That one time in Boot Camp

Parris Inland in the summer of 1968—the summer of love for hippies on the west
coast. However, not so much for Platoon 296 on Parris Inland with Sgt.
Morris—not even close! We had completed about half of our training when recruits
started coming in from being recycled. That’s when we learned that the Drill
Instructor Sgt. Morris told us the truth about doing our entire enlistment at
Parris Inland if we couldn’t get our “sh-t together” and move on Camp Stone Bay
(for 03’s). I know there are Marines out there who can confirm the fear factor
we were feeling. I mean, I was barely 17 and wanted to see women again before I
got too old to appreciate them.

But I digress, it’s 0300, the alarm goes off for a fire drill in these very old
wooden barracks. We all turn out in formation with our buckets in toll and wait.
Sgt. Morris was one of the meanest men I have ever known and I worked 30 years
as an Intensive Probation/Parole Officer after I got out. Anyways, Sgt. Morris
called one of the “new” guys out of formation and instructed him to sing for
everyone. After some words with him, the new boot started to sing in a beautiful
voice that was so clear and rich—-“Yesterday” by the Beetles. MAN! Sgt. Morris
didn’t say another word. We were dismiss back to the barracks—there was no fire.

You could almost read everyone’s mind—-we were back home holding on to that
girl who promise never to leave us. I graduated from Parris Isnland just about
51 years ago and can still hear him sing that song and think how appropriate it
Foot Note: I was told that the recruit was KIA in V.N. ( or seriously
wounded the person who told me was not sure if he made it home) and Sgt. Morris continue to use a tent pin on recruits. The next patch that came after us reported him for abusive behavior . We were told that he received a court martial for abusive behavior but that was the rumor so I can’t swear to it and we all know how bad rumors were—I wonder if they still are?

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24 thoughts on “That one time in Boot Camp”

  1. robert, I have been reading your “Stories” on grit for a few years now, and though entertaining they have a hint of embellishment. I suspect that most of your stories are made up. Keep them coming! I enjoy them. Bill 0331 E – 2/1

    1. Bill,
      I hand to God , these stories are true! I wrote these while receiving Mental Health Services through the VA for PTSD and dealing with nightmares. I admit that I try to find humor anywhere I could (for my family sake) and autocorrect has messed up what I was trying to say. I am by no means a writer or a storyteller.
      But in 1968, ‘some’ of the Drill Instructor were abusing their people. Sgt. Morris would hit someone with a tent pin for not having your thumb and index finger touching when carrying the M-14. I know this because he almost broke my thumb with his tent pin. Also, he would call guys out in order to have them do something that would embarrass them. That was the situation with this recruit order to sing. And this recruit had a beautiful voice that could be heard loud and clear that morning.
      I’m glad you enjoy these stories. Some of them has not been easy would me because I did them as a way of dealing with my PTSD under the VA Counseling Services.

    2. Bob Bliss was with G/2/4 in Vietnam and was involved in very serious combat on Operation Kingfisher on and around September 21, 1967. They were using some of the first M-16’s in Vietnam and that weapon was totally unreliable. 2/4 suffered some serious losses at this time and believe that Bliss was badly wounded. This Marine can tell any story that he likes and I will enjoy it.

      1. Hey billy, I think you have the wrong Bliss, Robert H was in Boot in 68 could not have been in Vietnam in 67. Robert H said in previous stories and comments he was 2/5 out of An Hoa 1970 Bill 0311 P.S. I still like the stories though.

        1. As soon as I posted it I saw the mistake with the date. The Robert Bliss that I wrote about was one tough hombre and well worthy of recognition albeit a case of mistaken identity.

  2. The official summer of love was 1967, however one can say that all of the late 60’s and early 70’s were the summers of love. What are recycled recruits? I was rifle range Stone Bay early 68. The Boots at Stone Bay used our mess hall , and they got “messed with” Nick 0311

      1. Maybe. I do remember guys coming back from the Motivation Platoon but I thought they were only there for a day or two

      2. The Deuce,

        Yes! You are right! I totally forgot that these recruits were “pickups”. For some reason “recycle” got used and it stayed with me. Thanks!

    1. Nick,
      I went through Parris Island (Platoon 2063) in the summer of 1981 and the term “recycled: was used then. We picked up several recruits towards the beginning of third phase. As I recall both of them had been recycled due to injuries they received during training days in their original platoon. It seems as though many of the slang phrases used in the Corps change fairly often from time to time. Our DIs (SDI SSGT Krause, DI SGT Ishmael and DI SGT Mazenko referred to us as Recruits and never Privates, as they said the rank of Private was a respectable rank in the Marines and as low life, filthy, pond-scum, turds, we did not rate the title of Private. And yet while there on the Island heard other DIs refer to recruits as privates. I have a friend and coworker who went through Parris Island is the mid 1990’s and some of the terms and slangs he uses are ones that I never heard before.

