Ethics and Leadership, Part 1

Long, Rambling Preamble

Others argue that (good) morality is a chiefly male enterprise, and it is something I’ve always concerned myself with. Growing up without much of a father figure (save my brother, who had his own problems) made developing a good sense of morality and ethics trickier than it otherwise could have been. Yet even at a young age, I still tried to work out some kind of code – without the help of a religion. And before you get too critical of some of the sophistry evident in those earlier posts of mine, keep in mind I was then a sophomore in high school, with the incessant emotional abuse of my mother and heart wrenching nonsense of my first girlfriend providing constant background noise. Again – without a father figure. At best, I had video games and random internet friends to study under. What were you doing when you were 16?

If I seemed a little pre-occupied with partying back then, it was because I’d seen my brother completely ruin his life due to an indulgence in alcoholism and drug addiction (that began with innocuous partying in high-school – he’s still recovering, at age 29), and my girlfriend of the time (who I had convinced myself I loved dearly) was stringently pro-partying. You’ll notice after the break-up and prophetic-though-emotionally-tinged revelations that followed, I rarely, if ever, wrote about partying again.

The take-away point from all of the above is this: before enlisting in the Marine Corps, my personal ethics had congealed around a simple idea I’d developed with one of my best friends. Together, we determined that there was no higher purpose in life than trying to improve oneself, and the best method for improvement was total honesty. As writers, we were fans of brevity and trying to pack a big idea in a small space. Below is how we phrased our ethics:

Self improvement is the only priority; honesty is merely the best way to achieve it.

I suppose “self-improvement” is rather vague, but we took it to mean becoming stronger, smarter, inflicting less damage on the world and causing greater good, among other things. And honesty meant total honesty – critical honesty – none of this politically-correct coddling horseshit. If I found fault in myself or others, honesty demanded that such faults be addressed and corrected. Regular introspection and self-reflection were thus necessary requirements for self-improvement. Things like integrity, accountability, resolve, respect for logic and rationality, and so on, naturally folded into our conception.

But it isn’t easy ‘going-it-alone,’ if you will. Isolation seems to have a distinct effect on the mind, and I believe the mind naturally seeks to commiserate with like-minded individuals in order to cope with that isolation. Unfortunately for me, it is notoriously hard to find people above self-indulgence and consumerism in the general American populace. I used to wonder why that was, but now I know I was just looking in all the wrong places. I wanted something more, some allies in the fight against decadence and mindless consumerism. Someone else always says it best, and in this case, that someone else was me, albeit a year or two ago (from my memoirs):

American living was so completely unsatisfying to me. Why bother going to college, when all one can hope to do is make more money and buy more things? Where was the virtue in that? Our ancestors fought and died for freedom, liberty, for a noble and beautiful idea, in order to change the world forever. We fought and died for the latest electronic gadget and the prettiest estate. What was the fucking point in life?

Success in American culture was based on a disgusting infatuation with value – value defined not by intrinsic quality, but by how much money something could generate. “Good” music was not necessarily well composed, performed, or emotionally stirring – “good” music generated a lot of sales. Good writing was not necessarily perceptive, striking, or emotionally stirring – good writing generated a lot of sales. Anything “good” was something which generated a lot of sales. Even in public debate, be it the lunch table or on the internet, followed this notion – disputes over whether or not something was “good” often boiled down to how successful that particular thing was commercially.

Military service seemed like the only place I could escape this ubiquitous lust for wealth. Here were the men and women who still believed in freedom and liberty, in giving up their lives for something greater than themselves. Here were the men and women of noble character and virtue, fighting to protect those who were too weak to protect themselves. Politicians be damned. Even if you were tossed into a war you didn’t agree with, you could still fight to make sure the Marine to the left and the right of you had a chance to go home to his or her family and his or her loved ones. Selflessness – a necessary trait for anyone in the military, perhaps THE necessary trait.

