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Nov-10-2012 23:55printcomments

Reflections on the Birthday of Marines by One of Its Past Members

One short enlistment in the Marines left a large, lasting impression, to say the very least.

Tim King in 1981, USMC photo
Tim King in 1981, USMC photo

(SACRAMENTO, CA) - I look at my clock, it is 10:44, that was my platoon in basic training or boot camp as most people know it, in the United States Marines. I had been 18 for two months when I enlisted for three years. People were shocked, I'm still in shock. Looks like I'm writing this one after all, 10:44, damn...

On this 237th birthday of the Marine Corps, I look back at my personal connection to the Corps which began in 1981 on those yellow footprints in San Diego when there was no war. I would after basic be a peacetime Marine during this post-Vietnam era time. This is a simple recollection of those people and things that stand out so vividly even though so many years have passed.

Tim King covering Marine operations in
Anbar province, Iraq, 2008

Many of the Marines who were in the Vietnam War were still very young in '81; some were still in their 20's, and you almost had to see them in Class 'A' uniforms to catch a view of their ribbons and know if they had the National Defense Medal which meant they served during the Vietnam Conflict which ended in April 1975. If they were in the war itself for a tour, then they had the Vietnam service medal or ribbon in this case, with its yellow background and vertical narrow red and green stripes. There were generally more and they varied but these were the things that impressed other young Marines and myself.

But if that wasn't impressive, I had a squadron Senior (Non Commissioned Officer at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) El Toro named Sergeant Major Bott, who was a WWII veteran! He had been in the U.S. Army in WWII and then joined the Marines for the Korean War and then served in Vietnam and basically never got out.

The man walked with a limp from a war injury but it never slowed him down. It is quite a memory I have of this Marine's Marine; so rugged and ridiculously buff from working out that his shirt sleeves strained to contain his arms, which reminds me of a funny joke my son Matthew brought home from school one day; 'Hey dad where does a General keep his armies?' I answered that I didn't know and he replied, "In their sleevies".

Seriously though, I will never forget this senior Marine sergeant major who could not wear all of his ribbons on his shirt, he had so many.

Back in the day.
Courtesy: marines.togetherweserved.com

The Sgt Maj kept a club behind his desk and a sign below it said, 'Sergeant Major's Magic Wand' and I thank God to this day that I never had to feel that magic, my friends did... he clobbered them with it, but the best story, is about my friend John Evie who was an incredible martial artist and a great guy but like me, he was a 'shitbird' meaning he didn't conform, smoked pot, that kind of stuff. So he was in trouble many times for many things and finally came the day that the Marine Corps had experienced enough Lance Corporal Evie and Sgt Maj Bott called him up to his office to tell him he was being discharged for his unacceptable behavior, to put it mildly I'm sure.

How it looks today, photo by Tim King

Sgt Major Bott told my friend, "Evie, I think that if I died tomorrow, that you would come back just to take a shit on my grave", to which Evie replied, "Frankly Sergeant Major, when I get out of the Marine Corps I don't plan on waiting in any more lines". The Sgt Major chased Evie around his desk three times then out the door and down big wide metal steps.

There are so many memories good and bad about my service in the Marine Corps, I just know that it is an organization full of really super dedicated people and they deserve our love and support and our understanding. There are few things more perfect than a platoon of Marines marching in step and you may have 70 human beings but you only hear them as one loud step after another in unison.

I have covered both the Afghanistan and Iraq wars and I spent time with Marines in both conflicts, though considerably more in Iraq. The Marines never leave their own behind, if an IED blows up the Marines stop and pull their dead and wounded away to safety. If an Army convoy is struck by an IED all the vehicles 'leave the kill area' and then go back to help after securing the scene. There is a big difference and I respect the Army and soldiers to no end, but the Marines are the hardcore at all times group of fighters who go to Valhalla when they die and in their veins is the blood of ancient warriors and there are no others in the world who are the general equal of this military service.

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Sorry, I get a little emotional thinking about the blood and sacrifice and lost youth and legs and arms and souls and minds and hearts. I had the mothers of Marines being sent time and time again into Now Zad Afghanistan begging me to write about their sons being subjected to terrible planning, entering a ghost town rigged with limb stealing boobytraps and never gaining, only losing. So I wrote a scathing report and thank God things changed.

Bob O'Dowd and I along with Roger Butow and a handful of others have invested great effort helping reveal the serious deadly contamination of our old base El Toro and also Camp Lejeune which is still in use.

Most recently I wrote about Aaron Kenefick who was sent to his death in a village ambush in Afghanistan because he possessed too much information from working as an aid to former U.S. Army General Mark Kimmitt during the Iraq War.

Salem-News.com writers have written many stories about Marines, from the battlefields in the Middle east as I mentioned, to the archives of history gained from hard research and personal interviews.

