I was sixteen. I shaved my head and had decided to join the Marines. Early influences here were likely a pair of grand uncles whom I worshipped, and to many war movies on television. I had a need to show a change, to myself and to my family. I called the Marine Corps recruiting office and was told they would not accept me as I was too young and was not on track to graduate high school with my senior class. I redoubled my efforts on my schoolwork, and began studying for the Marines. General orders, the code of conduct, rank structure, excreta. I graduated high school on time and four months later was at Marine Corps recruit Depot San Diego. Boot camp was not as challenging as I thought it would be, but there was a war on and I was ready to serve. On training day ten of Marine Combat Training my heart was shook. The war had ended and I ended up a cook. Not only had I lost my chance at redemption by going to war and being a “Hero”, I was made a “basic burger burner.” I was devastated. Picking myself back up took time. I became nihilistic. Getting Tattoos and drinking myself into a stupor when ever I could. On duty, I would excel as a Marine. I continued to study doctrine; the way of the warrior was still in my heart. This led me into studying everything from the Small Wars Manuel to Sun Tsu to Musashi.
Musashi had a profound effect on me. I harbored a desire to go to Japan. I requested orders to get overseas as soon as I was eligible. Within a few short months I was there. I quickly linked up with a friend from stateside and forgot all about Musashi for the time being. I fell in love with Japan and met my current wife. Visited Castles and temples and mountains and Shinto shrines. My warrior spirit rested, I got physically soft, mentally lazy. Having extended once in Japan I was not allowed to stay any longer. I got orders to Parris Island, often called “the land that god forgot.” Past performance saw me promoted to Staff Sergeant in May of 1999. Only eight years after I had went to boot camp. Shortly after that promotion I received orders to recruiting duty and after a successful but loathed tour there I went back to Camp Pendleton.
After nearly eleven years of trying to get out of Food service I finally got a break.
I was able to get a “high speed” job in the Communications field. I knew nothing about it. After a short class in how to do this job I was assigned to Marine Expeditionary Unit Service Support Group 15 (MSSG-15) and I started to go back to embracing my warrior heart. I had a lot of work to do. Reading Musashi again, I found myself attracted to a different character in the book, Takuan Soho, A Rinzai Monk. I began studding Buddhism again with vigor. Starting with The D.T. Suzuki books, moving on to Shunryu SuZuki, Uchiyama, and eventually Master Dogen. But I still did not “get it.”
Be well and happy