This isn’t a post about the military failing to live up to my hopelessly high ideals. On the contrary, this is a post about Marine Corps ethics, which are surprisingly robust and cogent. Then again, the Marine Corps has produced stellar heroes like Major General Smedley Butler, Lieutenant General Lewis “Chesty” Puller, Sergeant Major Dan Daly, and Gunnery Sergeant John Basilone, to name a few. (MRAs and feminists alike might note the lack of female exemplars. Sorry – none come to mind, except for Opha Mae Johnson, who we remember merely for being the first female Marine.) Oh, while we’re at it, why not throw in Colonel John Ripley, Gunnery Sergeant Carlos Hathcock, and a personal favorite of mine from more recent times, Captain Nathaniel Fick (read or watch Generation Kill to understand why I admire him)? This list is by no means exhaustive, so maybe it shouldn’t be so surprising that the Marine Corps has a lot of intelligent and well-reasoned things to say about ethical behavior and leadership.

So, Marine Corps Ethics

The Marine Corps, like myself, tries to distill ethical behavior down to the absolute simplest ideas it can. The backbone of Marine Corps ethics revolves around a set of three values – called the Core Values – that are taught to every Marine during basic training. If you’ve ever known a Marine, you probably know them already – they are Honor, Courage, and Commitment. Those three words conjure the essence of the Marine Corps – the fabled “esprit de corps” – the much talked about “brotherhood” of the Marine Corps. Let’s take a closer look at the Core Values.
HONOR is the idea that Marines must possess the ultimate sense of gallantry in service to the United States of America, and embody responsibility to duty above self, including, but not limited to:

  • INTEGRITY: Demonstrating the highest standards of consistent adherence to right, legal, and ethical conduct
  • RESPONSIBILITY: Personally accepting the consequences for decisions and actions. Coaching right decisions of subordinates. A chain is only as strong as the weakest individual link, but a battalion of Marines is more like a cable. Together we are stronger than any individual strand, but one strand may hold us together in a crisis if it’s strong enough. One Marine taking responsibility for a crisis may save the day.
  • HONESTY: Telling the truth. Overt honesty in word and action and clarifying possible misunderstanding or misrepresentation caused by silence or inaction when you should speak up. Respecting other’s property and demonstrating fairness in all actions. Marines do not lie, cheat, or steal.
  • TRADITION: Demonstrating respect for the customs, courtesies, and traditions developed over many years for good reason, which produce a common Marine Corps history and identity. Respect for the heritage and traditions of others, especially those we encounter in duty around the world.

At first, one may be inclined to think that respecting tradition for tradition’s sake is a fallacy, and such a reader would be correct. Note, however, that the Corps compels obedience to traditions that have been “developed over many years for good reason.” The Corps has a keen interest in adopting and maintaining only those traditions which make sense or serve some useful purpose, generally speaking. Most Marines will be able to explain the origins of their uniforms and certain customs to you, as most are emblems of former battles or serve to honor former heroes – try asking a soldier (Army) why his uniform is the way it is or why he acts the way he does and see what sort of response you get.

So, who would be a paragon of honor? In the opinion of this Marine, Smedley Butler fits the bill. Like all of the examples I mentioned above, he could easily be a paragon of all three Core Values, but I chose him for honor for a specific reason. He certainly served his nation with gallantry, but his personal integrity, responsibility, and honesty were peerless. There is a well known example from his time as a younger officer – then Major Butler exposed himself to enemy sniper fire in order to direct the fire of his own men to the snipers’ nests. He was awarded a Medal of Honor for this action – which, tellingly, he then tried to refuse! He claimed he was merely doing his job and had done nothing spectacular to earn the award. Later, in his post military career, he would warn of the burgeoning military-industrial complex decades before Eisenhower gave it a name – demonstrating again his integrity and honesty.

