My son Demetri (DT) is 15 and has been talking about the Marines lately. My good friend, decorated Marine (Silver Star, Purple Heart) and author Nick Popaditch (Once a Marine) accommodated my request for a favor by pulling strings and getting us onto Camp Pendleton this past weekend. His son Nick Jr. went with us.
The day before we went to the Recruit Depot and watched recruits learning to jump off towers and rappel, learn various maneuvers, and others who were now official Marines in their dress uniforms with moms proudly hanging on their arms. It was inspiring.
The next morning we drove 30 or so miles to Camp Pendleton, and then to a small area where a group of of reserve M1A1 battle tanks (six or eight) were parked and being worked on. We watched as mechanics and others cleaned, repaired, and otherwise maintained them and the support vehicles needed to keep them moving. We spent some time inside a tank learning the basics about each position, how the gun worked, where the shells were stored, and so forth. Each tank carries four people (Commanding officer, gunner, loader, and driver).
|Gunnery Sergeant Pittsley (left) and Gunny Pop (right).|
|A very tired and aging publisher up in the Loader's hatch, taken by DT from his position in the Gunner's seat.|
|DT in Gunner's position with Com helmet and flak jacket on, thermal and regular sights next to his head, and gun and turret controller to his front. He is flashing the V for Victory sign after being complimented by Corporal Bath.|
|The view outside the tank from my position in the Loader's hatch.|
In a word: wow.
|Corporal Bath giving orders to his 15-year-old Gunner.|
|DT boxing it up. When all was said and done, he filled 10 boxes and taped up dozens more.|
|DT and Gunny Pop on Pop's boat getting ready to tube out on the ocean. Priceless.|
|DT holding on for dear life. Somehow he held on despite Pop's best efforts to throw him. Eventually he pitched headlong into the sea.|
|Ted Savas and Gunny Pop at "Club Pop" (read his book to understand that), enjoying steaks, cigars, and great beer.|