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.
This is an update to a earlier post I made a while back Women in Combat Operationsin 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.
I wanted to share my thoughts on a viral video going around about a few Marines that had a few too many. It stars the Marines of 3/5 Lima Company Weapons Platoon. According to some helpful notes at the beginning of the video we learn that the platoon was engaging in some after hours activity after an all-too-short liberty on what must be an all-too-long deployment. What happened next was a video of Marines in the middle of the rough and rowdy. I got caught up in the discussion that engaged as a result of the video and it got me thinking.
As I mentioned before, this video is about Marines getting into drunken fights on board a ship. It is filled with vulgarities and violence. There is also some ludity, and the entire 8 minutes is basically a huge ball of NSFW. If you would like to see the video you have been warned and can find the link at the bottom of the page.
Before you watch though, I hope you check out some of the points that some less informed viewers have already tried to make, and what an actual Marine has to say. These are some points and some counterpoints that I want to share with all my readers on the real nature of the few and the proud.
1) “So this is our tax dollars at work.”
(One should also note that the school’s tax dollars seem to be wasted as well.)
Response: No, not at all. First of all, the military doesn’t pay a stipend to get Marines drunk and act like fools. There is no National Monetary Fund for Jackassary. They didn’t buy their alcohol from a big keg right on the deck. They did however, buy it. With their own money.
What they did they did on liberty. Liberty is a basic privilege bestowed to the military to relieve stress and let off steam. Of course it is also where Marines stop off port and engage in some other extra-curricular activities. This is not an activity that is financially sponsored by the military and it isn’t actually a part of any mission. The ship is already at port and basically, it doesn’t cost anything to let the Marines blow off steam (legal considerations not considering). You can think of it as how much it costs you to let your dog out. It costs money to feed them, train them, and send them to the hospital, but it doesn’t cost you (or the U.S. taxpayer) anything to let the dog (Devil Dog!) out to play.
Now back to the topic of “their own money.”
2) “We pay them to do a certain job, and this isn’t it.”
Response: We pay them to do their job, and we don’t have any right to tell what to do after that. Sometimes I find it a little absurd that we believe that because we pay taxes that eventually get paid out to the military that we have some say so over how they spend that money. The simple truth is that they bought the alcohol with their own money and it is no one’s business what they do with it as long as what they do is legal. Of course at that point they are really just putting themselves at risk to be investigated by the same authorities that govern us, plus military authorities.
Let’s think of it this way. My wife is a teacher. She too works for the government. Therefore, your tax dollars go to your state government, which then make their way to the schools, and eventually to her checking account. If my wife decides to go to the bar and buy a drink, do you think that you have any say over her right to do so? Let’s take it a bit further. On Sundays, we go to church. There, we give them money…taxpayer money! So you see that your tax dollars are directly being used to fund religious activities! Unacceptable! Or is it? I mean what right do any of us have on how a government employee spends his money? We do not, just because we pay taxes.
Response: I will give you this one, but with a reality check. While I am a fan of the sleeping and violence quote we have to really consider who we are dealing with. This video shows the extremely volatile nature of one of the most extreme cultures in the world. While the Marines are a bunch of drunk and disorderly hooligans, they are exactly the sort of unsavory individuals that are required to do those things we in polite and well-refined society don’t like to do ourselves. The average age of the Marine Corps is 19, therefore, they are young and immature. They are experienced in the ways of warfare, yet inexperienced in the ways of the world. They are asked to do great and terrible things in the most inconvenient ways possible. While it is a beautiful notion to believe that every rough man is at his heart a poet and philosopher, the simple truth is that they are angry, violent, and surrounded by people who bring out these traits in eachother.
We argue that this kind of attitude and these behaviors are deplorable, yet we are also a country that has been at war for more than a decade. Many of the men you saw in that video have been in various theaters of those wars, many of them on multiple deployments. Stress runs high in that culture and much is demanded of them, namely directed violence. I think it is a bit hypocritical of those who sleep soundly to condescend the Marines, because they weren’t violent in the way that makes everyday U.S. citizens comfortable.