COURAGE is the moral, mental and physical strength to resist opposition, face danger, endure hardship, including, but not limited to:

  • SELF-DISCIPLINE: Marines hold themselves responsible for their own actions and others responsible for their actions. Marines are committed to maintaining physical, moral, and mental health, to fitness and exercise, and to life-long learning.
  • PATRIOTISM: Devotion to and defense of one’s country. The freely chosen, informed willingness to support and defend the Constitution of the United States.
  • LOYALTY: Steady reliability to do one’s duty in service to the United States of America, the United States Marine Corps, one’s command, one’s fellow Marines, Sailors, Soldiers, Airmen, citizens, oneself and to one’s family.
  • VALOR: Boldness and determination in facing danger in battle, and the daily commitment to excellence and honesty in actions small and large.

In effect, the Marine Corps idea of Courage could be summed up as “doing the right thing,” regardless of circumstance or personal expense/danger/peril. Marines are often reminded that being a good Marine means “doing the right thing, even when no one is looking” and this is essentially a matter of having the courage to do said right things. Sometimes it takes courage to report the discrepancies of your buddies, for instance – but if everyone in the Marine Corps lacked such courage, and valued friendship over duty, discipline would quickly erode and have a precipitous effect throughout the rest of our operations! As is outlined in our General Orders, a Marine knows no friends in the line of duty.

Paragon of courage? None other than Chesty Puller, of course. My own words would do him shame, so here’s one of his many telling quotes: “They are in front of us, behind us, and we are flanked on both sides by an enemy that outnumbers us 29:1. They can’t get away from us now!” MRAs may find something to like in this quote: “Our Country won’t go on forever, if we stay soft as we are now. There won’t be any AMERICA because some foreign soldier will invade us and take our women and breed a heartier race!” But he wasn’t just bark. Take a look at some of his bite, as evidenced through one of his MANY award citations:

Fighting continuously in sub-zero weather against a vastly outnumbering hostile force, Colonel Puller drove off repeated and fanatical enemy attacks upon his Regimental defense sector and supply points. Although the area was frequently covered by grazing machine-gun fire and intense artillery and mortar fire, he coolly moved along his troops to insure their correct tactical employment, reinforced the lines as the situation demanded, and successfully defended the perimeter, keeping open the main supply routes for the movement of the Division. During the attack from Koto-ri to Hungnam, he expertly utilized his Regiment as the Division rear guard, repelling two fierce enemy assaults which severely threatened the security of the unit, and personally supervised the care and prompt evacuation of all casualties. By his unflagging determination, he served to inspire his men to heroic efforts in defense of their positions and assured the safety of much valuable equipment which would otherwise have been lost to the enemy. His skilled leadership, superb courage and valiant devotion to duty in the face of overwhelming odds reflect the highest credit upon Colonel Puller and the United States Naval Service.

COMMITMENT is the promise or pledge to complete a worthy goal by worthy means which requires identification with that goal and demonstrated actions to support that goal, including, but not limited to:

  • COMPETENCE: Maintaining, and improving one’s skill level to support the team. Commitment to growing toward a standard of excellence second to none.
  • TEAMWORK: Individual effort in support of other team members in accomplishing the team’s mission. Marines take care of their own. All worthwhile accomplishments are the result of team effort.
  • SELFLESSNESS: Marines take care of their subordinates, their families, their fellow Marines before themselves. The welfare of our country and our Corps is more important than our individual welfare.
  • CONCERN FOR PEOPLE: The Marine Corps is the custodian of this nation’s future, her young people. We exist to defend the nation, but just as importantly, we are in the business of creating honorable citizens. Everyone is of value, regardless of race, nation of origin, religion, or gender. Concern includes a commitment to improving the level of education, skill, self-esteem, and quality of life for Marines and their families. On the battlefield, a Marine is fiercest of all warriors and the most benevolent of conquerors.

Emphasis in the Marine Corps, from day one, is on the triumph of teamwork over individualism. You can’t turn shit into gold, unfortunately, and as the youth of our nation decline in moral character, the Marine Corps can only do so much to undo the 18 years of poor training that many potential enlistees “receive” as a result of poor social circumstances. Still, for those that are willing to learn, or looking for something more in life, the Marine Corps provides excellent guidance.

