I Drew a Monkey in a Math Book – Chapter 2

Gorrilla Cover Part II

(Start at chapter one)

When I was a sophomore in highschool I was in an Algebra class. It wasn’t that math was a problem for me really, I was good at math. I didn’t find it particularly challenging, and that was the problem. At that age, I was more concerned with those things with whom whose beauty cannot be so easily expressed so concretely as the neatly prepared equations and rudimentary algorithms of 10th grade Algebra. The difficulty was that, I was terribly bored.

I felt my teacher was fine at his job, it was just that listening to him was like murder to my psyche. His tone was as if you were listening to ticking of a clock. His unceasing and tedious tone, never changing in neither rhythm nor pitch was a melodic vacuum of monotonous narration. It could distract you from your thoughts from time to time, and you would think that you could have been getting something from it. At some point, though, it simply fades into the background as another form of white noise, like the culling of gulls on the breaking sea shore or a distant fog horn piercing the fog. By the end of most days, those who remained faithfully conscious were only so lucky to have bee lulled into a hypnotic trance of dazed lethargy.

Perhaps, in hindsight he wasn’t the best teacher after all. Either way, he’s an accountant now. Whatever his true calling may or may not have been, I was hopelessly bored in math class. A master of self-amusement, I took the initiative to find for myself ways of occupying myself beyond the more productive practices of dutifully enduring my studies.

I would stay up hours at night teaching myself my lesson until I competed it. Listening in class was a worthless exercise. I envied those who could simply fall asleep for the hour. Perhaps “passed out” would have been a more appropriate term. I can’t sleep in a room with noise and things going on. Ticking clocks, rustling of papers, the ironic snores of my peers; they held by attention despite my best efforts. So I couldn’t fall asleep, but his voice was just distracting enough that I couldn’t just teach myself in class either. I had to wait until I would get home that night and work alone in the quiet. I simply sat there and attempted to learn what I could. I did my real learning alone in my room, late at night, for hours, if need be. As disciplined as I was, a young man, alone in his room, doesn’t always do what he should.

As the time ticked by, I made what seemed to be a choice that had very little consequence at all, but would, in fact, be one of the most important choices of my entire life. That’s only my opinion of course. You’re free to decide on your own.

I began to draw in my book, and with pen no less. Such an act may not sound like a life altering event, but I will get to that.

Now, more than ten years later, as someone who teaches children of that age, I understand that drawing in a book was really an act of rebellion against a teacher for not educating me in the manner I saw fit. I was apparently angry that so much of my time was being robbed from me to do things that, I felt at the time, had no value. At the very least, it was not communicating clearly to me what the value of such a task was, if I would ever need it, and if all the hours I had lost would ever mean anything. At least that is what the research I have read would say. The truth is, I don’t remember being angry. I only just remember being very bored and somewhat easily distracted. I gave in to my uncharacteristic venting of frustration. Still, I am sure that any good psychologist might think differently, being that my first act of rebellion was in the form of a clock.

I drew a small clock in the bottom right corner of one of the first pages. It was very simple; only a small circle with a small arm pointing to twelve o’clock a four tick marks to denote the quartered face. A small tremor filled my spirit as I looked with unabashed exhilaration and a repressed pride at my act of egregious vandalism. I was a criminal… and it felt good. Something you must understand is that I was not a very wild personality in my youth, much more quiet and reserved than I am today. Having reveled long enough in my adolescent escapades, I smiled slyly to myself and returned to my lesson.

The next night, I found myself in the same predicament. The same numbing exercises, only skewed enough to ensure as much pain as I had experienced the night before. I remembered the delight I had experienced. With a grin of self-satisfaction, I drew more clocks, each one on another page, directly behind the last, decreasing in five minute intervals. I think I got the idea from an old show I used to watch in the 90’s. Each night after, during a break I would give myself, I would draw a few more clocks. Eventually I reached 12 o’clock again exactly one hundred forty-three pages after I had started. I now had something to do during class. I had created a little flip book for myself. As his lectures went on through what seemed a mild eternity, my thumb would stroke the pages in the bottom corner and I would watch as the time ticked by, symbolically as it were. It was a temporary escape from the tedium.

Eventually, we had reached a point where we were studying matrices. They really aren’t that interesting for most of us. It was 2002, though, and the movie “The Matrix” was still current in our minds and our imaginations. I was disappointed that actual matrices are so boring at the level of a high school sophomore. There was nothing about these things that, to me would inspire a Hollywood movie in the slightest.

It had also been a long time since I had vandalized anything. I had the itch. I remembered imagining a scenario where a person may be trapped in the Matrix, from the movie. I had perverted it, however, to a person, instead, trapped inside the book. I imagined a character hopelessly trapped inside my math book, his only escape being the charitable self-sacrifice of a student who would intentionally fail for the sake of this stranger in need of saving. Over several pages I drew my little fellow explaining his situation and pleading for help. I left the student with an ultimatum. Fail the next three assignments or my little stick man would be doomed to suffer an eternity as a prisoner. He disappeared with hope and optimism. Several pages down, four lessons to be exact, he returned to scold the student for their selfishness. Sometimes my greatest delights are the smiles in people I will never see.

I thought it was an enjoyable exercise. At the very least I liked to imagine the chuckle it might bring to the next person, whomever that might be, also bored in a math class someday in the future. I knew if I got caught I was in for it. The only other person who had the book was a girl a few years my senior, one which would never have done this sort of thing. I was enjoying myself, though, so my crime spree continued.

Over the next month or so I continued my antics. At some point, I remember incorporating a poorly drawn monkey which antagonized my character. In all manner of impractical adventures the two battled throughout the book.  Perhaps my favorite was the shooting where the monkey (more appropriately “ape” since I am pretty sure he was a gorilla) tried to shoot him. It was fun animating several pages of a dodge sequence reminiscent of Neo fighting Agent Smith. I don’t even remember what else I drew. All I do remember is that the monkey won every time.

My final act would be my masterpiece. As I watched my teacher stand at the board in characteristic stances, iconic to those of us who studied under him, I felt inspired. When his eyes were averted, I would sketch the image of his stance in the back of the book. He was a living archetype when he took his characteristic poses. His right hand extended with a dry erase pen in his hand to the board, his left hand cradling a book as if were in swaddling. Accented with his characteristic button downs and his burly beard and you had an image that few could forget.

The work of art took several weeks to finish, being that I had to do this in a clandestine manner and only at the times he was standing at the board. I’m reminded of painters who specialized in painting beautiful scenes of the natural world, but only in fifteen minute intervals. They did this to capture the specific light that was cast at only that one interval a day and only during a specific time of the year. It may take weeks or even years to complete such a masterpiece. My works were not so profound. Mine would probably be better compared to the “street art” done by one of the more talented hoodlums rather than the graffiti mere of a common street urchin. Even though this may have been the case, I was quite proud of my work. I drew another portrait, this time of him at his desk, stooped over grading worksheets, homework and tests. Finally, a third on a different page, of just his face. I really am quite proud of them and I miss them greatly.

Pride may have been the wrong word. Cocky perhaps is a better one. I was caught by another one of the students and showed it off to her. As is the way of the pride, it was when I desired accolades for my accomplishments that my downfall became real. Another student overheard and found out. I can only imagine the motives of exactly why, but this particular dead soul tattled on me for my transgressions.

“Mr. Blevins, Jon drew pictures of you in his book!”

That little rat threw me under the bus for no other reason than to feel a sense of self-satisfaction to alleviate what time would one day prove to be an unsatisfactorily boring life. Still, the joke’s on him. It was the best thing anyone had ever done for me, before or since. Perhaps it was the greatest act of fate for me in my life, or shall ever be. Of course he didn’t know that, nor did I, but I’ve said before, I’ll get back to that later.