4) “It’s just a Marine Corps thing.”
Response: You’re absolutely right. What most people don’t get is that this level of roughhousing is what is expected and laughed at by older Marines. What you also don’t know is that along with the 8 minutes of video there is a story that every Marine knows is coming, and it actually does address many of the concerns that were mentioned before.
First, the Marines got out frustration that has been building for a very long time. The opening of the video discusses a lot of the general frustrations that accompany a long time at sea on a Marine vessel. Long times at sea, endless weapons maintenance, crappy bosses, close quarters, oh and also there is the fact that there are no women. This level of stress is something nine-to-fivers will never get, even if they have a really important report due on Monday. When you put the frustrations and stresses on a group of men this volatile and young under such conditions you have to expect some level of unsavory behavior. Otherwise you would see a total meltdown. You’ve got to let this stuff out.
Second, the video does show that Marines are capable of bringing their craziness back to the barracks and not making fools of themselves in public. The fact that they managed to keep control until they got back to the ship does show one important goal of the Marines, to always show a good face. As for the video making the internet, well… I blame that on the cameraman, a semen, oops, seaman. We’ll just call him a sailor. Which brings up a good point. They actually had medical supervision. The camera man was a Navy Corpsman, a medic in the Naval side of the show. When you were getting drunk at the frat house, were you of such clear and responsible mind to make sure that before you got stupid you had proper medical supervision? Ok, that one is a stretch. But I do want to make one final point.
We don’t know what happened the next day. The truth is this whole event probably happened between 2100 to 0000 that night (9:00 PM to Midnight). And I am pretty sure that they caught more attention than they would have liked. I am pretty sure I saw an officer towards the end of that display. That means at least one thing. They are not done hearing about this. If it were my platoon, we would be in formation until 4 in the morning while the command tried to figure out each and every detail of the night. Then the next day the punishment starts, the whole platoon. Cleaning weapons would have been easy. While this was a display of undisciplined and, in truth, embarrassing behavior, discipline will be achieved. If they are lucky they will lose all future libo, work like dogs for the next few weeks, and that will be the end. If they aren’t lucky a few will face Page-11 entries (which isn’t all that nice) and some might even lose rank. I can’t tell you what did happen, but I know it was one of these. And now that the video has gone viral, I bet that it isn’t going to get any easier from upper level brass.
In closing, the Marines did go overboard. They did have a few too many, and they did embarrass themselves, and at least the public face of the Marine Corps. But what we in the civilian sector need to accept is that this is who they are, this is what we recruited them for. This is what we need them to be, and we can’t judge them too harshly against the standards we set for ourselves.
If you want to see the video, you can check it out here. I say again, not safe for kids or work.
There is a debate going on right now concerning women’s equality, particularly in the military. As it stands, women are not allowed to take place in strictly ground combat occupations. This doesn’t mean that women in the military are always safe from combat, but it does mean they cannot join some MOS’s (Military Occupational Specialty or military job) like infantry, artillery or to be an officer of those units. Women are also not eligible for the draft, if that were to happen.
There are many who believe this is not in line with our current view of a need for sexual equality. At President Clinton’s request, the Department of Defense reviewed this issue in 1994. DoD noted that America’s prior drafts were used to supply adequate numbers of Army ground combat troops. Because women are excluded by policy from front line combat positions, excluding them from the draft process remains justifiable in DoD’s view. Although no conclusions were reached, DoD recognized that policies regarding women need to be reviewed periodically because the role of women in the military continues to expand. This week Marine Corps command has release statements stating that it is planning on receiving an undetermined number of women candidates for it’s infantry officer training program. What this will mean for the future of the military and women’s roles within are undetermined, but it definitely shows signs of movement on an issue that hasn’t seen the light of day for quite some time.But where they have still not expanded is into the role of combat infantryman.