Gunnery Sergeant John Basilone is my paragon of commitment. After being awarded the Medal of Honor for actions in Guadalcanal (where his 15-man unit was decimated to two men, who still managed to hold off 3,000 Japanese troops), he was shipped back to the States to go on a sort of public relations tour for war bonds. Generally, Medal of Honor recipients are not allowed to go back to combat, but Gunnery Sergeant Basilone was committed to the defense of the nation and the unit of Marines he had left behind on the front lines. He returned to active combat duty and gave his life in the battle of Iwo Jima, one of America’s (and the Marine Corps) bloodiest battles. (Anecdotally, my grandfather, who retired from the Marine Corps as a Lieutenant Colonel, survived Iwo Jima.)

Parting Thoughts

The bulk of this post comes from work I had done previously in preparing to teach an ethics course at my command. I pored over order after order, assembling the best and what I felt was the easiest to understand information about ethics. I relied on materials that are used to prepare company grade officers for taking command of their units, and tried to make that information as accessible to junior enlisted Marines as possible. I think it is accessible to a wider audience as well.

I think it’s pretty easy to see why Marine Corps ethics and values resonate with me – my insistence on honesty and self-improvement are part of the building blocks of ideal Marine behavior. I hope you enjoyed this crash course in Marine Corps ethics and leadership.


Dead Men Tell No Tales: The Keesler Saga V: The Wedding

What is Dead Men Tell No Tales? It is a selection of (hitherto) undisclosed, private ruminations and epiphanies. Most take the form of (slightly) edited letters to unnamed recipients, but some have been scavenged from the depths of private journals recently rediscovered. Over the next little while (however long it takes – days, weeks, months, years?) I’ll be posting them in episodic fashion for the reading pleasure of my nonexistent audience.

