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Saki

14 Year Reunion with Sergeant Mike


Last updated February 28, 2006

 

 

 

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In February 2006, I did a good deal of traveling. Some of this was work related and some was for pleasure. On the way back from New Zealand, I stopped in California to visit my parents and a couple of old friends. One of these friends was Mike, my former squad leader from the Gulf War.

Mike was without a doubt, one of the finest Marines I'd ever known. We first met after I came off sea duty, back in September 1991. Though I had been promoted meritoriously to the rank of Corporal on the USS John F. Kennedy (CV-67), I knew very little about my primary military occupational specialty (MOS), which was 0341 (mortars). I was assigned to an 81mm mortar platoon in Weapons Company, Second Battalion, Second Marines. Mike was clearly a dominant force in the platoon. He was obviously very technically proficient, as I noticed he often taught skills to the platoon, passed word, led runs, etc. I assumed Mike was a salty Marine on his second enlistment. Later, I learned he was still on his first enlistment and younger than me, having been meritoriously promoted to the rank of Sergeant at a division board. He was also one of the top graduates of Non-Commissioned Officers (NCO) School and Squad Leaders School.

Mike was scheduled to end his enlistment in the fall of 1991. He was almost checked out and ready to go back home to California. He checked in with the First Sergeant to get his final checklist signature before departure. The First Sergeant told him he wasn’t going anywhere and that everyone's enlistment had been involuntarily extended for the war. Mike laughed, waiting for the First Sergeant to laugh with him...but Mike laughed alone.

Though many who had their enlistments involuntarily extended were unhappy, Mike seemed cheerful and eager to train. I was quite thankful he would serve with me during the war and even more thankful that he would be in charge of eighth squad, the squad to which I was assigned. He made sure we were as ready as possible. He ran us through various drills and taught us the skills he felt we needed. I remember him having us tape parachute cord to our magazines and wear a carabiner so we could quickly and easily fasten the magazines to the carabiner once they were empty. I recall him teaching us how to tie and untie various knots. I also remember him drilling us in the technical specifications of our primary weapon, the 81mm mortar. He taught me everything he could so that if he became a wartime casualty, I could lead the squad and accomplish the mission. He was a firm believer in the Marine doctrine of having every Marine knowing the job of the next senior Marine. He also believed that a well trained Marine with a rifle, ammunition, duct tape, and a Swiss Army Knife could accomplish almost anything.

I won’t go into detail about our experiences in the Gulf War. For that information, click here.

Needless to say, I am proud to have served with Mike and I was sad to see him leave the Marines after the war.

We managed to see each other later in 1992, after my enlistment ended. We went camping in California at some lake with few trees. It didn't seem much like camping but it was nice because it gave us a chance to talk about old times. I remember us swimming from island to island in what we called our "island hopping campaign." We found quite a few goose eggs on at least one of the islands.

Much of my platoon kept in touch over the years. Having arrived at the platoon later than most that fought in the war, I really didn't know many of the people very well. But I managed to keep in touch with Mike. When I planned my visit to California, I made sure we hooked up.

Mike works selling some sort of microbe that eats carbon residue off engines. It is a more environmentally safe alternative to harsher chemicals. With his job, he travels considerably. He managed to schedule a work visit in the Sacramento area so he could visit me while he was in the area of my parents' house.

Mike, my parents, my girlfriend, and I met for dinner on February 17, 2006. We went out to a Japanese sushi buffet in my old neighborhood. We talked about old times, people, and the war. Much of that time was spent laughing hysterically as we remembered some of the quirky behaviors of our fellow jarheads. It seemed many of them had some cartoon character they closely resembled. Mike kept in touch with quite a few guys in our platoon so he was able to fill me in on what I'd been missing. He's living a good life now with three acres in the country, a few horses, a dog, a goat, a wife, and three children.

The next day, we went out to breakfast then rock climbing at Granite Arch, the largest indoor rock climbing gym in California. This was Mike's first time climbing and he did very well. Afterwards, we came back to the house for dinner and continued reminiscing about old times until it was time to fly back to Baltimore. Though it wasn't a platoon or even a squad reunion, it was a reunion nonetheless...and a quite memorable one.