Most see no reason for this injustice. It must just be some dusty old tradition right? I think there is a better reason than that. Women are just not made for combat. If you say that then you must never have been married to a woman. But in all seriousness, what do you think makes us so different that men could “handle the stress” better than women? Men are just stronger than women? Perhaps, but as another article of mine shows the last decade of warfare has taught us one thing, we need more boots on the ground. In a Marine Infantry squad, there are few “heavy lifting” activities that I experienced where some women’s smaller (it’s statistically true women are smaller than men) frame may have slowed them down. That still leaves at least 10 slots left in the squad that anyone no matter how small would be good for. I would also like to point out another small fry who showed what the littlest member can pull off in an infantry situation. Check out the history of Audie Murphy. This is guy who was too small to join the Marines and then became the most decorated soldier of WWII. So you can see that I don’t put much weight in the argument that women, on average, are too small to do the job.
To maintain fairness I want to put out two differing points of view, both from my own personal perspective of real live cases I witnessed. I want to do this not because I don’t have a point of view, but because I want readers and debaters to see, as fair as I can, as much information possible so that you can arrive at a decision of your own.
I want to talk about an officer I knew while in the Marines. She was one of the best Marines I ever knew. Seriously, top 3, including men. Her name was Capt. Dienhart. She was a company commander for an engineering support squadron I worked for. She was in command of over 120 mostly male Marines. Even here in the Marines, the most famous boys club in the world, she had respect. Why? She could out do any one of us. She made it a point to be able to do more push ups than us (and not girl push ups either), she could do more pull-ups than any of us ( and I am not talking about flexed arm hangs) and she ran the 18 minute 3 mile. And when I say us, I mean the group of 450 19-24 year old male Marines in the squadron, not an easy group to beat, but she did almost every time.
The only time I really got to know her was when I was a marksmanship coach for the squadron. I was her pistol instructor and helped her through her annual qualification. I used “instructor” and “helped” loosely because she was, on top of everything else, one of my best shooters ever. She had the form down, was very patient and methodical and had the strength to hold the weapon with control that and delivered precise and accurate shooting. In the Marines, marksmanship is kind of a big deal, so for her to deliver precise, consistent shooting, not just a few good shots was impressive for myself and the other Marines.
The women rewrote the book for me on what women in the military are capable of. I don’t know if she has any inclination to be part of a combat MOS, but I feel that the leadership and professionalism she showed while in a non-combat roles shows that woman have the capability and potential to serve in such positions in the future.
Against women in combat roles:
Many of you ladies reading are about to get very upset. I am sorry if you feel I am not being fair to the gender, that is not my intention. Remember that what I am writing about is what happened to me and is all very true. I am trying to provide all points of view on the subject so please try to keep an open mind throughout.
In truth, I don’t see any reason that women can’t do anything in the military that men can do. My mom always had fun pointing out that there wasn’t anything a man could do that a woman couldn’t do. What I think is the key determinate in this argument isn’t what women can’t do, it’s what men can’t do that is holding women back.
Men can’t get pregnant. (Oh dear God he went there!) Now this sounds like someone attempting to throw up a catchall to prove that all women shouldn’t ever be able to join the armed forces. It isn’t. But it is a fact, women alone can conceive and carry a child and this fact has grave repercussions in the military world. Let me explain.
Suppose that you are getting ready for a deployment to Afghanistan for a 7 month tour. You will be sent to some very dangerous areas where you need every member of your team. Your unit isn’t in combat roles, but there is still a lot of work to be done and the presence of threat is very close, as it is a combat zone. Now, two weeks before you deploy everyone is arriving from pre-deployment leave and PFC Sarah has news. Everyone is happy for PFC Sarah, sort of, because they know that will be deploying a man down. You can’t deploy when you are pregnant after all. So now a team of 10 is a team of 9. That means that for the next 7 months, everyone will have to work harder and have less security during risky operations or difficult procedures. But hey, we are just breeding one more warrior in the fight against terrorism right? It’s ok we can manage.
But what if it happens, 4 more times? That is exactly what happened during my second deployment to Iraq. In a platoon with 9 women, 4 became pregnant within weeks of leaving. 1 was actually sent home from Iraq in the first week of the deployment when her mild case of mono turned out to be a severe case of pregnant. So now the platoon was down to just 4 women left of the original 9.