In The Keesler Saga, our melancholy author reflects on his experiences at his MOS School. The Wedding wraps up the saga, recounting a fond event I shared with friends.
Been a while, I know. I’m terrible at these things. I just don’t like writing about myself any more. I used to love writing. But that’s all for another time.
I got back from my buddy’s (Echo 3 Zulu) wedding yesterday. I left on Thursday after school. I’m going to try and recount the trip as fully as I can while it’s still fresh in my mind, mostly because I really enjoyed it!
My flight on Thursday featured a stop off in Atlanta, Georgia (out of Gulfport, Mississippi) before finishing off at Chicago O’Hare airport. On the flight to Atlanta, I sat next to an elderly gentleman (by elderly, I mean fifties or so) who noticed the book I was reading: Idlewild by Nick Sagan. The book was kind of a niche one, so I was impressed he recognized it; further, he knew of Nick’s father Carl Sagan (the man who was responsible for the nuclear winter theory, which was pretty influential in saving the world from nuclear annihilation in the days of the Cold War). So we chatted a bit about books (Orson Scott Card came up, and he liked Speaker for the Dead too!) and history.
Found out the guy worked at the Pentagon and used to be an Air Force officer. He was very familiar with the Marines and their multiple contributions to warfighting innovations, so that was cool. He also stated that “The Marines’ best kept secret is the fact that they’re actually very smart. They let people get away with the whole dumb brute facade…” In a small world moment, he mentioned he knew pretty much all the big wigs here on Keesler AFB, including the black two star General (not sure of his name, but I mentioned I saw him handing out chows and the gentleman said he had talked to this General about that the other day) and Brigadier General Touhill (the commander for the training squadron on Keesler).
Stopped off in Atlanta, chatted with my brother, flew into Chicago (finished reading Idlewild for the second time on the flight) and had to wait forever to get my bags. Echo 3 Kilo picked me up from the airport (part of Zulu’s class – they graduated September 26th and were on leave. Zulu is going to Okinawa, Kilo is going to Cherry Point, N.C.). In his vehicle was this chick named Victoria. She seemed kind of annoying and looked a bit like a skeleton. Turns out she’s not too bright either: according to Kilo, she doesn’t know what words like “possess” mean, and she’s been fired from something like 12 jobs in the past year because she’ll make personal phone calls while people are waiting to be serviced. Excellent! 
I got picked up around 2330 and we went over to Kilo’s brother’s house. Kilo’s brother was this larger (in the gut) Russian guy. He greeted us outside his cheap apartment in a shitty high-rise wearing only an overcoat and some shorts (ironically in dress shoes). The coat was not buttoned up, so his large, hairy gut was hanging out. It actually endeared him to me, for it reminded me of my own brother (although my brother is skinnier in my memory). Along with Kilo’s brother was this guy named Paul – apparently Kilo’s brother only hangs out with Paul to make fun of him. Paul is a 24 year old virgin who doesn’t work or go to school, and says shit like “I wouldn’t mind drinking HER piss!” 
Kilo’s brother proceeds to drink a lot (which he’d already been doing) and gets on Paul’s nerves. Paul and Victoria fight – Victoria constantly calling him a pussy and a faggot. Of particular queerness was the way she picked on him for, of all things, his hands. Apparently she has a fetish for hands. In any case, Paul constantly calls her a bitch, while Victoria constantly calls him a homo. Khait and his brother trade off turns on the computer, looking up random Russian rap videos, and Khait’s brother leg sweeps Paul into the deck a few times. Eventually this gets boring and Victoria wants to go home, so Kilo and I oblige her.
Kilo and I stop off in a shitty restaurant that reminded me of Shari’s in Bellingham or the Village Inn in Utah; it was called the Omega Restaurant. The food pretty much sucked. We go to Kilo’s parent’s house and crash. It’s 0300 on Friday, and we need to be up by 0600 so we have time to get to Utah by 1500 for the wedding rehearsal. When we wake up three hours later, Kilo gathers his shit together. I have awkward run-ins with his family, who don’t speak a lick of English (and I don’t speak a lick of Russian): kind faces and unsure handshakes ensue, with Kilo offering no help to bridge the language gap. When I inquired later as to why, he explained “You aren’t ever gonna fuckin see ’em again, so what’s matter?” Touche.
The drive over is pretty uneventful. We take some photos of Iowa novelty, such as the rolling corn fields or the convenience stores named “Kum and Go,” listen to news radio, and laugh when Victoria calls completely distraught over losing yet another job. We arrive safe and sound by 1200, check in to the room and dump our crap off, and call up Zulu. He was going to get picked up by one of his aunts but we grab him instead so we can hang out.
