One night, after a visit to his girlfriend, my friend Chuck was driving his red Camaro through the front gate at Camp Lejeune, N.C. When it came his turn for the sentry to wave him back into the welcoming arms of the Marine Corps, instead of the usual perfunctory “move along” signal, Chuck got directed to the side of the road.
[Little background: If you ever visited the different services’ bases pre-9/11 you may have noticed how they all handled security in their own special ways. Army bases often had state highways running right through them. The folks guarding Air Farce bases generally thought “security” was an investment option. The Navy, because it can’t be trusted to do the job itself had Marines on post (especially on bases where there were nukes). And the Marine Corps guarded the keys to the head (nautical terminology for bathroom) and the whole of their bases with the same tenacity it showed at Khe Sanh. Now you have to give blood, stool, urine and hair samples along with fingerprints and a detailed FBI check before you're allowed to even look at a military base, let alone go aboard one.]
So, doing as he was told like the good Marine he was, Chuck pulled over to the side, got out his ID card and awaited the guard’s questioning. (So good a Marine, in fact, that within the year Chuck would be selected as a Marine Security Guard. He spent the next three years guarding the U.S. Embassies in Budapest and Rio de Janeiro.)
After a glancing inspection of my buddy’s ID, the lance corporal on duty set to work finding himself an evil-doer. It should be pointed out at this juncture, my pal Chuck was a corporal, one grade senior, and while he was a pretty easy-going guy, he took his responsibilities as a non commissioned officer seriously.
“Where have you been tonight?” the guard asked.
“Out,” was Chuck’s response.
“In town,” Chuck said, now a little annoyed at the disrespectful tone he’s hearing.
“I think you’ve been out drinking,” came the accusation.
“Dressed like this?” Chuck replied, pointing to his bare feet, running shorts and tank top. Apparently, he’d had to leave in a bit of a hurry when her father, a colonel, arrived home unexpectedly.
No balloons being handy, the sentry took off his cover (Marine for “hat”), put it in front of Chuck’s face and commanded, “Breathe into this.”
Knowing he was innocent, Chuck later told me with a sly grin, he complied.
The guard pulled his cover back up to his face and inhaled deeply.
“You like that?” Chuck asked, “Her name’s Heather.”
With an angry wave he was sent on his way.