For four years I believed that I was one of the toughest SOB’s on the planet. I was/am a United States Marine. My first two years I was stationed in southern Maryland on a Navy base responsible for guarding assets vital to national security. Every single day we were reminded that today could be the day. Today could be the day that terrorists take over our small base and try to steal an airplane. And we ate it up. Hook, line and sinker.
Each Marine had a 9mm pistol holstered to their leg and a Mossberg 590 shotgun on their shoulder. The Marines that guarded the fence line carried M-16’s. We also carried pepper spray, a gas mask and had gone through countless hours of hand to hand combat training. Should someone make the mistake of traveling to the sleepy town of Lexington Park, Maryland with the intentions of taking an airplane that they would never be able to get off the ground, we were ready to unleash hell on Earth without a moment’s hesitation.
After fulfilling my two years in Maryland, I was relocated to 29 Palms, California. I was a machine gunner and this is where Marines went to train for war. Temperatures would sometimes reach a smothering 130 degrees on the desert floor. We didn’t care though. We eagerly waited to see the black flag raised on our base. Black flag days meant that it was too hot to train outside and all work would be done at night. For us though, that flag represented an opportunity. We would sneak out after lunch during these days and go for a 3 mile run with our flak jackets on. We ate nails and broken glass for breakfast. Each morning we would dress in our military fatigues, ride out to the training area in our Humvees and fire thousands and thousands of rounds through our weapons of mass destruction, while sometimes secretly hoping that some day we would be asked to use our specific skills outside of the training area.
(the Marine standing on the right holding a M-16 with K-Bar in his mouth is me)
Every Monday morning in Maryland and in California looked the same. Fellow Marines received consequences for starting fights in a local bar or even with each other, for damaging property and for domestic and sexual assault. But I mean, what did they really expect? You can’t be a life-taker and a heart-breaker just during the week, right? Some of that is bound to spill over.
That’s what they created. That’s what they wanted.
As I watch the local law enforcement in Baltimore enforce a nightly curfew driving Humvees with rifles in hand, I am reminded of my days in the Marine Corps. I have some great memories. I am incredibly proud of being a Marine. But for a period of time, I lost my identity. I became someone I am not.
I wonder about the men and women of the Baltimore Police Department. When they signed up they probably envisioned days and nights of protecting and serving the communities they love most. They joined to be a peace officer, not a warrior. I doubt anyone dreamed of learning how to drive a tank through their neighborhood or how to identify civilian targets through the scope of a sniper rifle.
What have we created and why? Who are we at war with? The consequences for this transition are obvious and will most definitely continue to spill into every community across the country. Baltimore is not an anomaly.