Mr. Blevins, in his most unflinching tone, called me to his desk. As I walked back to his desk with the evidence I couldn’t help but feel the pain of regret, mixed with the almost completely insuppressible pride of my endeavors. I hoped that all he would see was the portraits and that he wouldn’t investigate further. The portraits were tastefully done and respectful, barring of course the medium which I used to convey my artwork. I didn’t have as much of an excuse for the monkey, the trapped man or the clock.

When I finally did open the book to show him, I suppose he expected something where a comedic caricature of himself had been drawn out in some lewd or obscene pose. I’d like to think he was delightfully surprised. I’d like to think he was impressed. I’d like to think the man showed any reaction at all. Mr. Blevins wasn’t a very expressive man. Most of all I’d like to think he at least regretted a little bit what he had to do next.

“You’ll have to erase it Mr. Davis.”

I protested, as much because I was genuinely proud of the artwork as much as to ensure it was the topic of his focus, rather than a certain series of clocks and one particularly ill-tempered ape. He made me erase it anyway. I went back to my desk and erased the images. He never did find everything else, though. So, I suppose that in that respect, I got away quite nicely. It was still sad to watch something you worked hard on melt away in blackened flakes of rubber and disappear into the wind with a self-defeating blow of obligation.

But hope wasn’t lost completely. In the shadows of a dozen buzzing lights, I could see something on the pages in the back of the text. I slowly rubbed my fingers across the paper to feel the impressions of my pencil still present. A closer look revealed it, too. As plain as day you could still see the pictures, if you knew to look for them.

I smiled to myself in realization that something I had done still existed and the censorship could yet be undone. Not this year, though. Not while it would still be on me. I’d have to wait for a chance encounter, some slim margin of an opportunity that I couldn’t predict, but could hope for.

All I knew was that I wasn’t done with that book, yet…

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I Drew a Monkey in a Math Book and Now I’m Married

Gorrilla Cover Part I

Jennifer Smith was a girl who never talked. One couldn’t tell if she was simply shy and skittish, or cold and aloof. All I knew was that she never talked.

I met Ms. Smith during enrollment prior to our first year of High School. While we were both new to this school, she was a transfer student from a neighboring town. I had been attending classes just one hundred yards away for the last nine years. Our school’s councilor knew this. While I was conversing with another one of our classmates, the councilor called me over. There, standing in the doorway of my High School’s library, I met Jennie for the first time.

She was pretty, but not so much that you believed she desired to be seen. She was fair skinned with a hint of bronze and her nose and cheeks wore a band of fading freckles, peppered by the summer sun. She had large light brown eyes, green in certain lights. They were focused, or perhaps, showed a sense of age that was beyond the rest of our peers. Her lips were tight, hiding a smile she only reserved for those who she trusted most. Back then, she wore her hair short, a recent change I understand, since only a few months before it had been much longer. It must have been quite the event when she let it go. Her hair was almost entirely dark brown, but with strands of red, giving it a color that would remind one of fine mahogany. She had the cutest nose. It’s such an odd thing, to think of something as mundane as a nose to be considered lovely, but it was. It brought all of her together subtly, a fine centerpiece to accentuate the natural beauty that surrounded it in this lovely being standing before me.

She, however, wasn’t beautiful like you would consider some girls to be. My meaning, of course, was that she was not a girl in possession, by choice or apathy, of the type of beauty that is awarded to girls of a certain mentality. I’m referring to “pretty girls”. Pretty girls are those girls, and sometimes boys, who spend hours in front of a mirror crimping and fluffing, drying and mystifying so that they will be thought to be beautiful and loved by the masses; some not so pretty girls do it, as well. But Jennie wasn’t one of those girls. She didn’t dedicate the time to doing those things other girls did. After all, such things are only skin deep, so they say. In fact, she was quite the opposite. I say that as kindly as I can. If she wanted to, she could have faded away into any room at any time she pleased, as she often would. She was simply an elusive sort of beauty. Of course, as I would one day find out, she could also be a beauty that could command any room, if the situation suited her, that is.

Of course, I didn’t think all this at the time. It is more something that I reflect upon. Back then, she was just another girl, one of those mysterious oddities of my species which confounded and terrified me. Still, this one seemed nice enough.

The councilor introduced us. She would be a new member of the little clan that was my fifty member graduating class. I was asked to show Ms. Smith around the school, find out together where her locker would be and figure out where her classes would be. I was not inclined to deny the request. I, and my fellow classmate, walked Jennie around, showing her everything there was to see. The tour didn’t last long, as people who know us and know of the school, know there simply isn’t that much to see. I was nervous since I wasn’t yet used to meeting new people. Everyone in my class had basically been in my class since we were in diapers. Add to this, frankly, even though I had grown up going to school just down the street all these years, I had little idea of what was in the High School. Think about it. Why would I need to know? It is like the hotel down the street from your Mom’s house. Of course you have never been there. Why would you need to? In any case, I stumbled around, trying to figure out what was there only a little better than the brunette foreigner three paces to behind.

She was new and probably nervous about the complete change of scenery. It must have been very strange for her to adapt to us. It would be difficult to adapt to a coterie of students who have been a holistic part of each other’s lives, for better or worse, for going on nine years. It wasn’t like she was completely alone. She would be migrating with all of her class she had grown up with. Her school only went to the eighth grade and most would join us for high school or other schools in the area. It happened every year. In fact, you might say that they were always part of our graduating class, we just didn’t know any of them yet. To be fair though, “her whole class” is a bit misleading. They were eight people. In retrospect, my class of fifty before they joined must have been a bit of a city in retrospect to eight people. The bonds as well. I can’t imagine how close they would have been before they all had to uproot to join this mob that was her new school. Honestly, people from the cities don’t understand the unexpected oddities of a small town, but sociodynamics have little place in love stories.

None of her friends were there with us now, so she was alone, and by my guess, probably pretty scared. So I tried to make jokes. That’s what I do; I make jokes. I made fun of our school because I knew its faults. I compared it to hers, implying that where she had come from had prepared her better than we had been by our alma mater just down the hill. I knew this because I had relatives who went to her old school, as well.  Jennie, however, didn’t understand my meaning. She thought I was being sarcastic and making fun of her. I had no knowledge of this at the time. All I knew was that, for some reason, I had made her mad. She made concerned or perhaps aggravated faces at me and raised her eyebrow in what I could only guess was disapproval. I didn’t have much more to say after that. Whatever the case may have been, she didn’t have much to say during that stroll either. In fact, I am quite certain I don’t remember her saying anything at all. She was quite cold, by my account.

She puts it delicately that, “Love at first sight was not something we experienced.” Our first impressions of each other were thus; I thought she was a stuck-up snob and she thought I was a flaming jackass.
Had she known that my intentions were only to see her laugh, make her comfortable and see what her smile looked like, she may not have been so suspicious. Had I known that at that moment she was going through such suffering elsewhere in her life, I would not have been so judgmental.
In time, eventually, I grew to know more of her. I said knew of her. Remember, she never talked.

I first met her more, through friendships and acquaintances during art class, freshman year. We both enjoyed art, mostly drawing, sketching, and vandalism. Well the last one was primarily only me, but I will get to that later. The class was, in practice, really only a class where the seniors and other upperclassmen would be allowed to goof off and do nothing while the impressionable and wide eyed freshmen hadn’t learned enough not to care.

I made friends with her and two other girls that year. Well, I made friends with her friends and she was there. I stopped thinking she was stuck up and just decided she was shy after five months and never hearing her talk.