That may not seem like a great deal, but not only did this mean of all their work was split between those who remained, but they were also not able to fulfill a very important role. We worked at an entry control point to a major base. There was a great deal of local civilian traffic here. Everyone who came an went had to be checked, including the women. Do you think the U.S. government wanted those dirty male Marines all over the local populace? No, we needed females to do it. And many times we had to call in just to have someone check if someone had a weapon under their clothing. Ah, SOP how I miss you.
This wasn’t an isolated issue either. This freak epidemic of mass pregnancy happened throughout the squadron both times we were deployed. I liken it to a college where you don’t have to take finals if you are pregnant and then two weeks before finals you have 5 of 9 women in a particular class (and more than 20% overall) of the women show up pregnant. Would you think it was an accident? Would you think they were all accidents? Others were sent home in the middle of an Iraq deployment because they became pregnant in Iraq (please trust me when I say that it is not a romantic place, so it is curious to me that this could happen at all.) Female Marines who are or were recently pregnant are also given different standards to uphold than their non-pregnant counterparts. This makes sense with limits, being that there is some point where they must be deployable at some predetermined point in the future. For example I had a Sergeant who was very much overweight and never took part in scheduled physical training. The reasoning, she had had a kid. “But wait, her kid can talk.” Where is the line? When are we supposed to start upholding standards?
As for me, I don’t think it is that hard not to get pregnant. With today’s health care and knowledge it seems impossible to me that this many people could accidentally become pregnant preceding a time of great personal struggle. My wife and I agreed long ago that we would not have children until we were in a house, graduated from college and both had good jobs. It has been nearly eight years and we are still not ready, but we are also not pregnant. I think for that reason I have little sympathy for those who become accidentally pregnant. I feel that having children is never truly an accident and the fact that when this happens it leaves a lot of good people, men and women, down a (wo)man.
In my mind there has to be some sort of accountability in the military community to combat this growing form of malingering in the ranks. The civilian population also needs to see that this is indeed a problem and an epidemic for the military. Efforts to address this evoked civic outrage two years ago when Maj. Gen. Anthony Cucolo threatened court martial for four soldiers who became pregnant, as well as the male soldiers who fathered the children after disobeying expressed orders to avoid such happenings. The National Organization for Women (NOW) said the policy to reprimand them was “ridiculous.” “How dare any government say we’re going to impose any kind of punishment on women for getting pregnant,” NOW President Terry O’Neill said. “This is not the 1800s.”
I would like to agree with Ms. O’Neill. In the civilian world that I now enjoy and that Ms. O’Neill seems to be only experienced with, someone telling Jennie and I we can’t have children is unacceptable. But in the military it is different. It may seem draconian, but that life is much more extreme. It’s more violent, dangerous, harder and we need each other more. We are Marines (soldiers, sailors, airmen, coasties.) We aren’t accountants, teachers or postal workers. When we lose a person we can’t hire someone on for a few months until Sarah is back. When we lose someone it is a loss, and to those who are left to complete the mission, it might as well be a casualty.
In conclusion, I feel that women in the military have outstanding potential. I have seen some of the most amazing feats of excellence performed by female Marines. My conclusion however, is that the achievements and virtues of these and many other individuals, do not represent the whole. As a whole, they aren’t ready for the responsibility of combat MOS’s. When 1 women is unable to deploy it’s a tragedy for it’s unit, when 60% are unable to deploy it’s a statistic, and a damning one. For as long as women in the military can not accurately be relied upon to deploy in sufficient strength and readiness, to complete the mission through the course and then to return home to their family life as men do, they as a group are not ready for the difficulties and responsibilities of combat warfare. In such theaters when you lose someone, it isn’t just a burden, like it was for our platoon, it places everyone else in danger. It leaves open the likelihood that others will never see their families so that some could start one of their own. When there are women who choose to use pregnancy as a tool to avoid duty they do a grave disservice to the Capt. Dienharts of the armed services, who have earned the right to serve in any manner they should wish. When this pattern ceases to be a problem, I will be one of the first ones cheering for some more fresh boots in the thick of the fight.
