Sunday, November 10, 2013

Everyone Needs A Miyagi

Today is the Marine Corps' 238th birthday. Although I've been out of the Marine Corps since 1999 there's a saying that all Marines live by... "You can take the man out of the Marine Corps but you can't take the Marine Corps out of the man."

I just received a traditional "Happy Birthday" text response on my phone from Mitch Perry, one of my best friends of my Marine Corps days. I love this guy. Here's what he said...
"Same to you bud! I am sitting here drinking coffee in my dress blue coat, I might be losing it... HELP? Oh oh oh life goes on !"
So this got me thinking back to my earlier days in the Marine Corps. When you spend 20 years in the Marines you meet a lot of people. When I was a young Marine on my first four year enlistment I met a Marine named Staff Sergeant Reggie Wournos. Reggie was my Miyagi.

Reggie was one of the most squared away Marines I ever met. He taught me the Marine Corps version of "Wax on... Wax off", "Paint the fence" and "Sand the floor".

I'm not the only one that Reggie helped along the way. He took several of us young Marines under his wing and nurtured us along. If you ask the entire group of enlisted Marines from Headquarters and Maintenance Squadron 16, GSE - MCAS Tustin you will find you get the same type of response.  Here's a picture. Reggie is front row left in the bottom photograph.

This would be an awesome story if it ended right here, but it doesn't. For those of you that don't know how military life works, everybody moves on to new locations after 2-3 years. So, you get to hang with the same group of guys for a year or two and then you, or they, or both move on.

A few years later I'm working at MCAS Cherry Point, North Carolina. I had been promoted a couple times and now I was a sergeant. I have a new boss named Gunnery Sergeant Bill Wallace. You guessed it he's Miyagi #2. Wallace taught me a different set of skills. Wallace had the reputation both inside and outside of our organization as the "guy who's got his shit together".

So, you could say I was a lucky guy to have two Miyagi's. But if you can believe it, this gets even better.

In 2008 a bunch of us from GSE (the 1980 group) decide to get together in Memphis for a weekend. Most of us haven't seen each other in 25+ years. It was a pretty awesome time. So, I made public toast to Reggie thanking him for his early mentoring and telling him that he was my Miyagi. Everyone felt the same... Reggie is just one of those guys.

Later that evening I was having a private conversation with Reggie. We were both retired, me as a Gunnery Sergeant and Reggie as Chief Warrant Officer 4. I thanked him for being my Miyagi which he humble tried to deny. Then I asked him who his Miyagi was?

He looked at me and said "Bill Wallace".

Happy Birthday Marines
Semper Fi
Gunny Mike