I do remember one time though that will always be the moment that I first thought she was remarkable. She was up talking to the teacher and away from her desk. I walked by and saw a picture she had drawn. It was a still life of a shoe and a basketball. I was fixated on the realism. It was so perfectly drawn, so tangible. I felt if I touched it I could feel the grooves. I’m certain to this day that if you compared it to a real ball, the number of bumps would have been the same. The shoe was amazing too, but seemed oddly disproportionate. It turned out that was every bit as accurate. Jennie just has tiny feet.

I watched her from time to time. She was a mystery, a curiosity. How could one be so unattached to the cares and childhood drama that was the political strife of high school? How could she so clandestinely avoid it? Was she some sort of impossibly wise genius who had discovered, as the rest of us discover years later, how very unimportant it all was? Were we all some sort of experiment to her, our movements under her patient gaze, but like a good scientist, never interfering with her trial? Was it simpler than that? Had something happened to this one? Was she just some sort of frail bird, afraid to fly?

I would have liked to have known, but I had my own problems which were ever present to me in the knowable universe. Always the awkward soul, I found myself embroiled with the mundane problems every young boy of certain age finds himself in at some point or another. I was shy, awkward, teased, unpopular, and couldn’t get a girlfriend if my life depended upon it. Social status perhaps, or maybe just loneliness in the awkward years. I suppose that most of those problems were my fault in hindsight. After all, I don’t ever remember asking anyone out in the ninth grade. So looking back, it is probably safe to assume that most of my problems were all in my head, not too different from today. I suppose that even more then than today the problems that only exist between your ears are the hardest to put out of your mind, but I digress.
I remember one day in particular, where I was more frustrated than most. There was a girl in our art class. She was older than we were, a junior, and a very pretty blonde. She was nice to me once, and to someone like me, that’s all that really mattered. I was infatuated, I suppose.

I wasn’t irrational about it. I never even considered asking her, well… anything. She hung out with the rough crowd, the burnouts and rednecks only there for a C which they did nothing to earn. It isn’t that I hated these guys. I played football with many. I was young, but the field was one of the few areas of my life in which I felt confidence. I had strong legs, and could perform and in a small way, they respected me enough to never bully me, which I felt thankful for, then. Still, strong legs don’t equate to strong knees. Those were weak. I couldn’t bare the idea of walking up there and humiliating myself by talking to her. Their marginal respect for me danced on the edge of a poorly balanced feather in the gale. To lose it would have been devastating. So I just sat and watched when I felt no one would notice.

The cowardice of it all, or rather, the lack of good options available to someone in my perceived predicament was too much. I broke one day.

I sat staring at this girl and finally just decided to vent. My eyes caught Jennie. She was alone, sitting at an easel painting. It was odd for her to be alone, missing her usual party of two entourage, that is. My attention was averted from the blonde and I watched Jennie paint quietly to herself. She was an enigma, a subtle sort of splendor, but an enigma.

I decided what I would do at that moment to relieve my pent up frustration. I gathered my courage and I walked over to her.

This story doesn’t end the way you think.

I pulled up a chair beside her. I somewhat ambushed her, in all honesty. Never expecting company, she was quite startled by the sudden direct attention.

At that point I did what I had come to do.

I blurted out to her, “Jennie, why can’t I get a girlfriend?”

I can only imagine exactly what she would have been thinking at that moment. For some reason, I was completely all right with having no idea what it was. She had a shocked look of stillness. She completely stopped what she was doing, and had a look I can only imagine on a frightened rabbit, or perhaps a person suddenly worrying that they are about to be eaten by a crazed peer. She remained still, and from what I remember, never dropped the look for the rest of our conversation. Conversation is probably the wrong word, but at least for the duration of the time I talked at her. Either way, for some reason, I knew exactly how this encounter would end, though I was wrong as to the reason why. Still, the girl had to have been shocked at the brazen, social recklessness of it. I gave her not a second before continuing on.
“No, it’s OK. You don’t have to say anything. I just wanted to talk to someone. You look like that kind of girl that you can trust, so I decided I would talk to you about it.”

I laughed nervously, but began to give in to the letting go.

“Besides, I know you won’t tell anyone, because I know you never talk. I just wanted to get it off my chest.”

That was actually a bit careless. It must read as rather offensive to the third party, too. And besides, just because I never saw her talk, didn’t mean she didn’t. For all I knew, she would write signs and pass out little slips of paper declaring my complete and utter ineptitude. I know gave her the power. She could really destroy me if she wanted. Also, between you and me, I am and have always been a horrible judge of character. I always give people more credit than they are worth. That trusting look on her then, whether true or not, was really just a naive calculation of factors I couldn’t possibly understand. In spite of all this, I continued on anyway, foolhardy as it was.

“I don’t really get it. I’m a nice guy. I am nice to everyone. Everyone else are jerks to me, but I am nice guy. I would think that girls would like nice guys like me.”

I thought of the blonde behind me. I may have even looked at her.

“You know what? I really think that girls don’t want nice guys like they always say they do. I really think they like jerks. I don’t know, though.”

I probably rambled on a bit more, but the details escape me. I just remember finally reaching the end after what was probably a magnificent display of verbal nonsense. I breathed deeply with a sign of relief and said to her finally,

“Thanks Jennie. I needed that. You take care.”

Then I picked up and walked off. I thought to myself what an idiot I was and how crazy she must have thought I was. I walked out the door and turned down the hall to get a drink. I thought to myself about all the horrible damage she could do with what I had just, for no reason, entrusted her with.

There was still plenty of time left in the hour. That meant we would have to sort of just exist together for the next twenty minutes or so, probably not talking about what had just happened. That’s exactly what happened, too. I sat down and pulled up whatever project I was working on and pretended to focus on it. My eyes darted periodically to see if she was ever looking at me. She wasn’t. It’s odd, I don’t remember ever looking at the blonde again. To tell the truth, I don’t even remember the blonde’s name. Tabitha? Samantha? It doesn’t really matter. It never really matters what the extras in stories names are. Jennie continued on painting as if nothing had ever happened. Her gaze and somewhat stern face never faltered. For some reason, I knew then that she would never tell what I told her, not even to the two friends of hers. It would probably die with her if not for me telling you now.

It was still remarkable to me how unattached she seemed to the rest of the world. She was a strange one. That much was sure. Ethereal. Yet, in spite of that, she was a beautiful mystery that would one day be unraveled. Today, though, she just continued to paint in chameleon silence.

Then I didn’t know the value of the trust I put in her. I also didn’t have the wisdom to act upon a person who showed so capably that she was worthy of it. Perhaps if I did have the wisdom, I would have realized what was underneath. I might have understood the why to why I could trust her. If I had been any smarter I would have known that she had a crush on me for weeks. But had I done so, this story would have turned out far different, and not likely for the better…

(Continue on to Chapter 2)

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What should America’s gun control policy look like?

Answer by Jon Davis:

I would advise licensing for gun ownership. This isn't a license on the individual weapons themselves, but on the people who can own them. There would be different classes of licenses for different classes of weapons. You would need to work in the military or protective forces for certain classes of weapons and no one else should really need these. 

I do think that there are some who should not have the right to weapons and should be filtered from the licensing process. I don't believe that the right to own weapons should be a afforded to people who have been guilty of a violent crime and I don't think that the mentally handicapped or emotionally disturbed should be afforded the privilege as well. There are already provisions like this, but obviously nothing so enforceable yet to stem any tides in the violence caused by gang members and the mentally unstable.

My licensing program would be directly comparable to what one must do to drive a car. Go through a training course on proper usage and safety. Have a sponsor and have timed hours like the process that people must go through with a learners permit. Then pass a test for safety and proper usage based on the highest class of weapon you want to carry. Ryan Lackey actually gives a good break down on what those classes might look like in the comments section. Ryan Lackey's weapon's licensing by class breakdown.

I will even go so far as to say that there should be a form of liability insurance associated with the registered weapons. This provides an economic disincentive to own, increased pressure to be safe and in the worst case, medical assistance for injuries sustained due to improper handling.