I have tried to provide links to both parts of the debate so that you can make up your own mind on where you stand on the issue. If you know of another good link to either side of the debate, please post it in the replies. Any retaliatory remarks will not be posted as I tried to be fair. And please, let’s not make this about rape. People love to site that “what-if” because of it’s moral impossibility to judge, however rape accounts for such a low amount of pregnancy cases be they civilian, military or otherwise that I will not justify it as a meaningful addition to this debate.
Remember also that my personal point of view is currently more against a change in the current system. This is mostly due to my personal experiences and for that reason I admit that I may have some biases preventing me from fairly showing both sides.
I was in class some time ago when a professor made a joke about the meaning of what an oxymoron is. It means a figure of speech that combines contradictory terms. She gave some like “Act Naturally” and “Aunt Jemima Light”, but then she mentioned another that struck a chord with me. The last she said was “Military Intelligence.” The class, full of college freshmen like myself laughed at that one too. The professor knew that I was a Marine and that I had served two tours, one of which ended less than six months before, so she knew this was a mistake I would not take lightly. I saw the look on her face as she saw the look on mine.
“Ma’am, are you aware of what it takes to re-calculate the trajectory of an object traveling at 3,110 ft/s for a three inch change in elevation at 5 times the length of a standard football field when factoring in for wind speed and direction as well as differences in elevation?” (Marine recruits do in week six of their basic training.)
“Further more, I feel that it is important to note at this time, that by the time many military people have reached the age of 22 they have become experts in a field of study that takes years for civilians to achieve.” This is true, be it Infantry (0300 Military Occupation Specialty series), Engineers (MOS 1300 series) a data network specialist (MOS 0650 series) or (here’s a fun one) 2834– Satellite Communications (SATCOM) Technician. Most have by that time achieved the rank of E-4 or E-5 and been given responsibility of a small team of 4 up to a squad of 13 (that’s like an assistant manager for people in college working at the fry kitchen.) And many have learned to performe their job under harsh climate, horrible living conditions and the treat of someone shooting at them.
“And while wars like Iraq and Afghanistan have gone on for far too long, you may be hard pressed to find a military battle since Korea that ended in an American defeat. As you may also know, since so many students declined military service because you don’t like taking orders, the military is not free to go about and do as it will freely. They are following orders. Orders given to them by politicians. Politicians…you voted for.”
“And as an additional note, I am making an A in this class, as well as all my others.”
I felt I made my point clearly, in spite of my lack of modesty. The issue stuck with me though. It does bother me that people perceive the Military as being stupid. Oh they always thank us when they see us at church or the bar. “I sure do respect what you boys did for us over there,” but they still don’t believe we could carry a conversation with a cat, much less anyone else. What they do know is that most of the military is made up of people who went straight to the military and have received little or no college education, and since college is equivalent to educated, that doesn’t shine a very bright light on military folks. That is all most have to go on.
What they don’t understand is that most MOS schools require a grade of 80 or above on each and every test or you fail out of the course (and they were as hard as anything I took in college). They also don’t know that by the time they are 19 many have been deployed overseas where they did the most extreme version of their particular specialty in the world. For myself, I was a Data Network Specialist ( 0656). That is the equivalent to the network administrator at a company who sets up the computers in the office and runs the switches and servers for the company. Yeah, the Marines have computer nerds too, but our computer nerds can shoot an open sightes rifle from 500 yards away, run 3 miles in less than 20 minutes and have green belts in the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program (that’s like mixed martial arts, except the ultimate goal is that the other guy stops fighting for good.) The only other difference between what I did in the military and what a civilian does is that I also dug the three mile trench for the fiber optic cable as well as replaced a relay station when it was hit by rocket fire. I ran code and ran convoys. Oh, but a civilian made 3 times my salary as well. By the time I was 21 I was on my second deployment and headed a small team. I worked as a part of a security team and in a week learned over 400 words in Arabic that I needed to communicate with locals. That is enough to have a conversation with someone. Like, for instance, if you need to communicate with Iraqi army personnel, are curious how much your iPod or sister-in-law would go for on the Iraqi market, or if anyone around has heard of a men with bombs (pronounced ka-na-buhl in Arabic. Go ahead, Google it if you don’t believe me.) When I was 22 I was responsible for ensuring that over $3 million worth of gear in the form of new laptops, switchboards, servers and accessories safely and completely changed hands along with all necessary updates, installs and user modifications.