We go over to a nice little restaurant (I think it was called the Granite City) and I got a typical Donner dish: salmon with rice pilaf. The food’s pretty good. We’re all eagerly looking forward to the wedding. The greater Urbandale/Des Moines area is pretty nice too: a clean city, not too crowded, well landscaped, good climate. It would have been great growing up there, and I wouldn’t mind settling down there. After lunch we head over to the mall; again, not to crowded but still really nice and clean. It was two stories and had some pretty good stores and selections and what not.
We go to the rehearsal and meet up with Echo 3 Kilo 2, thus completing the groom’s party. Kilo 2’s wife, Allison, is there, and introductions are exchanged. The rehearsal is kind of a joke, since all we have to do is walk and stand, so we kinda fuck off for a bit, doing facing movements and the like (much to the chagrin of Allison). We meet the bridesmaids for the first time: Nicole will be walking with me, Marie with Kilo 2, and Karlee with Kilo. Karlee and Nicole are kind of overweight and plain, and they don’t seem to have very interesting personalities. Marie seems pretty cute, but she’s got this huge nose ring which is kind of offputting. 
We go to dinner at a nearby restaurant (close to the Stony Creek, where we stayed) and get some grub. What seemed odd was the way the bride’s party stayed separate from the groom’s party – I thought dinner would have been an appropriate time to get to know each other, but alas. I tell Zulu to tell his brother (in law?) that he should drop out of high school, like me, which prompts Zulu to say  “Don’t listen to that man over there. He may be very intelligent, but he dropped out of high school which means he isn’t as intelligent as he’d like to think!” All in good-natured fun!
We go back to the Stony Creek and mill around for a bit before heading out to get Zulu his wedding present. Kilo and I decide to go in on an Xbox 360 for him, since they were brought down to two hundred bones recently. We go to Target first but they’re out, so we hit up a GameStop next door. We were going to split the price but the stupid fucking cashier billed the whole thing to me, so she canceled that transaction and we ran it again; basically I got hosed out of $270 for a temporary amount of time (still waiting on those transactions to go through as of writing).
Once our shopping’s over, we all go to Ashley’s room and everybody proceeds to get pretty drunk. I don’t drink and I don’t usually have much to do when drinking’s going on, and I usually get reminded of my brother so I tend to be a bit subdued. Marie shows up a bit later on, and to my surprise, she doesn’t drink either. She’s looking very good (being in a two-piece swim suit, she is in great shape and is well endowed, plus I got a closer look at her facial features which I found to be attractive). I mostly keep to myself to start out with, but mosey over and talk with Zulu and Marie while they’re in the supposed “hot tub” (nothing more than a regular bath tub).
Small chat’s made. Marie seems somewhat similar to myself. Conversation’s necessarily awkward; I’m a strange fuck, and really reserved. Being around alcohol already makes my mind wander to unpleasant thoughts, and being around unavailable but really attractive women (who also seem like a great match for me!) doesn’t help anything at all either. I probably talk too much about my brother or how weird I am. We share some similar tastes in books and movies and what not, poke fun and disgust at the behavior of the rest of the wedding party (careless drunken words having been slung by many; Kilo 2 accidentally insinuated that Ashley was fat on her wedding night, and the best man and maid of honor are apparently talking about how Ashley and Zulu’s marriage is doomed because they fight too much). This goes on for hours, long after Zulu has left to sleep. I stay around ostensibly because Kilo’s around; really I just wanted to chat with Marie and he was my reason to be there. When he’s ready to go, I bid adieu. It’s something like midnight before we hit the room for sleep.
We get up around 0900 and get ready to head over to the church. We get dressed up in our Blues at the church and take a bunch of pre-wedding photos, just generally having a good time. It was the first time I’d worn my Blues and it felt pretty cool. I hope I looked good; I haven’t seen the wedding photos yet (just photos from Kilo’s camera). We also see the ladies; to their credit, they look very good in their dresses (still, Nicole and Karlee just aren’t my type). Marie’s moved her nose ring and looks absolutely great. Sigh!
After photos, we have a few hours to get lunch, so we (Zulu, Kilo and I) offer to grab the ladies something and get something for ourselves. Leaving the church we almost get in to a wreck because of a blind corner (and because Kilo’s a terrible driver) but even a near-brush with disaster does nothing to sully the mood. They get some Jimmy John’s (some kind of sub shop) and we get Wendy’s (blegh!). Then we head back and the actual wedding kicks off! 
