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U.S. Marine PFC Erich G. MAG
Private First Class Erich G. recently returned fromwhat is officially referred to as Marine Corps Boot Camp in Parris Island, SouthCarolina. Boot camp is not known for its comfortable appointments, but rather forits native inhabitants: sand fleas. Or, as PFC G. calls them, "mouthswith wings." After his graduation, it is difficult to reconcile this tall,polite young man with the slouching, unironed teen he was when he left for bootcamp. PFC Gaskill retained his wit, however, which he employed in describing hissummer in Satan's favorite vacation destination.
What couldpossibly have caused you to enlist in the United States Marine Corps, besidesblood-lust and a desire to serve your country?
I don't know. It just feltlike something I had to do. Something inside me told me to do it. Plus, therecruiter took me to play softball with him. That was cool.
Thereis only one road connecting Parris Island to mainland South Carolina. Whatthoughts went through your mind as you made that notoriously long journey?
I was too nervous to think. We were all encouraging each other, but Ithought that was useless. Why encourage each other? It's not like we could hopout of the van and quit. The road was pretty bare of civilization. It was mostlyswamp, with snakes and 'gators, which pretty much dispelled all thoughts ofrunning away.
Upon arrival, you were allowed one phone call. Whodid you call?
I called home, but I got the answering machine. One kidcalled home, and told his parents he loved them. When the drill instructor heardthat, he took the phone from the kid, and told the parents, "Your son hasarrived in hell, and I'm gonna rip his heart out and spoon feed it to him!"Then, he slammed the phone down and yelled at the kid for showingemotion.
During your first few weeks as a Devil-Dog in training,who or what did you miss most as you lay on your rack in the darkness, listeningto the snores and occasional sobs from other recruits?
My dog. I gotletters telling me he was getting bigger. He was a puppy when I left, so the factthat he was growing up without me kinda hurt! And snores and crying weren't theonly things I heard! Sometimes a recruit would yell out "Aye sir!" inhis sleep. That was pretty weird.
Did you ever feel like givingup?
Hell, yeah! It's 13 weeks! You wake up in the morning to thisscreaming man, and think, Man, I've got 10 more weeks! You have no freedom, noprivacy. You eat when they say eat, sleep when they say sleep, clean up when theylet you. You can't go anywhere, and you're always doing something. You never sitdown till it's time to sleep. But you're getting better as a person. I keptthinking of the pride those who knew me would feel when they saw the person Iwould soon be, and that's what kept me going.
How did the recruitsaround you react to the new conditions, like waking up at four o'clock, showeringwith 65 other males, and constantly having a large, muscular man shouting in yourface?
At first, it seemed like everyone else was adjusting well, and Ithought, Man, how the hell are they doing it? But after talking to the rest ofthe platoon, I soon realized they were having as much trouble as I was. They werejust doing what they could, without showing a lot of emotion or weakness. Somewould cry in their rack, or write home about it. Sleep wasn't a problem because -well, the first three days we didn't sleep because of all the paperwork, shotsand gear issue we had to do, and our bodies got conditioned pretty quick. Plus,we hit the racks at 2100, and lights went on at 0500, so we had eight hours ofsleep. As for the showers, everyone was strangely comfortable with getting naked,so what the hell?
What was the most difficult moment you had tolive through?
It's Marine Corps Boot Camp! That's 13 weeks of difficultmoments! Seriously, it would be those first three days when we were issued smartcards, gear, cammies, haircuts and shots. We didn't get any sleep, and we had noidea what we were doing. Plus, we weren't used to this kind of life just yet. Andwe didn't shower or change, which also sucks.
Drill Instructorsare infamous for having no souls. How did your attitude toward those brawny menevolve?
At first, you hate them so much. They're the breath of Hell.It's not because they trash you constantly, it's because they've reached in andripped out your soul, shown you the kind of person you were. And it disgusts you.You hate them for exposing your true self. As you grow and change, you start tolook up to them because they're already Ma-rines. And as you evolve, you begin tofeel thankful. They say your loyalty to those men who are your D.I.'s grows intobrotherhood. You'll never forget them.
Have you noticed any changein yourself?
No! Even on grad day, I was getting yelled at for talking information. But, I do stand a little taller, and speak with more confidence.Physically I feel the best I've ever felt in my whole life. I lost 40 pounds! Iam more cocky and arrogant, but hey, I'm a U.S. Marine.
Is thereone person or experience that you will always remember?
It was graduationday, and my senior D.I. gave a speech about the day we [the platoon] asked if wecould go to the parade deck and drill. "That's never happened before,"he said. We were supposed to be his last platoon, but he received orders while wewere on The Crucible that he had another platoon. He told us, "I don't careabout the next platoon. To me, you guys are my last platoon. And when you leavethis island, you'll be my Marines."