To be honest I think this is the best option to uphold the rights of law abiding users while preserving some key elements of 2nd amendment rights while ensuring that you have a well trained, well regulated, responsible gun owning population. I think that this is a much closer interpretation to what was intended by the founding fathers than what we have now. I think those rights are extremely important, but we have become lenient to the point that rampages, both in the inner city and quiet towns, are becoming too common and need to be resolved.

That said, I know there is a great deal of problems with even this. People still drive without a license and guns will still be in the hands of people who will hurt other people. That's why I would suggest a large scale effort on a crackdown of people who have weapons they shouldn't. In the same process that we bust for drugs, I would suggest we hunt down illegal users of weapons as well. To be honest, I think that putting a dent in illegal usage of guns would also help with the drug issue as well since often they are related. At the very least it might be an additional opportunity to catch some bad guys. Yes, there would be compromises. For one, there might need to be some space in the prisons, which means we might have to stop criminalizing some of the crimes that aren't as much an issue as people shooting each other.

In closing though, I would like to leave on this point on the subject of legislation to correct human behavior…

View Answer on Quora

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What is it like to marry in your teens?

Someone asked what is like to get married as a teenager. Here is story I told about what it was like for Jennie and me way back when.

Answer by Jon Davis:

Jennie and I were married exactly two weeks after we graduated high school.

At our wedding reception we had glasses filled with juice, because 18 year olds are too young to drink.

We were 18 years old. We were each others' first real boyfriend and girlfriend, first loves, first… well, we were young and experienced a lot of firsts together. We had been dating for a bit over a year and a few months. We probably would have done the same thing as everyone else our age, and kept dating after we went to different colleges, tried the long distance thing and then either would have broken up or gotten married a few years later anyway. That would have been the sensible thing to do, but we don't roll like that in the Davis house.

To answer this very big question, I want to give some background on who we were at the time and why we came together in the way we did. When I was still a junior I came to the conclusion that college didn't really fit with my life at that moment. I just didn't see myself partying through the next four years when I really had no idea what I wanted to do with my life or even what interested me. I was smart enough, just that route for some reason just seemed boring and not very special. My mom was the pragmatic type, "Well which branch of the military do you want to join?" I didn't really mind that idea. Many of the men in my family had been military. It could get me a bit of adventure and see the world. At least get me out of this cow town that we grew up in. So that got me started down the road toward the military. I enlisted early in the summer between junior and senior year.

Later that summer, Jennie and I ended on a trip in South Texas where we had to drive back home to Oklahoma. It was just us. No parents, no adults. We spent the whole day together. Most of it in the rain. There was a monster rain storm that seemed to follow us the entire length of Texas. We laughed about it and talked for the whole trip. There are a lot of things we still talk about from that trip. By the end of that day we got home and just kept on hanging out together. Later that night I was laying on her bed after we had been talking for a long time. There was a moment of silence where I began to think back about the day. It was perfect. I had spent the whole thing just hanging out with this beautiful wonderful girl who made me happy. I wanted it to be like that forever. An idea began to form in my head.

"(What is going to happen to us after high school? Will we be able to stay together? We probably won't be able to. This is the real world. She will go to college and who knows where I will end up? I don't want to lose her. The only real way this could work is if we got married. Why should I wait until I am older to find the girl I want spend the rest of my life with anyway?… Jennie is everything I want… This is crazy. I am only 17. I can't know what I want in a woman. Why would I even be thinking is?)"

Then it happened.

"(She is great, but there needs to be something else. I need a woman who gets me. I think that a good wife should be able to understand when something is wrong with her husband even if he doesn't say anything at all. I have probably been thinking about this for a while. If she asks me in the next minute if something is wrong I am going to ask her to marry me.)"

As I finished that sentence in my head I heard a whisper from the other side of the bed.

"Jon, is everything alright?"

"…(WhatSeriouslyI didn't even have to time to realize it was a stupid idea! Umm… No. It is ok. She is the perfect woman for me. And I did say that I would, so I am going to. I'm doing this.)"

I talked to her and told her what I felt. I told her how I had decided and told her that I wanted to spend my life with her. I asked her to marry me. That was it. That was all the thinking about it and planning that I done. I hadn't ever really considered it before that, but at that moment I made a choice that was by far the most important of either of our lives, and I did it almost completely on impulse. Rash like a child, almost completely driven on emotion with only the slightest ounce of reason to back it up.

She said she would have to think about it…

I said that was fine and I understood. It was late so I slept on her couch that night. That was one of the worst nights I have ever had. I knew that was one the dumbest things I had ever done. "(Oh God, she is going to get freaked out and break up with me. Worse, she will tell the whole school and make a laughing stock of me. I should just walk in there and take it back… Stupid. Then again, she might say yes…)"

I eventually went to sleep and the next morning I went to see her. We talked again and I asked her what she thought about last night. She said that she spent the whole night thinking of reasons why she shouldn't do it. And then she said she couldn't come up with any. She said yes.

That was how we decided when we were 17 to get married.

We didn't tell anyone because, frankly the community wouldn't support that two 17 year olds would be thinking of getting married. This wasn't the 50's, after all. We spent the next year "preparing" ourselves for it. We thought about it and talked about our dreams together, how many kids did we want, what type of house would we want, what jobs would we have. I think that that year was actually much more important for us than the romantic story above. We really contemplated our situation and started to really grasp the things we had to do. We began to think like married people as we kept up our secret engagement.

That's when "I" and "me" started to became "us" and "we".

In keeping up with our tradition of secrecy I went to the local jewelry store to give her a ring. Something about me said that a woman deserves the respect of a man enough for him to sacrifice his wages to show he loves her and wants others to know it too. So I saved up my money and got her a ring. I wasn't stupid about it though. I went right after Christmas to take advantage of one of the best sales of the year. (Thrift is important to young couples.) It was January and we still didn't want anyone to know, but the girl who helped me just so happened to be in our class. We lived in a small town and gossip was still more of a hobby than the internet. Crap. She was, however, a very trustworthy person and a good friend. She didn't tell anyone about the ring. She helped me pick out a great one. It was $500 and everything I had, and Jennie still polishes it lovingly.

On spring break we made it official. By this time our families knew that we would probably get married, but they didn't know that we had already been planning for the better part of the year. I showed them the ring at moments when Jennie wasn't around to see. She still didn't know I had got her a ring. My mom and I went on a family trip to San Antonio and we invited Jennie to go too. I I took her out to a very nice dinner and formally presented it to her on the one year anniversary of our first date. That was a surprise to her, but now we had a story we could tell to people about how we decided to get married.

The important things that I remember about it was the complete sense of shocked support we received from the community. Basically, everyone loves a love story, but when they think about it people thought we were silly kids, that we had a lot to learn, but mostly they thought Jennie was pregnant. Well, its been the better part of a decade since then and no little Jons running around, so I hope that theory has been officially let go. We were young and had a lot to learn about the real world, but we would do it together.

We were married on June 1st, two weeks after we graduated high school. The ceremony was nice and quaint (that is translated as cheap enough for kids to afford.) We were married by the lake on a perfect afternoon. Except for the rain. It didn't interrupt the ceremony and we were already at the reception when it started to rain. We aren't superstitious people, but it still makes you nervous. On the way to our honeymoon at a romantic little bed and breakfast there was a rainbow. You know sometime's it's important to forget the rain and remember the rainbows.

We spent only one week together before I had to go.