Special thanks to Calvin Frye

Coral Theill has captured the story of the WWII Montford Point Marines, the first African-American Marines who gave so much; and also wounded warriors of the current wars; Bob O'Dowd and I have worked hard to publish the stories of Marines like Smedley Butler and others like Pappy Boyington and 'Manila John' Basilone.

And yet as hard as I try I know the ghost of Sergeant Major Bott is shaking his head, "King, there you are at 11:39 p.m. on the Marine Corps birthday trying to scratch out your sorry piece, hurry the hell up ya' shitbird!"

"Yes Sergeant Major Sir". This was an enlisted man you did call sir. And by the way, I was in his office recently, I have this terrible habit of returning to El Toro which is a contaminated closed down wreck of a place, and going through the fence and wandering around the places where I served, it is always ghostly enough inside the old hangar without electricity, but you can hear the voices if you try. In the Sgt Major's office I got the creeps bad, but it was OK, the energy from some things just never goes away I guess.

We have 17 Marines among our team of 105 or so writers, and two are still on active duty. We care and are honest about never forgetting the people who are the United States Marines, happy birthday!

Jul-29-2008: Memories of the El Toro Marine Air Base: a Modern Day Ghost Town

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Tim King: Salem-News.com Editor and Writer

Tim King has more than twenty years of experience on the west coast as a television news producer, photojournalist, reporter and assignment editor. Tim is Salem-News.com's Executive News Editor. His background includes covering the war in Afghanistan in 2006 and 2007, and reporting from the Iraq war in 2008. Tim is a former U.S. Marine who follows stories of Marines and Marine Veterans; he's covered British Royal Marines and in Iraq, Tim embedded with the same unit he served with in the 1980's.

Tim holds awards for reporting, photography, writing and editing from traditional mainstream news agencies like The Associated Press and Electronic Media Association; he also holds awards from the National Coalition of Motorcyclists, the Oregon Confederation of Motorcycle Clubs; and was presented with a 'Good Neighbor Award' for his reporting, by the The Red Cross.

Tim's years as a Human Rights reporter have taken on many dimensions; he has rallied for a long list of cultures and populations and continues to every day, with a strong and direct concentration on the 2009 Genocide of Tamil Hindus and Christians in Sri Lanka. As a result of his long list of reports exposing war crimes against Tamil people, Tim was invited to be the keynote speaker at the FeTNA (Federation of Tamil Sangams of North America) Conference in Baltimore, in July 2012. This is the largest annual gathering of North American Tamils; Tim addressed more than 3000 people and was presented with a traditional Sri Lanka ‘blessed garland’ and a shawl as per the tradition and custom of Tamil Nadu

In a personal capacity, Tim has written 2,026 articles as of March 2012 for Salem-News.com since the new format designed by Matt Lintz was launched in December, 2005. Serving readers with news from all over the globe, Tim's life is literally encircled by the endless news flow published by Salem-News.com, where more than 100 writers contribute stories from 23+ countries and regions.

Tim specializes in writing about political and military developments worldwide; and maintains that the label 'terrorist' is ill placed in many cases; specifically with the LTTE Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka, where it was used as an excuse to slaughter people by the tens of thousands; and in Gaza, where a trapped population lives at the mercy of Israel's destructive military war crime grinder. At the center of all of this, Tim pays extremely close attention to the safety and welfare of journalists worldwide. You can write to Tim at this address: tim@salem-news.com. Visit Tim's Facebook page (facebook.com/TimKing.Reporter)

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Richard Matteoli November 11, 2012 2:39 pm (Pacific time)

Semper Fi Tim. Happy Birthday MARINE. 1971-1973 our clinic was next to the Quanset Huts which I see were gone by 1981. Greatest time of my life.


Bonnie King November 11, 2012 2:23 pm (Pacific time)

Great article on the life and times at El Toro. Any one that met Sgt Maj Bott will smile and nod, recalling his "over the top" character. He could BBQ a mean burger, too. Those years at El Toro meant much more than we could have ever known. 1044, out.

 Editor: :) :)


Anonymous November 11, 2012 2:03 pm (Pacific time)

"...but the Marines are the hardcore at all times..." You know nothing of the Airborne kid. Going back to WWII in the Pacific Theatre if not for the real warriors the Marines would have had Jap aircraft constantly strafing them. It was Airborne specialized teams that went into enemy territory and blew up airstrips and aircraft. It was the Airborne who on numerous situations dropped onto the tops of the JAPs and killed them while the Marines were stuck down below. In Vietnam it was the Airborne that ran the special operations to kill more than any damn Marine outfit. Then came the liberal politicians who blew it all and led to millions being killed. The Marines, at least Force Recon are okay, but it is the Airborne that gets to the action first. Doubt this writer has ever been in combat...going over to a combat zone, big deal, so do millions of others and they have a lot more time in the zone. It's always those who really did zip who make up some fantasy they never experienced.


Calvin Frye November 11, 2012 3:09 am (Pacific time)

Another great article Tim. Happy Birthday Marine. Semper Fi!

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