Saturday, February 16, 2008

talking to a Marine

“I woke up today and I thought, what uniform do I have to wear today? Then I remembered I’m not at boot camp.”

In June, he was John Klee, Elk Creek High ‘07.

In September, after completing combat and specialized training, he’ll be shipping out to Iraq or Afghanistan.

But now, he’s Private First Class John Klee, fresh from three months of Marine boot camp near San Diego.

“You have to take it a quarter-day at a time,” he says.

Until “morning chow.” Until noon. Until “evening chow.” And until bed.

“Do everything they teach you,” he adds. “Do exactly as they say, and you’ll be fine.”

“The best thing ever”

Pfc. Klee first thought of being a Marine about a year ago. Though he’s grown up with his aunt and uncle, his father was a Marine. After he was graduated from Elk Creek High, his plans started to take form.

“I worked for my uncle’s hay business, drove a squeeze around,” he said. “It was hard work, a long day, hot … fun for a while, but I got tired of it.”

Pfc. Klee cites the benefits, and mentions the perks of being stationed in Japan, or Australia.

“I wanted to go out and see things,” he says. “(Friends) were staying around, getting in trouble with the police. I didn’t want any of that.

“I want to make it a career. I signed for four years; I want to stay in for 20, get taken care of. Once you’re a Marine, you’re always a Marine. The title can never be taken away from you.

“It’s (been) the best thing for me ever.”

“I wanted to go home”

Pfc. Klee arrived at the Recruit Training Depot in San Diego on Nov. 13.

“They got me off the bus at 10 o’clock in the evening. I stood out in attention in the cold for three hours in a T-shirt and pants.”

“(At first), you can’t look in a mirror without being told. To dress you, they count you down. You get 20 seconds to put on socks, and dressed in three minutes.

“They never let you know what’s going on. They don’t want you to know.

“You wake up at 4 a.m. to 5 a.m. They play a song, say get out right now. They run you around, and get you in line.”

Did he get in trouble?

“Everyone gets in trouble ... they’ll make you do stupid stuff, get to the back of the house, front of the house, sit down right now, get up right now. It’s all for a reason. As stupid as it is, it’s for a reason.”

One time, his entire platoon ended up in a single toilet stall.

“They got all 53 of us in two stalls. But we started laughing, so (the drill instructor) said, get in one. We were piling over the top and hanging off the sides. I think he thought it was funny, but he couldn’t show it.

“I wanted to go home. I thought I wanted to go home.

“After the first month you get broken, and focus on getting through.”

“Like you’re a Marine.”

At the end of boot camp is a 54-hour test called “the crucible.” Recruits get four or five hours of sleep each night, three meals total, and must cover over 40 miles of land, and constantly perform missions.

“Some were physically impossible, but they watch to see whether you put all your effort into it.”

Pfc. Klee draws one scenario, where recruits had to climb through pipes, representing a sewer system, and then get a 50-pound bag of ammunition to the ground without jumping down or throwing the bag.

“You’re cold, wet, tired, hungry, and freezing. But you never know when you’ll have to do that.”

At the end of the test, the recruits get a “warrior’s breakfast,” all-you-can-eat, complete with ice cream.

And they get more than that.

“The instructors treat you like you’re a Marine,” Pfc. Klee said.

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