The New Mexico posse


During the first day or two of Marine Corps boot camp in San Diego, 1957, we met the other men. I was the only Iowan in platoon 352. There were half a dozen recruits from New Mexico; two Anglo college graduates, and four Latinos who befriended me. I’ve no idea why they took me in, maybe I looked dazed and in need of support. They helped me through the twelve-week regime.

The Marines changed my life by instilling a sense of self-discipline. Those New Mexico recruits get credit for that.

The Latinos were from Grants, 60 miles west of Albuquerque. Years later I drove to Los Angeles to interview for a job and stopped at Grants to see if I could find them. The pub where I inquired provided no information. Perhaps the mostly brown patrons wondered why an Anglo in a suit was looking for Hank or Julian Bacca and avoided talk.

In addition to Hank and Julian, Ray Ortiz and Chico Martinez were part of that Grants contingent. We agreed that the coolest thing to happen while we were training was the evening our drill instructor marched us to the base theater for a concert by Louis Armstrong and his All Stars. After the concert Gunny Tucker took us onto the parade ground and taught us to whisper count cadence in the darkness.

The Marines hold close order drill in high regard. Only accurate rifle shooting is in the same demanding category. The bonding that occurs among recruits on the drill field is part of why it is said once a Marine, always a Marine. Women Marines have the same experience.

If Mexicans or Latinos are disparaged it reminds me of those Marines from Grants and what I owe them.

Jim McDiarmid is a Storm Lake native, writer and Marine Corps veteran living in North Carolina.

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