 Then I was off to boot camp with the Marines. That is all we had together. 1 week. I was in training in one form or another for the next 9 months. We got to see each other from time to time, but mostly just reading letters and hearing her voice was all that I had. Jennie joked with friends about her pretend husband. We were finally able to move in together in March when I received my orders and were stationed in California. We could finally be married, for real. Jennie was only 18 and had already coordinated a cross-country move while taking online classes and tests from hotel rooms (before online classes were cool.) She had done all the hard work and had actually already had an apartment on the other side of the country ready for us when we arrived. We got to unpack all of our stuff, which was almost nothing, but that did include massive tubs of the various odds and ends that a young married couple need. Our families spent the whole year between our engagement and us moving in collecting things we would need, from pots and pans, old tables, chairs, bedding and blankets. I really don't how young people can do it without the support of family.

That time was really a blessing, when we were driving out to begin our life together. Then it was over when I discovered shortly thereafter that my unit was getting deployed in August and before that I would be spending the rest of March and April as well as the month of June training in Yuma… So we really wouldn't get that married feeling for another year.

This was reality. We never blamed the Marines, it was part of the deal. Part of what we needed to do to be together at such a young age.

In the military you see a lot, and I mean a lot, of people getting married young. There are many reasons to speculate on why that is, but it happens so let's leave it at that. What I saw was that most of those marriages (the vast majority really) failed. We had many friends that were married while we were in and only two other couples are doing well today.

Younger people are much more volitile and do not know themselves well enough yet to enter into a complete lifestyle alignment with someone else. Basically, most of us who get married that young lack maturity. We are impulsive and emotional. Add to this, we haven't really thought about what we want from marriage and we don't really know what we want from a partner. Most of the time we meet someone who makes us happy and that works. We are also not really equipped with many of the mechanisms that allow older people to deal with major life events that happen from time to time, especially when you complicate it with another person.

Those who get married later in life, however, are much different mentally when they decide to get married. Most are following "the order of things"; they finish high school, move out and go to college, have their fun, learn some stuff, finish college, start a career, get married. It is all part of a plan. They are highly individualized by this point, know themselves very well and know what they want in life and from a mate. In general, I think that two people who come together under that kind of mindset, finding the person who perfectly, or at least as best as possible, matches your needs have a better chance to be successful from the front. You are also better prepared to deal with things that come up, like death of family members or other major stress events if you get together later in life after you mature.

I wanted to mention the type of people who make it work at a young age. My wife and I both came together after hard childhoods. We were mature for our age. We could handle, at the age of 18, long deployments and periods of separation, cross-country moves, massive stress and at 22, the death of one of our parents. The reason I think we were able to do it is counter to a strength that I mentioned that older people who marry have, we weren't done growing yet and didn't quite know ourselves yet either. Back when this story began we were kids, still young and not really aware of what it was like be adults, but deep in the most adult situation of our lives. We had to learn to rely on each other to deal with things most people eventually learn to deal with by themselves. For example, I am hopeless at paying the bills. Don't get me wrong, for most of our marriage I was the bread winner, but it all went into the same shared account and when I was off on deployment or training missions for months the bills still have to get paid on the 1st. Jennie did that, and did it well. Now years later I out of the military and can pay the bills myself, but am completely sure that I will screw it up, because Jennie has always done that. And yes, we have always had joint accounts. If you can't trust someone with your money how could you trust them with your name? We still have many of these aspects that one would laugh at how helpless we are without the other.

This is something I think is crucial for young people who get married. They have to have the ability to complete their growth not as two individuals, but together. Trust is obviously important, but more so when you can't even really know yourself. They have to be very dependent on one another. That is what those of us who could make it work when we are young do. Over the past decade, Jennie and I have had to complete our evolution into adulthood never thinking in terms of "I" but thinking in terms "we". We were alone and without any other fallback besides eachother and had to learn to be adults under those conditions, together. We have still also had to continue growing. Back then I didn't know that I loved writing, I didn't know that I loved history and cultures and that I one day I wanted to run my own businesses. Jennie didn't know that she wanted to be a teacher or how the the death of her father would influence her growth. However, all these changes that have happened to the both of us have helped influence our mutual evolution into adulthood. I really don't think that two people who grew up so much separately could be as close as we are today, because we were so vital to one another during those formative years of early adulthood. 

So I think that that is what is important for really young people to get married and succeed. They need to already be pretty mature, be able to value the unity rather than the individual, learn to grow dependent upon the other for success rather than independently and understand that both of you are going to change very much, especially over the next ten years. You still have to love the person they grow into as well.

View Answer on Quora

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Quora Answers: Does President Barack Obama’s decision to stop deporting some illegal immigrants violate his oath of office?

I would say that it isn’t quite a violation of his oath. More a choice on distribution of resources, but it does set a dangerous precedent and I don’t think it is a good idea. 
What the President is advocating is that we should focus our immigration efforts away from nonviolent immigrants and focus it elsewhere. While this is sound in reasoning it is also going to put even more pressure on some of the hardest hit of the last recession and channel taxpayer funds away from their intended recipients. While I like that the President is advocating we do the right thing for these people, I disagree with it because to do so would hurt many Americans and many more Americans do not agree with this policy. I am also worried that this policy won’t actually have any power or affect any change to help those in question, but may just be a ploy to sway Latino voters. That is the short answer, here is the long one…

What is really being said here?
What the President is advocating is that a group of illegal immigrants no longer fall under the threat of deportation. This isn’t amnesty and it isn’t citizenship. It is just not being deported, according to his words. This group, according to the press conference of the President, will be limited to those who:

  • Were brought here by their parents at a young age.
  • Have been here for 5 years or more.
  • Are seeking to go to college or join the military.

http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video…

I try to be fair in my posts, so you will see pros and cons. I have my opinion and I will share it, but I will also try and give alternative points of view as well.

Pros:
The immigration system will be able to focus it’s efforts on more dangerous criminal immigrants and be diverted from less dangerous threats such as students. 
One of the arguments mentioned that there was a need to fix the broken immigration system. This is true and has been for a very long time. The borders, particularly the southern border, has been a highway for criminal smuggling activity for decades. This is a main route for drugs, weapons and human trafficking into the United States and black market money out. This argument is not concerned that too many people entering are flooding labor markets, but that without the secure borders we are allowing dangerous contraband to enter the states and even more dangerous people. Here the argument makes sense because the initiative does focus efforts where they will be most useful.

More suspicious and deserving of our attention…

Than this.

Some very good talent will be kept in the United States that would have otherwise been lost through deportation.
I have a great deal of faith in many immigrants who come into this country. They possess within them a great courage and enthusiasm, enough to leave their homeland and start fresh among strangers. Immigrants and first generation Americans have the highest rates of entrepreneurship in the country and are serving as much of the foundation of our economy. Many come here just seeking work and don’t come with baggage that many of my fellow white privileged Americans seem to hold. We feel entitled and a lack humility. Many of the Chinese and Mexicans that I have known and work with in particular exemplify this mentality of hard work and humility while leading a quiet life. They add to not only the countries financial wealth, but also her cultural, moral and social wealth as well. If those who fit this description, a reasonable filter being those seeking higher education, are ignored by immigration then perhaps that is a better use of INS resources and might not be the worst thing.

Cons:
There are already programs in place to protect immigrants who seek college education and service in the military.
While I was in service in the United States Marine Corps I served with several illegal immigrants. Of course they had become naturalized citizens by this time, but I, as a home grown white American was in shock the United States would allow such people into the forces! (This statement was meant in sarcasm people, unbunch your britches.) But it was a surprise to me. Several of them described a process of expedited citizenship in exchange for service in the military. That being said, I am not an expert on this process, but I am aware that it already exists and doesn’t just offer protection, but citizenship. Along with military service comes veteran benefits including the GI Bill and loans for housing. There are also other programs in place to aid illegal immigrants in college already in place that I will mention later down. So the President’s statement seems at best misleading, at worst creating a new solution to an already fixed problem. In the case of these other Marines, many of them were my friends and I trusted them very much. As a born citizen I think that those who leave behind their homeland, pick up weapons and fight our wars beside the “true” Americans don’t just need to be awarded citizenship, there needs to be a statue somewhere in their honor. That, however is a different post. The point is, this program already exists, why is he selling a new one?

