"Everybody get on line! NOW!" We scrambled to line up on both sides of the aisle of the squadbay, and locked it up.
Oh Lord, now what. It was a holiday, like Sunday with church service, and the Drill Instructors were supposed to leave us in relative peace...unless someone screwed up. Screwing up had become a daily drama, and thanks to one recruit or another. Drill Instructor Staff Sargeant Sh**ts, our second hat aka "Stress Monster" had been digging us every day in the Pit. Then he'd send us to chow still coated with sand and the third phase recruits would taunt us. "You must be some nasty recruits, gettin' dug this early, hah-hah..."
Someone must have screwed up and we would all pay and our dream of one Pit-less day was gone.
"Who knows what day it is?" DI SSgt Sh**ts bellowed.
One of the forgettable recruits from south of the Mason Dixon line yodelled, "It's the Fourth of July, sir!"
"NO $#!&, NUMBN*TS, WHAT ELSE?"
Terror dimpled my skin and the very hairs on my arm stood at attention. I had learned the efficacity of prayer on Parris Island, I think that was one of the goals, so as not to render the old saw about atheists and foxholes untrue. Please G-d, let July 4th also be some famous day in Marine Corps history.
"Someone knows and they're not saying. We got an integrity violator here." I abandoned all hope. One of the few honest things my recruiter told me was not to reveal my birthdate on Parris Island. DI SSgt Sh**ts must have noted the notorious date in my record. I waited for the inevitable, unwilling to be the agent of my own doom.
"Oh yeah someone knows...WHAT DAY IS IT, RECRUIT FRANKENSTEIN?" The nickname referred to my height and how the lack of hair actuated my lantern jaw and elongated skull.
"It's this recruits birthday, sir"
"OH WELL, WE'LL JUST HAVE TO HAVE A PARTY THEN WON'T WE?"
"Sir, no sir. That's not necessary, sir..."
"OH HELL YES! WE ARE GONNA HAVE US A PARTY ALRIGHT! JUST YOU AND DRILL INSTRUCTER STAFF SARGEANT SH**TS...IN THE PIT!!!"
Push ups. Sit ups. Sidestraddle hops (slightly less goofy USMC nomenclature for jumping jacks). Ferocious muscular pain, to the point of collapse and beyond. Delirium.
The whole time DI SSgt Sh**Ts was talking. Not to me of course, a Drill Instructor would never address a recruit in the same way they would another human being. So it was sort of a soliloquy in his raspy buzzsaw of a voice, holding forth on his philosophy of life and whatever else came to mind during my torment. It's not like I was taking notes, so I remember little else but one lucid realization that it was all an act and that althought he was in all other ways terrifying the large man barking commands between the monologue was not a psychopath.
After I broke my leg I was in a rehab platoon briefly before being declared FUBAR by the Navy. I was eating chow when I heard a familiar voice bellowing in my ear.
"HOWS THAT LEG, RECRUIT FRANKENSTEIN?"
The others at the table froze in terror, I locked up and yelled, "Outstanding, sir!"
He stomped off, finally I explained casually, "My old second hat", and added with an arrogance I now reserve for discussions of what some consider torture at Abu Graib and Gitmo, "I was in Third Battalion..."