Michael spent two weeks on vacation with his family before reporting for military duty.It was wrenching for Arlene and also for his father who he had grown close to in the last five years to have Michael placed in harms way..He left with the assurance that his father ,and Aunt Mary would keep a close eye on his family
Arriving at San Diego airport at two o’clock in the afternoon Michael made his way to the information booth in the center of the main terminal. He was informed by one of the military police standing near the booth that there would be a bus leaving for camp Pendleton within the next the next 15 minutes. Michael followed the marine’s directions ,went outside and saw a group of about thirty men waiting for the same bus. Once the bus arrived and everyone had boarded almost immediately there were conversations and introductions.. Michael realized through the initial conversations that not every one of the physicians on the bus was a surgeon. There were all different kinds of medical specialties present , and it appeared that the physicians had been drafted from all over the country. After a forty minute drive they arrived at the marine base called Camp Pendleton.As they left the bus a marine sergeant with a clipboard checked off their names and assigned them to a Quonset hut across from the bus stop.
In the supply barrack they were issued uniforms military gear, a weapon , and given the number of a hut where they would be billeted for the length of the boot camp. Upon entering Quonset hut number six Michael was thrilled to see his old colleague Joe Pittelli. The immediate response from the Philly wise ass was “McNally if I knew you were coming I would have fled to Canada. Your presence tells me that the war is lost” Michael laughed and warmly shook the hand of his dear friend.After the initial teasing the two settled into a serious conversation ,and tried to ascertain what this experience would entail. It did not take long for that question to be answered.
The doors of the Quonset hut opened with a loud bang and a short ,stocky, tough looking Marine Sergeant. entered and barked”attention on deck ,everyone is to report immediately to the communication center”. Michael Joe and the rest of the new inductees followed the Sergeant to the largest Quonset hut on the base. They were instructed to be seated and wait for further information and to remain completely silent.
After a brief period the Marine Sergeant gt. shouted “Attention officer on deck.” With those words a tall well-built officer handsome officer entered the room and walked to the podium. This impressive officer waked with a noticeable limp ,and had a patch over his right eye The sergeant who had led them to the building shouted “salute and then be seated.”. Without as much as a good day or welcome to the base the officer launched into a verbal barrage that stunned and scared the shit out of the new officers.” I am Colonel. Dennis McCormick your commanding officer. My task today is to make you aware of what you are about to experience for the next year of your lives. You may think of yourself as the high priests in the world in which you have come from, but I want to take that illusion immediately away from you This is not a place where you will be fawned on by staff, patients family or anyone in your social circle. There will be no total reverence for your title, no privileged parking spaces, no perks ,and no one spending their lives praising you. Ordinarily when one enters the Marine Corps they go through a grueling experience of eight weeks which in many respects shapes them into combat Marines Parris Island is a real boot camp but unlike that experience this is not really a boot camp. I refer to these five weeks that you will experience as “A Pussies camp”.” You will not be humiliated ,and screamed at by drill instructors because you are officers. However in my opinion you not have earned the rank but receive it solely based on the fact that you are physicians. It is critical for you to understand that where you are going is a world that is totally foreign to you I would strongly suggest for practical purposes that you take most of what you know regarding philosophy ,morality and even maybe parts of the Hippocratic oath and shove them up your asses. You will eventually go to base camps in Vietnam where you will meet and treat the finest human beings that you have ever met.
The Marine Corps is at war with the most savage bastards on the planet. Besides being responsible to care for other Marines you can bet your sweet asses that you better learn how to kill. The war zone does not provide cushy jobs for anyone, and that is one of the reasons that you are issued a firearm At any given moment in Vietnam you may find yourself face-to-face with a gook who is hell-bent on taking your life. In a few short weeks you will live in a country where men women and even children will be dedicated to taking the lives of all the Marines on your base. There is no safe place for you even within the confines of the camp. There will be Vietnamese men and women who give every appearance that they are totally loyal to you, but in fact these may be the same people who plant explosions in your Quonset hut or aid the enemy with military information..: We call them “sappers “ and I am telling you now that every time you trust one of these monkeys you not only put your life at risk , but also the lives of others around you.
In some respects I envy you because having been in Vietnam for over two years I know that you will see extraordinary heroism ,and will be overwhelmed at times at the dedication that Marines have for each other, God,country and the Marine Corps. You have come from a world where a lot of chicken shit protesters have no sense of the bravery and dedication of those fighting this war Those cowards believe that we should quit and run. ”
Col. McCormick walked out of the room as Michael gazed at all of his fellow physicians He could see that somehow this is not what they had anticipated. When they got back to the Quonset hut there was an explosion of chatter and Joe Pittelli in his usual fashion offered”well Michael I look forward to all of the other endearing Colonel. McCormicks that we will meet along the way. Seriously Michael you must admit that living in Canada is more appealing than it was yesterday.”