  3. I was one of those pick ups from weak body barn, Special Training Battalion, and we had some people there that had been there for several months. A program was started that the old timers there got to do double of everything the rest of us did for PT, some of these guys had been there for at least a couple of months. After the new PT started their ranks thinned out by quite a number. I was picked up by Plt 231, and finished PI Apr 69. Our SDI was GySgt C. Reed who was a poster boy for DI’s, as he was one squared away Marine. Tough as nails but fair. And sober. He was one of those that the platoon would follow through hell with gasoline soaked skivvies if he said “saddle up”. I hope life has been good to him, as I learned a lot of life’s lessons through him and Plt 231.

      1. Hi Nick , Yes months. Some, about 3, had been there since Dec 69, and at least 4 from Jan 69. For me, I couldn’t wait to get back to training and get off the Island. Nice place to visit, but wouldn’t want to live there.

  4. Robert, when did you graduate? I was picked up from receiving on or about 16Sept68 and we formed plt. 2025. Our original group of DI’s were relieved of duty within a few weeks for abuse! Wonder if Morris was one of them? They were replaced, initially, by a squared away Sgt. (E-5) G. O. Wilkinson. I don’t remember his MOS, but he was a Nam vet! I’ll never know what I didn’t learn from the original group but I know what I learned from Sgt. Wilkinson! Semper Fi!

    1. Michael, I think I finished sometime in mid- September but I’m not 100% sure of that anymore. However, I think you’re right because your situation would fit based on what we were told after we were ship to Stone Bay for our 03 training.
      Sgt. Morris got replaced by another Drill Instructor for about a week and we had the same experience that you had—we would PT for this Sgt until we dropped because he would explain things to us, help us understand, and (I think) he would do anything we did. He made a big difference for us in that one week. Semper Fi. Marine

    2. Micheal, I checked my PI Grad book, and Sgt G.O. Wilkinson was one of our ADI’s. You’re right, one fine Marine. We graduated late April 69, PLT 231

  5. Robert, there’s a old saying about Sea Stories: “Never let the Truth get in the way of a good story”

    My memory of MCRD San Diego [Plt 371, Sept-Dec 1961, Honor Platoon] was my senior DI, SSGT Alvis B Polk, Sr. He was tough as woodpecker’s lips, marched like a greased machine and had a way of saying ‘Privaaaate’ that sent chills.

    While a ‘hands-on’ approach was the norm in those days, it was still after Ribbon Creek and the brass held no tolerance for DIs who used ‘excessive force.’

    We had about five or six recruits from Hawaii (which earned us the sobriquet “Pineapple Platoon”) who, as rumors had it in ITR, beefed SSGT Polk to CID about his laying on of hands. I heard he was busted out and moved to Oklahoma, working in private security. As a retired cop and private investigator, I tracked him down about 10 years ago and was able to thank him for making a Marine of me.

    SSGT Polk passed away 28 Feb 2020 (age 88) and his daughter said he could still do one-handed pushups.

    Our other DIs, Sgt C.C.Cole and Sgt Henry Perry, were both outstanding Marines. Then-SSGT Perry was awarded the Silver Star in Vietnam in 1969 while serving with Golf/2/7th Marines

  6. Robert,

    I arrived at P.I. in June of ’68, and was in Plt. 280, F Co. 2nd Bn. just a couple of series ahead of you. Gysgt. Halley (SDI), Ssgt. Barley, Sgt. Hall (ADIs), all Nam vets, were my DI’s. Later while in Nam I crossed paths with members of the Plt. and also heard of those who were either WIA or KIA.

    The name Sgt. Morris sounds familiar, but I don’t have a clear recollection of him. As you said, it was a long time ago.

    I well remember those wooden barracks. They were the same barracks that the movie “The DI” with Jack Webb was filmed. Do you remember your DI ordering “Fall in on Panama Street, Facing away”?

    As fate would have it in ’72 I was assigned to F Co. 2nd Bn as a Drill Instructor. As I recall, pick-ups and recycled recruits were for several reasons. Those from Special Training Battalion were “fat bodies”, discipline cases, or strength issues. Recycled were mostly medical issues, injuries or illness.

    Semper Fi!

    1. Mark,

      Thanks for helping me remember why I would have heard recycled recruit. I would have sworn that is the term we were told about these Marines coming in to our Plt.. All these men were fit so the term ‘recycled’ would have been appropriate. Again, thanks for clearing this up for me.
      Semper Fi. Marine.

  7. Robert McCoy, Sgt E5, 1341. I was a little ahead of y’all, I spent the summer of ’66 at P.I. platoon 2034. About that meanest di, I don’t think many could compair with our S/Sgt Curran, I’m sure he didn’t die, he just meaned away.

    1. There were additional barracks at Stone Bay that were part of ITR. Maybe overflow from Geiger. I remember it well, We would get work details of new guys from there . I was TAD Rifle Range in 68 Nick 0311

    2. Tom, I was with Xray Co. at Stone’s Bay for ITR May 69 in cinder block barracks. Lot of ankle deep sand going from one location to the other for our classes. The cold showers were a real treat as there was no fuel oil for the water heaters at the showers. A friend of mine I was raised with was in Zulu Co. at the same time.

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