to the phone and to listen in on our conversation. Diane came to the phone and the conversation was as follows:
Diane – “Hello.”
Me – “Is this Miss Diane Jones?”
Diane – “Yes, it is. Can I help you?”
Me – “Miss Jones, I am Captain Smith, Commanding Officer of the Military Police detachment here at Luke AFB. It has come to my attention that you have missed movement and are currently UA.
Diane (concerned) – “I don’t understand what you mean.”
Me – “UA is Unauthorized Absence. Miss Jones, you were scheduled to depart for Fort Benning, Georgia this morning and you failed to report for transport.
Diane (relief in her voice) – “Oh no, it’s okay. The recruiter, Sgt. Brown, cancelled my enlistment when I decided I didn’t want to go into the Army.”
Me – “Miss Jones, your recruiter had no authority to release you from your obligation and my Commanding Officer here at Luke has given me orders to see that you arrive at Fort Benning immediately.”
Diane (sudden panic) – “But-but-but”
Me – “You are to walk out to the front of your store and wait there. I have two of my M.P.s on the way to pick you up. They will escort you via military air transport to Georgia where you will be turned over to the Fort Benning Provost Marshall.”
Diane had started to stutter, trying to convince me of the mistake, starting to tear up and whimper a bit when I very sternly said “DIANE.” The tone of my voice stopped her and she timidly said “Yes?” I said “This is Ted’s Dad, Jim Barber. Gotcha!”
Dead silence on the phone. Then, “You son-of-a-bitch!” I was laughing so hard I could barely ask her “Is that any way to talk to the father of your boyfriend?”
Later, Ted and Diane went their separate ways. Ted has an 18 year old daughter now. A few months ago my wife and I were in the grocery store in Mesa and a woman with a couple of pre-teens called my name. Diane walked up and gave me a big hug. As we chatted she let me know that she has told everyone she knows that story and laughs about it to this day.

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A long dark night

July 24 1966 Vietnam Operation Hastings Hill 362

Our company was having one hell of a gun fight with the NVA which had started late in the afternoon of the 24th. Into the night we were pretty much surrounded, being mortared and running low on ammunition and water with no way to get resupplied. Late that night or very early the next day before the sun was up my platoon commander was checking the line. Of course being so dark you couldn’t see snot. He came by stopped and in a whisper said “ hell of a way to make a living”. To this day I remember those words as of it was yesterday.

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Rolling Thunder Ending.

Thirty Two years ago “Rolling Thunder”was born. Thirty One years ago the first ride of 2500 crossed the “Memorial Bridge” into D.C. 2018 saw nearly (estimated) 500,000 to 900,000 combined riders and spectators at the event.The founder Artie Muller just recently announced that 2019 could be the final run of “Rolling Thunder”.He cited rising cost,the lack of cooperation with the Pentagon and Metro Police and corporate support.I attended Rolling Thunder from 1992 to 2009. I will make it my mission to attend this 2019 ride one last time.Probably as a spectator but I will be there.Hopefully someone or some other organization can step in and continue the tradition and cause of POW/MIA. Harry

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Farewell & RIP President George H. W. Bush

