The United States Marine Corps turned 232 this past Saturday. If you know both math and history and care about doing quick calculations in your head, you noticed that the Corps is older than the nation it proudly serves. (2007 – 1776 = 231, having lost the ability to calculate these things in my mind – yes, I just turned 40 – I just checked it out on my iPhone’s calculator). That’s because the continental congress authorized two battalions of Marines before the declaration of independence was signed. Guess it helps to have a military already waiting in the wings if you plan to start a war.
That’s a big deal to Marines and since “once a Marine, always a Marine” it continues to be a big deal to me as well. Every year around November Tenth, I get that feeling that’s impossible to describe to someone who hasn’t experienced what it’s like carry the title of “United States Marine.”
I approach this subject with my eyes wide open. You don’t write a memoir called Secrets of a Gay Marine Porn Star without expecting a certain amount of harassment from all sides. Here are some comments recently in response to the video trailer I posted on YouTube for my upcoming novel, Code of Conduct:
Rich Merritt: Porn star, prostitute, durg (sic) abuser, attempted suicide. Oh yeah, just the one to be out there agitating against DADT. Come on, “captain,” get a job.
gay marines i dont (sic) belive (sic) it at all they are a distgrase (sic) to the rest of the military if u ask me
The fact is, I volunteered, made it through boot camp and Officer Candidate School and was commissioned, attaining the rank of captain. And honestly? There are times when I really miss it. That sense of satisfaction that comes from knowing what you did that day, no matter how mundane or taxing it might have been, went toward making the nation and ultimately the world a better place. As an attorney, I have yet to experience that good feeling. Maybe I’m not practicing the right type of law…
Which leaves me stuck, but at least I have my memories of the Marine Corps. And thanks to a chance encounter earlier this year, Marine camaraderie happily continues in my life. In March, I attended John Amaechi’s book reading for his memoir, Man in the Middle, about his life as a closeted gay NBA player. The only empty seat in the bookstore was beside me and was taken at the last minute by a sports blogger, Matt Ufford. It only took a few minutes for us to realize we were both former Marines, a “coincidental” rarity in Manhattan.
I had to take care of my fellow Devil Dog so I invited Matt to join Amaechi, me and our agent, Mitchell, as we went out after the reading. As if reading my mind, as we left the store, Matt said, “You know, I’m not gay.” Even though I replied that I’d figured that out, part of me was, well, hoping because Matt seemed like a genuinely great-hearted person and we need guys like him on ‘our team.’ But then I remembered as Marines, we were on the same team and while gay men are easy to find in Manhattan, former Marines who are writers? Not so much. And to Matt’s credit, he took Amaechi (gay) bar hopping long after Mitchell and I’d retired for the evening. Some guys will do
almost anything for a quote. I’d expect no less of a Marine.
The following day, Matt wrote this great story about the evening, which I encourage you to read. I’m glad I was upfront with him about my book and past and even more glad that if he cared, it didn’t matter as much as the common bond we share as Marines.
So Matt, with his friend Ben, another former Marine, invited me to their Marine Corps birthday ceremony Saturday night in Brooklyn. Ben also has a blog, more the kind that I read than sports, but occasionally I read Matt’s, too, I just don’t understand sports. But all these former Marines with blogs… hey, people who join “The Few, The Proud” generally aren’t afraid to share their opinions.
Have to admit, I was taken aback when they gave me the grim news because I’d forgotten the part of the ceremony where the oldest Marine present (that was me, people) passes the first piece of birthday cake to the youngest Marine (that was Ben). 1986 doesn’t seem like all that long ago when I was the youngest Marine present… so next year I’ll attend the ceremony in someplace like Boca Raton where I can be the youngest Marine again. On second thought, with fine young Marines, whether current and former, like Matt and Ben including me in their ceremony, I’d always be honored to be the oldest Marine in the room.