41 years ago, on this date September 29, 1978, Rusty Rod stood upon the Yellow Foot Prints.
My day started early that fateful day. My recruiter picked me up in a green van at my Mothers place in Orting. I remember waving goodbye to my mother and my siblings. Half way to the MEPS I heard a beep-beep. I looked down and saw my father waving to me as he drove to work.
The rest of the day was a blur. I do remember getting poked prodded and questioned along with about 20 others. One of the first steps to my dehumanizing was the 'roid check where we all dropped trousers and bent over.
Several hours later after being sworn in I was placed in charge of 6-8 other Marine recruits and directed to get us all to San Diego. I thought they recognized my leadership abilities, but it was because I was first on the list. (I still have the list in my files-as no one took it from me.)
We flew from SeaTac to San Diego. I remember eating my last hotdog as a civilian in the airport and dripping mustard all over my clothes. We arrived in San Diego a bit early. We landed and went to the place we were directed to. A very kind Marine asked us to "wait over there by the wall, a bus will pick you up in a while". We noticed a couple of guys in uniform moving quickly here and there, checking names off a list. They occasionally yelled at someone to get on a bus. As we enjoyed the show it came to me that maybe I should tell one of the guys in uniform that we were there. Apparently, they were waiting for us. At least we got a few minutes to ourselves. We were herded on to the bus for the short trip to MCRD. It was a pretty warm night, so all the bus windows were down. We departed the airport and drove around for 15 or 20 minutes before stopping at a mustard colored building. Upon arrival, one of the guys in uniform was giving us directions on what to do when we got off the bus. First and foremost was to GET ON THE F'ING YELLOW FOOTPRINTS. We are standing there when a car roars up. Someone yelled SUCKERS and they drove off laughing. I had some serious "culture shock" that evening.
A bit later, our locks were shorn like a herd of sheep. We were sent to a big room and given a set of skivvies and socks to change into. All of our civilian items were put in a paper bag, any weapons and things like drugs or alcohol were confiscated. I had a marijuana leaf that I had stuck between a couple of business cards in my wallet, it had been ingrained into the surface of one of the cards. I got a real dirty look from the Marine that was collecting the stuff they didn’t want us to have. We were given utility uniforms and boots to wear. After a couple hours of processing we were put to bed early in the morning. And I remember thinking what did I do!! I remember the odd feeling of the stubs of my hair against my pillow. About 5 minutes later (it seemed) we were woken up by a couple of boisterous Marines and given a nice breakfast. I need glasses to see well, but the only prescription glasses I had were shaded. This allowed me to glance around without getting caught. Well, most of the time. I was “eye F’ing” the area when a Drill Instructor caught me. He got in my face and yelled “WHAT THE F*** ARE YOU LOOKING AT BLIND BABY?” Other than that, we were lucky that we had a Drill instructor who was finishing his tour. He gave us great advice on how to get through the next few months. Mainly. "Take care of your feet". (Maybe that is why I suffered with boots a size too small for quite a while). We were also taught some very important tasks, like how to fit 80 recruits into a shower stall that was only big enough for maybe 60 or so. We also learned how to make basic drill movements like left and right face. We spent the next few days processing in, taking tests, filling out paperwork and such. We were issued a sea bag full of gear and uniforms. Somehow, I had managed to not put my floppy hat into the paper bag with the rest of my stuff. I didn’t want to say anything, because my mother made the hat for me, and I knew that it would get thrown away. I kept it out of sight until I found a hole in the inside of my field jacket. I worked the hat into the sleeve, where it stayed throughout my training. I think it helped me to stay focused, because I could feel it there and it gave me hope and comfort. A few days later, we were introduced to the team of Drill Instructors that were responsible for turning us in to Marines.