As I sit here watching the state funneral of President George H.W. Bush, I’m reminded of a very brief enconter with the man when he was Vice President in the spring of 1984. I was on the staff of USCentCom as the Operational Comm Chief of the J-6 Directorate and was assigned as the project officer for the DOD/FEMA Exercise Night Train. This exercise senerio involved a nuclear laydown by the Soviet Union on the United States and the reconstitution of the government after such a catastrophy. It was the first time that DOD and FEMA had worked directly on such an exercise and evidently Vice President Bush had a keen interest in it. Normally a field-grade officer would have beenUS assigned such a project, but we were short of field-grades, and USCentCom was a minor player, so USAF BGen Sam Greene J-6 assigned me. It was day two of the exercise, the laydown had occured and we were doing our morning brief to the CINC and staff. Just as I took the dais to brief comm status, from the back of the auditorium I heard, “Atten-hut!” and down the aisle strode the CINC, LTG Robert Kingston and Vice President Bush. They took their seats and the CINC nodded to me, and I began to give the status of satellite comms available when I was interupted by the Vice President saying, “Err, excuse me sergeant! Do you mean to say we still have satellites working after the laydown and subsequent electro magnetic pulse (EMP).” It was like a kick in the chest, so I gulped and glanced at my boss, Gen Greene, who gave me a nod. Gen Greene and I had disscussed this, because neither of us agreed with the Pentagon staff that satellites would not be burned out by the EMP. But the Pentagon had decided that if we lost all the satellites we would’nt be able to conduct an exercise, so lets pretend that they were OK. I explained this to VP Bush and waited for the onslaught. He simple asked if I thought we should practice war the we would have to fight it, and I agreed. He then said, “We’ll see about this!” So we finished the briefing and returned to the crisis action center. Within and hour we received a flash message from DOD that all satellites were gone, except one which had been hardened prior to launch. I remember feeling vindicated because the VP’s feelings mirrored my own, but as a minor player MSgt I didn’t have power to correct it, but as the Vice President he did, and he did something which made the exercise a little harded, but much more realistic. I mostly remember that when he spoke to me he didn’t speak down, but as an equal who had information that he needed to make a decision and he appreciated that. From that point on I always had the greatest admiration and respect for him, and as an independent voter was honored to cast my ballot for him in the 1988 presidential campagin. I retired from the U.S, Marine Corps later that year, but in 1990 when planning for and execution of Desert Shield and Desert Storm, I was one of the first to volunteer for reactivation because I knew that if we were being led by President Bush it would be done right. As with the lose of my own father who had fought in WWII a few years ago, I am saddended by the loss of those of The Greatest Generation, and hope that us Baby Boomers and others can continue his work. He will be sorely missed, May he rest in peace! With greatest respect, Edd Prothro, MSgt USMC Ret 1964-1984

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Christmas At The Bridge: 1968

Christmas Eve 1968, while at the Liberty Bridge compound,about 1800 We were sitting around playing some “back alley bridge” when our platoon sgt walked into the hooch and said that he had a gift for us.From behind his back he pulled out a bottle of what turned out to be Jack Daniels (Maybe Jim Beam don’t know for sure anymore) I Had to go on watch at 2000 on the perimeter.Took one sip and thought ,at the time,that was it.I had the watch in the 50. Cal.bunker with 2 other guys and it was getting close to the end of my watch when off in the distance, on the other side of the river, toward the location of the “Alamo” , red and green cluster pop-ups were being shot off.There was no gunfire so we assumed it was to celebrate the Holiday.Someone on our line decided to return the same ,much to the dismay of the OD.I returned to the hooch just a little past midnight I thought everyone was asleep then I heard some one say “Hey Har we saved you a shot it’s sitting buy your rack” found it in my cup next to my rack ,smelled it first , shot it down said “Merry Christmas” and went to sleep . Just one of many memories that return from time to time. Harry

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Thousand Oaks

I hesitate to tell this story because of the serious content,unlike most of the stories told here.Sometimes there are events that happen and it’s hard to understand why.I often say when ask why I just say “Why ask why” This one is different to me. Was it a coincidence that a group of Veterans were at that bar? Some of these Vets belong to a group called “The RED,WHITE,and BLUE TEAM” their purpose is to help troubled vets (PTSD etc..) One of the team leaders,a Former Marine,was one of the ones killed.Two other Vets were injured One was another Former Marine that was a survivor of the Vegas shooting.The one Marine killed was a former member of 2nd Combat Engrs 2nd Marine Division and war vet. I do not believe this was a coincidence.(Only my Opinion) The shooter ,ex-marine, Yes you read it right “ex-marine”, had claimed to others that he had PTSD but there is no record of him being enrolled in the VA Health System or seeking help from any one else .Did he have any previous contact with any of the Vets at the bar? Maybe.Now just today I read that another Marine is being accused of killing his wife,also a Marine but,does not remember doing it because he was drunk and “blacked out”and has “Anger Issues”They were both still on active duty and stationed at Quantico . This happened after “The Marine Corps Ball” Everyone cannot be helped! Some will say “I don’t have a problem” My way of thinking is that if you have to say it ” You have it!” 20+Vets take their lives each day.It is estimated that 14 out of those that do are not enrolled in the VA Healthcare System and have not sought help for one reason or another.There is no shame in asking for help.It could save a life or more.Maybe I’m preaching to the choir or just venting but,if you think you might have an issue or suspect that someone you know might, try to get help.We do not have control over everything and we can’t force someone to go,(Only if it is a known threat to themselves or someone else can you force it). How many of these types of crime were prevented because a person got help? There is no way of knowing, is there? “Big Bum Out”? Agree or Disagree Harry is” Bummed ”

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