This is already the standard practice of INS.
The Immigration and Naturalization Service is already fighting one of the toughest unsung wars in US history. They are undermanned and patrol a massive area. By practice their policies already focus on the most dangerous and the most trafficked areas. They already put much more effort into apprehending those who are a danger to the citizens of the United States than they ever would to a college student. The President in his speech remarked that in recent years there has been a great increase in dangerous immigrant captures. This could not have been done checking ID’s at the local community college in Denton, Texas or any other college campus for that matter. It also can’t be done by “being a nation that expels young kids” which is a quote from the speech that seemed more intended to incite an emotional response rather than reflect what statistically is not the case with the majority of deportations.

This represents the President choosing to ignore certain mandates for certain people.
This is really the heart of the question that Former Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez was pointing to. By saying that laws set about can be ignored he is saying that he has the power to prosecute whomever he wishes, even treating two people differently who are guilty of the same crime. This is a funny grey area since in this case neither are citizens of the United States, but the ramifications are scary. Could the President or future Presidents one day do the same for other groups, Democrat/Republican, Black/White, Male/Female? I believe that was the direction Mr. Gonzalez was pointing to. No matter how nice it would be a President should not have the power to choose who they do and do not punish. This reasoning places the President’s moral high ground and doing the right thing ideals on a foundation built on very sandy soil. That being said, he would certainly not be the first president, Republican or Democrat (or Federalist) to do this, in all fairness.

This is in opposition to the wishes of many, many American people.
While the issue is deeply contested most Americans worry about too much immigration. They are concerned about dispersal of jobs, resources such as in the public schools and entitlement funds for a growing portion of the population that goes largely untaxed. They feel that if the investment in tax payer dollars is made in these young people there is no guarantee that they will stay around to better America for it. There is also a large argument brewing between the differences in American illegal immigration policy and the much more severe policies of other countries, one ironically being Mexico. This worries a lot of people. Whatever your particular stance on this issue is, a very large number of Americans do not support any program they feel makes it easier for illegal immigrants to take advantage of American wealth. Since so many feel this way, it leads me to say that the President’s job isn’t to decide when the American people are wrong, but to be a conduit for their wishes. He is their elected representative to the most powerful position in the United States. For that reason, I would view that it is his obligation to follow the expressed wishes of the majority and not decide on his own what is right.

This hurts the Americans who right now are already suffering greatly.
Another major concern is that this new policy will create a massive surge in college attendance. While at face value this sounds like a wonderful thing, there are issues with this. The problem with many schools today is that they have already dumbed down the curriculum to open their doors for less serious students and gain their tuition. This is creating a generation of college graduates little better off and with no fewer skills than when they entered school. To confound this with a flood of students not interested in learning, but on not getting deported would only dilute the school systems efficacy further. This brings about the question of payment. There are already numerous government grants that reward a great deal of college tuition based only on household income. Proof of citizenship is not an issue and therefore, government money is used to compensate non citizens for attending college. This too reflects a bad policy diverting funds intended for the American poor to non-Americans. Skip ahead a few years and you have a massive influx into the job market for people aged 22-28.

This group recently has been hit the hardest with the unemployment crisis ranging at times of 25% unemployment. While the average unemployment during the recession was between 9-10% the young college graduates struggled around 14%. This being due to slow growth in the economy, the lack of growth in entry level jobs and few start-ups in non-tech industries. These people are already having hard times getting their carriers off the ground and to invite more competition would be inviting failure for all parties involved. This sub-crisis has been a major contributor to many of the recent politcal action of youth like the Occupy protests.  While I disagree with much of the movements rationalities I do see their point of view in this struggle. We already have a country who’s economy can’t support it’s current college graduates, what good would more and less educated ones do? You have to ask, “As a country do we want to weaken one of our most vunerable groups of proven talent by inviting, supporting and protecting non-citizens?”

In summary…
No. I do not think that this is expressly going against the President’s oath. He is choosing to govern the resources of agencies like the INS in a more efficient way. He is also not dealing with American citizens in how he chooses to follow the laws or mandates. I do however think that is policy is a bad one because:

  1. It doesn’t actually create any new programs that don’t already exist in one way another or are not already the standard practice.
  2. It could put new pressures on schools and the labor market hurting American citizens.
  3. It is built around the story of the “hard working, good grade earning kid who has never done anything wrong” who has historically never been the real target of deportation. This is an emotional pull which diverts people from issues and dilutes them in idealism and racial debate.
  4. Is against the wishes of many, many Americans. As I mentioned before, it is the role of a president to be the representative of the people, not the one who decided when they are wrong.

My final concern is one also shared by the Former Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez, that the President may be trying to use this as a hook to gain Latino voters a few months before the election. These of course are actual citizens, but sympathetic to many illegal immigrants today.

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Quora Answers: How Do Military Veterans Feel When They Return Home From Combat?

Jonathan Kirk Davis, Veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Sergeant in the United States Marine Corps

It is an experience that is incredibly difficult to understand and describe.

I will try to describe the emotional/psychological process that I and many other fellow Marines (soldiers, sailors, etc) experienced.

Before you understand what a returning Marine/soldier/sailor/etc experiences when they come home, you have to know what they really go through when they are over there.

What we all experience, combat or none, is a very, very long period of extended absence from comfort, security, our families, and breaks. The Marines spend seven months on deployment. Army is about twice that, but they don’t go as often. That means months where you deal with the same people day, after day, after day. There is no change and no break. You work with them, you eat with them, and you live with them. If you can’t stand them, oh well. If your boss is a jerk or psycho, there isn’t even the escape of going home at the end of the day or having a weekend. Now you need to consider the war side of things. In the best case scenario, you are under the constant threat of surprise attack. Car bombs, roadside bombs, suicide bombers, mortars. Looking at people everywhere who you can see absolutely hate you. In the worst case scenario, you actually fight. You might kill people. You might lose friends. But I won’t get into what it’s like for those cases, they are pretty tough to nail down and can vary wildly. But whatever picture I drew, don’t think about how it sucks for a few short periods of intense violence; imagine it sucking for months and months of a slow drone and a psychological beating.

And then you come home. Everything is fine now right? Not really …

First, we are absolutely elated to come home, see our families, go to our bars, women … This is a high that can’t really be expressed very accurately. In a way, you are doing things that you have done many times before, but it has been so long that it feels completely foreign to you. When you see your wife, she is unfamiliar to you. When you first see her, you get the smell of her hair and her embrace, but there are subtle differences that make you feel as if things are different somehow. Her hair has changed or she has new interests. It kind of feels like a first date for a few weeks as you try to remember how you fit together again … figuratively speaking. This “second first date” is the same with all the things you do, hanging out with your old friends, going to favorite hangouts. But don’t get me wrong. Even if we are quiet about it and act like it is no big deal, these are some of the happiest days we have ever had.

Second, there is residual stress that carries over from a combat deployment. While on deployment, military people deal with each other in ways that are not normal in civilian America. We are harsh with each other and don’t often act with kindness and gentleness with one another. Add this to natural combat stress, the constant concern that you may get attacked, the wondering if a vehicle near you is going to blow up, always seeing in the eye of every local that they want to kill you.  You are suspicious, tightly wound, and easily angered. I remember several times waking up in my bed even a few months after deployment and panicking because I couldn’t find my weapon. You also don’t mesh well with your families. They do things you don’t understand. They do things you don’t understand, mostly because they have grown very independent of you. Many confuse this for a feeling that you are unwanted or unneeded, and this makes the returning person very irritable. Combine all these, and you have an explanation as to why so many men returning from “over there” come back angry and beat their wives. It is difficult to transition between two worlds and some, especially those who experience combat, don’t cope well. It isn’t right, but it happens.

