Marine Corps Stories: Medium Gray
Marines must deal with distressing news.
Lance Corporal Justine Phillips woke at 7 AM. In the somewhat cramped barracks room, there wasn’t much space for her and her rackmate Lance Corporal Ronetta Minnow to move about. Once she roused out of her large green blanket from a rack that just needed the corners to be tightened a bit, Justine made a grim discovery. Ronetta had hanged herself. A scream expelled from Justine’s lungs like a train whistle.
Lights illuminated. The Staff Sergeant on Duty, Sheila Opal, heard the screams and rushed to the hatch.
“What’s wrong. Open up!” Sheila said.
Justine gathered herself to run to the hatch and open it to the staff sergeant.
Justine now sobbed. “Oh, my God,” Sheila said. She then snapped to.
“Listen, Lance Corporal, you’re going to need to pull it together. She’s gone and there’s nothing we can do about it, okay? Now, what is going to happen is I'm going to let the smaj and the CO know about this with speed. Do you understand?”
Justine coughed out a reply, “Yes, Staff Sergeant.”
“Please send a truck over here to the barracks. We have one fatality apparently by asphyxia,” Sheila said into her phone.
Sheila then moved towards where Ronetta had positioned herself. She didn’t touch her or any of the surroundings. They both awaited the arrival of the paramedics.
“You just found her like this, Phillips?”
“Yes, Staff Sergeant.”
“The docs are going to need some space to get her out of here on a stretcher. Move that desk up against the wall and those chairs, too.”
Justine abided. She then backed away slowly towards the flashing lights of the coroner’s van. Also Sergeant Major Nate Dowe and Commanding Officer Lieutenant Colonel Jamilla Stockton came to survey the scene.
“Who was here when this happened?” Dowe asked Sheila.
“Just Lance Corporal Phillips, Sergeant Major. The incident occurred while she was still in her rack.”
Justine’s face looked like a slab of rock. She had been taken away by the medical staff. She had looked as if her eyes had glazed to a medium gray.
Later that day, Lieutenant Colonel Stockton addressed her Marines.
“Today is a sad day for all of us here at 517. We’ve lost a sister. Lance Corporal Ronetta Minnow passed away yesterday.”
Gasps and murmurs arose from the Marines all sitting one leg crossed over the other.
“Now,” Jamilla motioned her hands up and down slowly. “I know that you want to know what happened and what is going to happen. While I cannot divulge the details of her demise, I can say that we will march on with her memory fresh in our minds. Do you understand that?”
“Yes, ma’am!” the Marines shouted, some through tears.
“We are Marines. We know what death is like. We are prepared for it and know that we each have a code by which we face death. We will not cower and we will not break under grief or misfortune. We will bind together in honorable fashion and take on any threat or enemy with the will of a warrior. Because that is what Lance Corporal Minnow was. She had enlisted at seventeen and had seen action in a combat zone by the time that she was a PFC. She picked up Lance Corporal with rapidity and maintained the existence of a model Marine. So let’s go out there and be like Lance Corporal Minnow. It may be sad today but as we go back to our shops, we may take a solemn pause and then return to the task at hand. Always remember the fallen, no matter what the circumstances are."