What I think is interesting is that in the military, this isn’t that special. Many military people reading this are saying to themselves “I had it harder” or “My job was a lot worse than that” and they are right. I suppose you could ask an engineer about how to build a house, or like ours who build forty living spaces in a week. You could also ask a 40 year old department manager what it takes to handle fifteen thousand units through the warehouse in a month, or you could ask a 26 year old army logistics chief to do the same thing. For those real academics out there I will ask it this way “If two vessels are traveling towards each other, one heading east at 40 knots with a 10 knot headwind and the other traveling west at 32 knots and a 6 knot headwind and they are 4200 miles apart, how long before they meet? A butterbar ensign in the Navy could tell you that. So what I am curious about is “What ignorant person thinks these people are stupid?”
As a special note, I graduated three years after that conversation with that professor and the class. I earned a degree in business administration. In my school that is a four year degree that takes most people 5 years to get and I got it 3 1/2. I also graduated cum laude in the top 15% of my class. That is out of the 50 or so percent that made it to graduation from when they laughed at that funny joke. Although my family was instrumental in me pushing through, I think that really set me apart in achieving this was my intelligence, my military intelligence.
Images from MCRP 3-01A available on scribd.com. Link available here.
I wanted to lighten up a little with this post and mention some organizations out there that I feel that we all need to keep close to our heart and in our thoughts this Christmas season. I am calling this “The Nice List”.
Toys for Tots, for those who don’t know, is the official charity backed by the United States Marine Corps. The organization was began by a major in the Marines in 1947. The organization collects toys for underprivileged children. You have seen the boxes around so you know how easy it is to drop off a new toy. Perhaps you’ve seen some of their commercials. “Are you Santa Claus?” If you don’t well up when the kid hands over his letter you’re a monster. Come on people, the Marines need your help. This is the only thing we really enjoy being good at that doesn’t involve womanizing or killing people, and it’s for the kids.
Lego – For the first part, Lego is better than _______(<<<Insert any awesome thing here) . Let’s face it, if you didn’t play with Legos as a kid then you missed out. I used to love playing for hours with my pile of Legos on the living room table. Legos are equivalent to a magical place where children can create a world populated by pirate rocketships, castles with race car refueling stations and dragons with laser beams on their heads. If I only had the chance I would take a few decades off my years and be that six year old all over again. Now I am just trying to get my nephew to develop an interest in the art (yeah, I said art.) He “engineered” his first Helicopter Car last time I visited. I never loved him more. This year it is even better. This year Lego is partnering with Toys for Tots. Follow this link and you can send an E-Card to your friends. For every card you send out Lego will donate 1 toy to Toys for Tots, up to 1 million toys. Right now they are at 345,897. Still have a long way to go with not a lot of time.
The last group I want to keep in your thoughts are the Marines themselves. I should say the whole military, they have all earned your consideration, but I have my biases. I served with the Marines and experienced Christmases in some far away desert. If you have a Marine, soldier, sailor or airmen in your life let them know you are thinking of them, especially the deployed ones. When we are safe and warm by our trees and our presents, just keep in mind our troops and especially the Marines.
So I am asking all my Marine Corps friends and everyone else out there reading as well to also spread the news and support three great organizations with three very important missions this Christmas Season.
-Semper Fi and Merry Christmas
(Edited Dec 21, 2011) I also wanted to add this link. It features soldiers debating on choosing Hello Kitty or My Little Poney. No but seriously they out collecting toys for toys-for-tots so they earn an Ooh-rah for that.