Third, there is a long phase where you try to adjust to having your life back. To be honest, it is never the same as before you left. You are changed by the experience of a combat deployment, even after the first. Every time you go, you change. And so does everyone else that you care about. Everyone matures naturally, but independent of each other, and you have to reintegrate into each other’s lives again. Young Marines often have a hard time keeping control; husbands fight with wives, and fathers can’t communicate with kids (and don’t be naive, this is different from those people who think it is the same as having teenagers). It takes time before everything settles down emotionally. Most people make it through this phase OK, but unfortunately, many don’t.

This is the part of coming home most people don’t really talk about.

This question originally appeared on Quora.

As a special bonus, this post was also published on Forbes.com.

Posted in Military, Opinion, Quora | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Quora Answers: Who have been the greatest warrior races throughout history?

This is the first of a series of posts I intend share with my followers of answers I make to questions posted on the website Quora. Quora is an internet community where the users have the ability to share and promote their questions to users who have the best ability to answer it. It is much like Yahoo answers, but updated and community centered. This series is a break from some of the themes of some of heavier articles and gets more into some of the things that just interest me.

This question was:

Who have been the greatest warrior races throughout history?

Jon’s Answer:

The Spartans

It wasn’t just that these guys were awesome in 300. It’s that barring a bit of literary license where they didn’t wear enough armor and the field was bit off, not to mention the mutant Persians, the story was totally true.

The Spartans were a fierce culture that prided itself in its military upbringing. The warriors were those who were the survivors of the first eugenic filtering process in history, where the babies who were not born up to code were discarded. The male children, upon the age of adolescence, were taken to warrior training until they reached manhood. From this point on they become part of the Spartan Army as a Spartan Hoplite.

The Spartans were not only a fierce band of warriors, but also the best tacticians of the era.

  • While the rest of the world was content to create a massive slave army, the Spartans were one of the first to create a volunteer army. They believed, and rightly so, that free men would fight harder if they had something to gain or lose from the wars.
  • While the rest of the world was content to armor their warriors in cloth with wicker shields and copper or brass weapons, the Spartans were using bronze helmets, chest plates, bracers, shin protectors, spears, swords, and their most unappreciated weapon… the Spartan shield.
  • The importance of the shield, however, wasn’t that it was one of the most offensively powerful tools of war, it was in modern terms a force multiplier. A force multiplier is something in war that increases the offensive or defensive capabilities of many other tactics or tools. The shield gave a Spartan warrior complete protection for their entire body against both arrows, spears and other warriors. The shield was unique in that it had the ability to also be used offensively to create massive amounts of force directed into opponents. This force has been measured to be able to generate force in access of being hit by a car, in the face.  Even more importantly the shield allowed the Spartans to perfect a tactic called the Phalanx.
  • The Phalanx was a tactic in which many Hoplites form a wall of shields. Several actually, many rows deep. Projecting from the walls of shields were row after row after row of spears. And not the tiny spears from 300, 30 feet long spears. Yeah, 30 feet. Imagine trying to fight through a wall of pointy spears, only to have to push through a wall of bronze, only to face the fully armored Spartan warrior himself. It’s just a bad day for everyone, isn’t it?
  • To emphasize their brutality, there was the Spartan habit of ritualistically slaughtering the outlying tribes around Sparta. This was called the Perioikoi and these people were called the Helots. They were a race of free Greeks who were conquered and enslaved by the Spartans. After that they put them to fields. After all, the Spartans were all already busy being warriors, how could they be expected to also be farmers? Every now and then the Spartans would also declare war on the Helots. It wasn’t really a fair fight since they didn’t allow them to train or make weapons, but it must have been fun for them. They held the Perioikoi for more than 100 years. Was it cruel? Yes. Was it barbaric? Yes. Did it make for callous and viscous fighters? Definitely.
  • There was also an interesting perspective of the Spartans; never run, never quit. There was a saying attributed to Spartan mothers who sent their sons off to war: “Come back with this shield or upon it.” What this entailed is actually very deep. The shield was over forty pounds of metal. It was not an easy thing to haul around. For this reason, running was not a very necessary skill when using the shield. And as I mentioned before, it was basically the center of the Spartan military strategy. Now let’s consider you are facing a terrifying battle. You decide to run. You could never escape with the shield so the only choice for a Spartan coward was to abandon the shield. The other option referred to the respect Spartans gave to their dead warriors. The warriors who survived would carry their fallen back on the shield to Sparta for honorable cremation. This gave the Spartan warrior three choices in battle. To win and return with the shield, to die in the service of Sparta and be carried home upon the shield, or run in which you had better not return at all.
  • Finally the battle of Thermopylae, perhaps the greatest military event in history, is the legacy of the greatest warrior race in history. This battle was the pinnacle of military perfection in that it stacked a monumentally outnumbered force against one of the largest armies in the world. The Spartans perfectly used their terrain to funnel the hordes of Persians into their spears. A shear rock face guarded the West flank and the sea was directly to the East. The Persians were so inferior in armaments and training that tens of thousands were slaughtered at the hands of 300 Spartan Hoplites and around 1000 other Greek Hoplites.

    This battle was much more important because it served as a maneuver that stalled the Persians long enough that the Athenian navy was able to sail around the land battle and assault the Persian fleet. This disrupted the supply lines of the Persian army and most likely cost them the strategic victory in the battle. The Spartan warriors were able to fight and stall the Persians, a force that many have estimated at more than 1,000,000 warriors, keeping them at bay for more than 3 days. By comparison, the Alamo, where Texas soldiers were famed for fighting gallantly against a massive army of Mexican soldiers was 150 against 5,000 and lasted around 90 minutes. While the Spartans were all eventually killed, they achieved one of the most stunning strategic victories of all time: 300 Spartans, 1 million Persians and 3 days. This battle was the moment in time when the Spartans gained the respect of the entire world as the greatest warrior race in history.

    But don’t get me wrong. All the rest of you are entitled to your opinions.

And as a special bonus: A lego phalanx. Enjoy.

Posted in History, Military, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Jon’s Memorial Day Message

So I hope everyone is enjoying their Memorial Day, but I have been bothered a lot by some of the things that have been going on. I see on the news and hear from my friends of how they are going to be enjoying Memorial Day with their
family and friends at the lake and doing other things, and that’s ok. Everyone should embrace the opportunity to spend time to with the family away from work. But when an area 10th grader blasts his ignorance when asked what Memorial Days to them …”To party and get out of school.” I feel the need to make sure that people keep a little perspective.

Memorial Day is about remembering those who have died in service to their country. It’s not about the day off, or the family. It isn’t even about the veterans, those who have served or are serving now. It is about those who died.  So please, at some time during the day, do your somber duty as free citizens of the United States and say a small prayer or give some thought to those who gave us our freedom with theirs. Give up some time while you are at the lake or the BBQ or just relaxing on the couch. Think about those men and women who gave up all of their tomorrows so that you and I could enjoy ours.

Thank you to everyone who read what I have to say and know where I am coming from.

Semper fi. Happy Memorial Day.

-Jon

Lance Corporal Hatak Yearby – Marine Corps, Killed in Action, Iraq 2006

Master Sergeant Brett Angus – Marine Corps,  Killed in Action, Iraq 2005

Staff Sgt. William Douglas Richardson – Marine Corps, Killed in Action, Iraq 2005

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Marines are Kind of Like the Jedi

A senior Marine once taught me that being a Marine is kind of like being a Jedi. We are kind of like a strange little culture within a much larger culture. We are a bit extreme in our beliefs, some would say fanatical, and have a strange ability to bring about the destruction of evil as if guided by some supernatural force.  But there is so much more. I would like to share some of that with you now.