Overall it was a decent ceremony, but two things stuck out as weird. Firstly, the deacon related the relationship to our job in TMDE, saying shit like “love is like the gear these marines work on; it needs to be recalibrated over time. Jesus helps us recalibrate our love for each other.” Furthermore, he completely forgot to bless the rings (having urged Kilo to step off and not realizing his folly, he looks to me to corroborate his unspoken opinion that Kilo had forgotten his cue, at which point I remind him of the rings and he just stares at me with his jaw open saying “Oh God, Oh God” over and over).
We head back to the Stony Creek for the reception, where the food is good and the mood cheerful. It is spoiled a bit, however, by some domestic troubles: apparently Allison is butthurt over the night’s previous follies (where the bridesmaids had apparently made her feel unwelcome) and is not initially present for the reception. She misses the toasts and the formal dances (I get my first slow dance with a girl during the dollar dance, and it’s ironically with my best friends’ wife. I am, needless to say, terrible, and let me also say I didn’t really want to dance in the first place), after which point we all change over in to more comfortable clothing. (I’m offered many alcoholic beverages but refuse them all.)
Marie again looks great: she’s got this sleek and sexy little black dress with a short skirt and black heels and still has that nose ring out. Sigh. Her boyfriend’s around so I don’t really talk to her much. I’m kind of at a loss for things to do; everybody else is drinking, Kilo’s trying to pick up on Karlee (who apparently breaks up with her boyfriend of four or five years because of his jealousy over Kilo’s maneuvers), Kilo 2’s got his wife and of course Zulu’s got his. The other two bridesmaids, Nicole and Marie, have their boyfriends here at the reception, and the only other single lady of age just isn’t my type at all, leaving me a bit of an odd man out (at least the other single lady had alcohol to fall back on).
I go upstairs a few times, call Laura once (whom I’d recently reconnected with – much to my surprise, she still answers and returns my phone calls with a decent amount of reliability!) and go online for a bit. I come back down finally and loosen up and dance like a moron. Some karaoke happens (Cheap Trick’s I Want You To Want Me) and I do some stupid dancing just for shits and giggles. (I adapt marching into dance, stepping on every major drum beat, and pausing each movement of a facing movement and the like. I even dance at parade rest in honor of Hudacek! Other terrible moves include that raising the roof bullshit, the Macarana, and an incorrect box step for the country tunes). Kilo 2’s wife got pretty drunk and was wanting to dance with me what felt like a bit much; then again, maybe she was just trying to get me to come out of my shell. 
All in all, it was a pretty fun night. I just wish I’d gotten some contact information from Marie or something, but she seemed to be in a pretty happy relationship with her boyfriend (and she’d been going with him for a while also). We get back to the room around midnight, and Karlee and Kilo are already there. They leave to go eat and drive around for a bit, and I release my sexual tension with some long awaited porn (my life sucks) before passing out and going to sleep. In the middle of the night I hear Kilo and Karlee re-enter; I inquire in the morning and he did not in fact get any, much to his own chagrin. 
And that was basically it. We woke up at 0930 or so to get me to the airport at about 1020 and leave Kilo with enough time to get back for the gift unwrapping at 1100. I arrived in Gulfport at 1700 and got picked up by Echo 4 Whiskey, whom I shared the stories of my adventure with and went out to eat with. The wedding was the most fun I’d had in a very long time and I’m extremely glad I went up for it. I’m really happy and excited for Zulu and Ashley and I wish them the best. 
Still, though. That Marie. I should ask Ashley to let me know if she ever becomes available. Wish I wasn’t such a douche and wish she didn’t already have a boyfriend. Maybe it’s better that way; I probably just would have made an ass of myself. And besides, I’m still stuck on Sara anyway – who, by the way, recently messaged me again and wants to see me before I go to Japan. It’s so hard to get over her when she keeps coming back in to my life at the most inopportune times! I don’t want to go back to Bellingham at all, but if there’s even the chance to see her for a half hour… Sigh.
Well, that’s about it from me. My heart’s aching in that strange, lonely way it always does late at night when I’ve done too much thinking and too much reminiscing. Don’t get me wrong, the wedding was great, but that greatness reflects and intensifies the voids in my life; reminding me how great it must be to have a family that loves you while at the same time remembering that my family consists entirely of one drunk with a wife and kid you’ve never met. Seeing my buddy get married and seeing all those other people in seemingly happy relationships didn’t help me cope with my own lack of romantic prospects either; but that’s largely my fault, being stuck on Sara as firmly as I am. Without further melodrama, I’m off. (2326 reads the clock as I close this document out.)