Let the Machine Activate
Two female corporals in the United States Marine Corps both experience epiphanies.
A rain fell on the Marine outpost at the Dover Air Force Base, in Dover Delaware. Night had fallen and the rain came down in steady sheets. Corporals Regina Marigold and Shana Fisker sat in a duty vehicle.
“No, I think that there is a God because where would all of this come from? Everything from the plants to the planets had to come from somewhere,” Regina said.
“You see, that’s where you’re wrong,” Shana said. “You are stating a fallacy. All that exists just is. What you are trying to say is that something supernatural caused all of this to be.”
“Still, there’s got to be some greater power out there that could reconcile all of existence. Something bigger and greater than ourselves. An all-knowing, all-present, all-powerful God that looks down low and sees and senses everything that ever was or ever will be is what I’m talking about,” Regina said.
“And you’d be talking in error,” Shana said. “All that is real is in itself real. There’s no maker, designer, or grand consciousness floating over space documenting our every move.”
Regina switched gears quickly. “What are you doing when you get out of the Corps?”
“I think I might get my theology degree, find a church and be a pastor,” Shana said with a smirk.
“Ha ha, you think you’re funny,” Regina said. “I know what I want to do.”
“And what’s that?”
“I’m going to be a professional skydiving instructor.”
“Have you ever jumped out of a plane before?”
“Not yet. Once I pick up sergeant, then I’m going to get my jump wings.”
“So you’re re-upping?”
“Yes,” said Regina.
“I’m not. I love the Corps. It gave me everything I could ever hope for in life, a purpose. It gave me a sense of rationality that is not present in many civilian jobs, but I’d like to get back out into that life. I’m going to go to school for business.”
“I’ll see you on Wall Street?”
“Maybe. But I really want to own my own shop. A nail and hair salon.”
“Good luck, sister. The rules and regulations will chew you up,” Regina said.
“That’s the Shana I know. You’ve got the most fight in you than any other Marine I know. Including and especially the guys,” Regina said.
‘Thanks, but I won’t be lifting ammo cans, even though I beat Sergeant Littleton carrying them and he was less than a few paces behind me. I just bested him.”
“Yes, we 'WM’s' have come a long way,” Regina said.
The rain continued to beat against the duty vehicle like tiny drummers patting out an erratic beat.
“You know what?” Shana said.
“What’s that?” Regina said.
“There’s all this fuss about women Marines and whether we can cut it or not….”
“It’s like the bigger picture is really about the training we get, you know? All of the talk about unselfishness and selflessness. And all these claims of worshipping the 'other'. I think the officers or politicians who wrote up all of those rules, guidelines, and codes were mistaken.”
“How? Unselfishness is a good thing. You’re supposed to be unselfish. It’s in the Bib…” Regina bit her tongue.
“Precisely. It’s been secularized as not to offend other religions, but the same ideas apply. ‘You’re life is worthless compared to the group. Fall in line or be punished spiritually or physically,’” Shana said.
“I still think that you being selfless is a great help to the Corps. I mean there’s countless Marines that have shown great unselfishness throughout the Corps’ history.”
“But that’s where you’re wrong. Those actions, though the Marine fighting or saving a fellow fighter or fighters may be wounded or even died, represent a selfishness that is more profound than any citation that describes the efforts of that particular warrior. A Marine jumping on a grenade to save his squad... selfish.”
Regina turned serious. “How could you say that?”
“I said it because it’s the truth. The so-called ‘sacrifice’ of one fighter defending the lives of his compatriots is anything but the giving up of something greater for something less than or completely worthless. Yes, a Marine may be hurt or even killed but the real sacrifice would be if he or she decided to jump over enemy lines and start fighting for the other side. That would be a monstrous sacrifice and completely selfless.”
“I still think that putting others before self is the way to go.”
“Do you share the same legs as me?” Shana asked.
“Do we have the same thoughts?”
“So why would those pencil pushers in Washington drill this nonsense into our skulls?”
“It is because of our outside culture. Whatever the military is remains a reflection of the current and prevailing society. If the culture were to adopt a rational, selfish ideology then the military would follow suit. Until then, we’re stuck with the ‘selfless sacrifice’ and gallant unselfishness’ that runs through the Corps and the other branches, too.”
Regina sat looking at the drops of water cascade down the windshield. “I don’t know. It just seems like people would take advantage of each other and be at each other’s throats as Marines.”
“You have a low estimation of your fellow Marines, my friend. There wouldn’t be any animosity as long as everyone was rational. Now, of course that would mean that everyone would be perfect.”
“Perfect? Nobody’s perfect. We’re too human.”
“I agree that we’re all human. And being morally perfect is the only way that a human being should live his or her life. ‘It’s human to err.’ ‘It’s human to cheat.’ ‘It’s human to fail.’ But thinking? Who says, ‘Oh, she’s sharp. A real human,’?” Shana asked.