Marines can be broken into a few groups: Officers, Senior Staff Non-Commissioned Officers, Non-Commissioned Officers, and the E-3 and below.  All of these have a copy somewhere in the followers of the force. Check out the story below to see what I mean.

Take yourself back to countless Monday morning formations and inspections. Each member of the platoon is carrying his different roles. The squads are aligned and the inspections are about to begin. Suddenly there is a disturbance in the force…

PFC Rice heads to formation. As he makes his way to the formation, he realizes he has forgotten his chevrons, the symbol of his rank and his ignorance.  In his haste to correct the error before the formation, he puts his chevrons on his collar… nearly an inch from the edges.  (People not familiar with Marine Corps fanaticism might overlook this detail.  So did Rice.)  He is unaware of the gravity of his mistake and doesn’t have time to correct it.  “They’re small so maybe no one will notice,” he thinks to himself.  But he doesn’t yet understand the power of the Corps and what a great disturbance he has made within it.

I know it’s hard to see, but it’s there on the collar. You’ll see it next time.

The Non-NCO, or  The Padawan Learner:  The youngest members of the Marine Corps, these are the enlisted personnel, rank E-3 and below.  While still Marines, they are still learning their roles. They are unfamiliar with the intricacies of the Corps,  its subtle rules, and its customs and are not yet fully aware of the great and terrible power they could one day command. They also screw up a lot, and if left on their own too long they would easily lop off their arm with a lightsaber. They are sometimes dangerous in their incompetence and can bring about the downfall of the entire platoon, bringing about endless field days, blaster cleaning, and the fall of The Republic. The most dangerous can be those most senior, the Senior Lance. This is the one who has passed all of his Jedi Trials, but hasn’t got the cutting score. He has grown very powerful and a master of his trade and his role of the the senior LCpl.  He commands a deep underground of knowledge and intuition (the Lance Corporal Network). He has the ability to mind-trick more senior Marines and those weak in the Corps to achieve his aims. He is still young though, and weak with the Corps,  but his terrible power and lack of understanding of the Corps will be his downfall. If his cutting score doesn’t merit promotion he will soon fall to the dark side. Still though, he isn’t as much a threat as the youngling, the boot PFC who just arrived three weeks ago straight from the school house…

A Sergeant is preparing to inspect his squad. He is a seasoned warrior and well-trained in the ways of the Corps. He still has much to learn, but the Corps is strong with him. He feels a tremor coming from the Corps. He knows something is wrong with his squad. He begins to inspect his Marines. He walks down the line of Marines. As he inspects his more senior Marines his senses are screaming. He is about to arrive at the last Marine, Rice. He is the boot PFC who has just arrived and knows nothing of the ways of the Corps. The Sergeant hopes that he is wrong, but knows this is the source of the disturbance. He left faces and to his dismay the Marine has carelessly placed his rank insignia nowhere near the designated 1/2′ and centered! He has offensively dishonored the Corps and its customs and traditions. By appearing in less than presentable attire he has offended the Corps and is in need of correction from one of its noble knights.

The NCO, Sergeant, and the Corporal are those wise and seasoned in the ways of the Corps.  They are like the Jedi Knight.  He has completed his training and is now mastering the ways of the Corps. He understands the Corps and is guided by its pull.  He has yet to gain full control of its power.  Mastery is still beyond his reach.  He has, however, a great sense for a disturbance and is the front line galactic warrior against the dark side of the Corps, the raw youngling PFC’s.  His power is great, but it pales in comparison to the abilities of the true master of the force…

 The Gunnery Sergeant sits at his desk. He feels the disturbance in the Corps and seeks to correct it. He stands up and walks to the window overlooking the platoon off in the distance. He leans out the window, and as if guided by supernatural forces yells, “RICE! Correct yourself!”

With this he begins his work in preparation for the duel that is soon to come with the dark side of the Corps.

The Senior Non-Commissioned Officer, known by many names like “The Gunny“, “Top”, “Master Gun” and “The Sgt. Major.”  He is the Jedi Master of the Corps.  His service stripes serve as symbols to the brave knights and Padawan PFC’s in his years of service fighting the forces of darkness.  He has supreme command of the Corps and uses its power to command and mold the Marines within his care.  He is attuned to even the slightest disturbances in the Corps, and is able to spot any dangerous situation, be it an enemy ambush, or the PFC using his lightsaber to fix the haircut he forgot to get on Sunday.  His charge is t0 carry out the daily mission of the Corps and see that its will is seen through.  But there is one more element to the force, one that stands opposed to the nature of the Jedi Master of the Corps.  Those who fallen to the dark side of the Corps…

He is the Lieutenant.  As he makes his way to the formation, he anticipates with a sinister glee the duel with the enlisted Jedi warriors. He has been secretly scheming, hidden away in offices away from the eyes of the noble and stalwart knights. As the Marines are distracted with this minor disturbance in the force, he is able to clandestinely manueveur to catch them unawares.  In his ambitious march to supreme power of the Corps, he is preparing for the arrival of his master, the General… or rather, the Dark Sith Lord.

Yes, Officers are the Sith. They have given up the noble path of the enlisted Jedi for power and glory. While they may have once thought they could control the power of the dark side of the Corps for good, as they all do they fell to its grandeur and corrupting power. They are selected from amongst the most powerful and impressionable of candidates. Given special training, power and privileges, they are in command of the most powerful of dark Corps abilities: Surprise inspections, field days, weapons cleanings and the 11th hour mission orders in the prospects of gaining supreme glory. Have you ever wondered why the other Marines salute? They raise their right hand when they pass officers to protect their minds from the influence of their manipulating dark powers. Just warning you.

So as they prepare for their duel, the the Masters of the Corps square off in front of the platoon. The mighty Jedi Master Gunnery Sergeant stands ably with the platoon of noble warriors behind him. Facing him is the corrupt and vile master of the dark side of the Corps. They stare each other down. The Gunny raises his right hand to protect himself from the treacherous powers of the Lieutenant. He then warns the Lieutenant away by listing the size and strength of his force “All Marines present and accounted for.” The Lieutenant is scared. He sees that he is outmatched. As a desperate bid to cover his mistake, he issues a series of senseless orders to command the Marines’ attention while he prepares a new plan. He executes his plan “Carry out the plan of the day” (said another way: “Do what must be done.”) With his distractions in place the Lieutenant makes his escape, hiding away into the dark places where he builds his schemes of galactic domination. This battle won, the Gunny takes his men and begins to undo the plans of the Lieutenant, setting his Marines to the tasks at hand.

Yep, so that’s how it is. The Marines are like Jedi and now you know why.

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Update: Women in Combat Operations

This is an update to a earlier post I made a while back Women in Combat Operations in which I expressed some of my mixed feelings, both for and against the future of women serving in combat centered missions. In any case, I am glad that actions are being taken by the Pentagon and the Marines one way or another.

This Monday Gen. James F. Amos, the Marine Corps commandant, announced that actions were going to be taken by Marine Corps command to study how women would be able to adapt to the combat environment by introducing a select number of women into the  infantry officer school at Quantico, Va., and ground combat battalions that had once been closed to women.

This new effort will, as I understand it, focus on female officers. As my post said many of the women I dealt with in military were officers. One in particular stood out for excellence among Marines, male or female. I think this is an important prospect for the military. It will be putting the women who are the most dedicated, most ambitious and hopefully the ones who will serve the greatest example to future Marines, notably the women.

Although there is great controversy over this debate, much of it in my previous article, and it will likely be a very long time before we see a completely coed military, I think this is a good move for the Marines as they wean into a future that will have to incorporate women more thoroughly.

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