Friday, May 26, 2006

Odds & Ends: Fork in the Road

More old photos, more memories. Not that I need a photograph to recall the summer of 1984. Summer camp that year was spent not at Camp Shenandoah, but at Camp Upshur, for Officer Candidates School. At Camp Shenandoah I carried a walking stick; at Camp Upshur I carried an M-16. At Camp Shenandoah I was trying to earn merit badges; at Camp Upshur I was trying to earn the gold bar of a 2nd Lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps.

I wonder about the guys in this photo. How many of them went to Kuwait? To Afghanistan? To Iraq? Were any killed or injured? Are any still in the Corps? If so, the guys in the khaki shirts in the front row would be addressing them respectfully as "Colonel" and not contemptuously as "Candidate" now.

As for me, the summer of 1984 was the sum total of my experience in the Marine Corps. Four or five weeks into the program, I felt like my body was falling apart. Slowed by a bum knee and fatigued to the point where I was letting the drill instructors get inside my head and stay there, I believed that I was at risk for washing out, and that was a prospect that I could not bear. So I "dropped on request", with the stated intention of reapplying once I was healed up.

Long story short, I didn't reapply. As I look back over the last 42 years, this was one of the proverbial "forks in the road" of my life that stands out. If I had stuck with the Marine Corps, would I have met my wife? Would I have my 4 kids? Would my life bear any resemblance to what it does today?

Doubtful. And so, while I have immense respect for those who have served, and an occasional twinge of remorse at not finishing what I had started, I am grateful beyond words that I took the fork in the road that I did.

By the way, I'm in the middle row, 3rd from left. My wife hates this photo - says I look "mean". Believe me, I felt mean.


Rick Jansky said...

Similar fork. Similar ending. My summer camp was in 1981. While I did get through to graduation, subsequent college years presented too many choices and obstacles resulting in my path taking me away from The Corps. Now at 43 years of age I too often wonder what if. Excellent post. Semper Fi!!

El Donaldo said...

What if? I spent a summer at Upshur 30 years ago and ended up a lieutenant for 4 plus years on active duty. OCS was the best time in uniform. So you really did not miss anything! The FMF was one big letdown, where brown nosing, bureaucratic boredom, and playing golf with the field grade officers were the keys to success. One guy in my Upshur platoon is still active as a full bird col. naval aviator. Another became a reservist and went down with his f-18 in the Atlantic a few years ago. Not a cool way to die. Semper Fi? More like FTMC! Be cool, man!