“I’m serious,” Shana said. “Heroes can’t even be human. They’ve got to be superhuman. We don’t believe that men and women can be portrayed in books and visuals as competent, moral, upright, people. I mean consider the literature and cinema. The mentally retarded are regarded as the beacons of truth and justice while the people with some sort of normalcy are vicious, mean-spirited, and oafish. Why can’t there be more clean, virtuous, beautiful, cool, human heroes on screens large and small?”
Regina stopped laughing.
“Every advancement of thought or material has been attributed to spirits or to luck or to anything but the real source: the mind. The mind is what makes a person an individualist. The mind is what makes the Marine a constantly growing, ever-evolving presence within the construct of the United States military. But no one wants to hear that. They just want to get the report about how a city in some far off land was bombed by us intentionally, killing men, women, and children. Then, they’ll want to know what kinds of sewer systems and schools should be erected and how many provisions of food should be doled out to those that survived. I tell you this: let’s keep the bombs and do away with the food packages.”
“But that’s just to keep the public at bay. So that they don’t rise up in the streets against the military like they’ve done in the past. The majority of God-fearing Americans want to know that Marines are not monsters that go out and murder little babies.”
“But that’s war. Sometimes you have to kill, not murder, little babies. It’s not the most glamorous aspect of being in the military but it is a necessary good. Do you know why?”
Regina rolled her eyes. “Why?”
“Because the blood would not be on our hands. It is not our fault if those children are bombed out of existence. If we are fighting a just war, one where the enemy started force against the United States, then it is imperative that we strike back at them. No matter the cost on their side.”
“But little kids?”
“It’s either their little kids or our little kids.”
“What about the idea that you put out about selfishness? Doesn’t that fly in the face of your own argument?”
“No. It’s completely selfish to defend your values. A country like America, I think, is worth fighting and maybe being injured, mentally or physically, or dying for,” Shana said.
“I know….” Regina yawned.
“I know, too… ” Shana shut her eyes. Both Marines put their heads against her respective window. The rain now rhythmically danced on top of the duty vehicle. Minutes past. Then hours. A grey sky, clear and without sun but lit up announced the dawn of a new day.
“Goddamnit!” Shana exclaimed.
“Hey… you don’t need to use that kind of language,” Regina said half asleep. She then became aware of Shana’s outburst and her eyes widened as she rocketed up in her seat. “We missed reporting our detail!” she said.
Gunnery Sergeant Aaron Sickle stood with his hands clasped together on his chest.
“So, this is what we do, Marines? We sleep on duty?”
“No, Gunny,” Shana and Regina said in unison at parade rest.
“I just got chewed out by my major because two Marines failed to report last night. I know one thing, NJP’s are on deck. Oh, yes. Your libo is secure, and you will be on duty again and if you sleep on that duty, I will personally see to it that both of you won’t advance to sergeant anytime soon. That especially goes for you, Marigold. Is that crystal?” Sickle asked. A vein is his neck seemed to pulsate.
“Now, get some towels and bucket and swab this vehicle down, right now!”
Regina and Shana walked to the utility closet and retrieved their weapons of choice.
“I’ve added to your workload a few more vehicles that need to be touched up. Over there is the chaplain’s coupe,” He said pointing. “That’s the major’s pick up truck. And that’s the skipper’s late model European sedan. Let’s hope that the rain from last night will help you. Remember to stay hydrated, ladies.”
“Yes, Gunny,” Regina said. She continued, “Gunny?”
“What is it Marigold?”
“Do you believe in God?”
“The reason why we fell asleep on duty was because we talked about God and selfishness and how we may have committed an infraction, it is no way an irredeemable evil. We are prepared for our punishment but know that it is our own error and we will work diligently to correct it. It is in everyone’s own self-interest that we receive the proper reprimand and that we learn from this mistake. The lesson is in knowing that although we may have committed something worthy of punishment, we’re actually better for facing down our wrongs and doing everything in our power to make it right again,” Regina said.
“Is this coming from you? The same corporal who hounds the chaplain every day except Sunday? If this is about you ladies changing the rules of the Marine Corps, take that up with the chaps. Otherwise, you’ve got vehicles to clean. I suggest you get to it. I’ll let you go on my car. I’ll do the washing myself. ”
Gunny Sickle returned to the duty hut. Shana turned to Regina.
“That wasn’t just talk to lessen our sentences, was it?” Shana asked.
“No, way,” Regina said, “I really took to hear- my mind what it was that you had to say. Sure, we’re being looked down upon for our actions but they were our actions. We should be glad that we’re being held accountable for what we did. I’m even rethinking my position on God.”
Shana smirked as she pulled the hose down and filled up the bucket with water and soap.
“I would imagine that you weren’t just letting me run my mouth, that I actually had something to say. That’s a big motivator for me. You see I’m not on a mission to convert the world. It’s too big. Not everyone is going to understand what it is that I subscribe to that has made my life better. And that’s definitely a good thing. Minorities change the world. But if I can reach just one single person...that’s all the better,” Shana said.
“Let the machine in my mind activate,” Regina said.