The young recruit is ‘aughty -- ‘e draf’s from Gawd knows where;
- R. Kipling
Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, South Carolina:
“Sir, First Sergeant Estes sent these files.”
“Thank you, Corporal.” Lieutenant Commander James Hyschak reached out and took the short stack of personnel files. The corporal returned to attention, the very picture of a proper junior Marine NCO. The LtCmdr. said, “As you were, Son, tell the first sergeant I said thank you.” The corporal barked out. “Aye-aye, sir.” He then executed a near perfect about face and marched back to S1.
As the Second Battalion’s Chaplain, LtCdr. Hyschak reviewed the personnel files of every recruit who specified a non-standard religion. Today, he had three folders to review, the first two recruits’ non-standard religions were Coptic and Sikh. Nothing he hadn’t seen before. The third surprised him, he had never seen a Marine recruit whose religion was Mennonite. LtCmdr. Hyschak stood and called out to his secretary, “PFC Jones, call down to Fox Company, tell them I’m coming to speak with recruit Schmidt.”
“Private Schmidt reporting as ordered to the...” Private Schmidt faltered a moment. He didn’t know how he should address the officer sitting behind the senior drill instructor’s desk.
His senior drill Instructor interrupted. “To Lieutenant Commander Hyschak.”
“Private Schmidt reporting as ordered to Lieutenant Commander Hyschak, sir.”
LtCdr Hyschak took a moment to study the young recruit. Private Schmidt looks willing enough. Hyschak smiled and said, “At ease, son.”
Tom Schmidt knew how to do “At ease.”
“Private Schmidt, I am the Battalion Chaplain. Your personnel file shows you’ve claimed a religious affiliation of Mennonite. Are you a Mennonite?”
“Sir...” Tom looked to his senior drill instructor.
Staff Sergeant Allen spoke to the senior officer. “Excuse me, sir.” After Hyschak nodded, the drill instructor addressed the recruit. “Private, what’s the problem?”
“The private doesn’t know how to speak with a lieutenant commander.”
“Speak plainly, but with respect.”
Tom Schmidt turned back to the officer “Sir, I was born and raised a Mennonite. But I’m not a Mennonite anymore. When I filled out the form, I didn’t know what else to write down.”
“Do you know that Mennonites are conscientious objectors?”
“Yes, sir. Kevin and I talked about it. I’m not a conscientious objector, sir.”
Hyschak glanced at the senior drill instructor. Sometimes, in the interests of expediency, the drill instructors “helped” the recruits. “Is Kevin one of your drill instructors?”
“No, sir. Kevin Butcher is my brother in law, sir.”
The senior drill instructor opened his mouth as if to speak. Hyschak said, “Sergeant Allen, do you have something to add?”
“A question for the recruit, if I may, sir?” The chaplain nodded.
The drill instructor turned to the recruit. “Private, you said Kevin Butcher. Was he in the Marine Corps?”
“Yes sir. He’s out now, but Kevin likes to say, ‘Once a Marine, always a Marine, sir.’”
Staff Sergeant Allen nodded. “We’ll speak about this later.”
Hyschak made a mental note to ask the drill instructor about this Kevin Butcher. He asked Private Schmidt about his religious beliefs and they decided his affiliation would change to Protestant. Private Schmidt agreed to attend those services on Sundays. With the issue resolved, Staff Sergeant Allen dismissed the recruit back to the platoon.
After Private Schmidt left the office, Hyschak turned to Sergeant Allen. He said, “Do you know this Kevin Butcher?”
“I was stationed with a Corporal Kevin Butcher, and if he trained Private Schmidt, the recruit might require special handling, sir.”
“Why is that, Sergeant.”
“Sir, have you heard of The Butcher of Helmand Province?”
LtCdr. Hyschak’s eyes opened wide. “I thought The Butcher was just another legend.”
“No sir, Kevin Butcher is the real deal. I was there. In one cold night, Corporal Butcher killed fifteen Taliban with his bayonet, improvised weapons, and his bare hands. In the morning, the local tribeswomen came out and disposed of the bodies. We didn’t have any more problems for the rest of our deployment.”
“Well, I have to get back to my office,” LtCdr. Hyschak stood. “Let me know if Private Schmidt has any problems.”
Private Tom Schmidt came to a halt and snapped to attention in front of the senior drill instructor’s desk. He said, “Private Schmidt reporting as ordered to the Senior Drill Instructor, Sir.”
Staff Sergeant Allen had hoped a problem like this wouldn’t happen, but it had, and two recruits were now in sick bay. He said, “Private Schmidt, what am I going to do with you?”
“Sir? The private doesn’t know, sir.”
There was no doubt that the two recruits attacked Private Schmidt. Just as there was no doubt that Private Schmidt beat the living shit out of them. Other recruits had been present and confirmed the details. Still, fighting was against the rules. “Very well, Schmidt, in the future, could you defend yourself without hospitalizing the rest of the platoon?”
“You will stand the last fire watch every night for the next week. You are dismissed ... A moment, Private, do you have Kevin Butcher’s cell phone number?”
Kevin Butcher’s head rested on his wife’s lap while they lounged on their antique metal porch glider. His cell phone began to chirp, but he didn’t budge.