(This article appeared in the November
19, 1999 issue of the Observation Post, the base newspaper
for Twentynine Palms, California.)
1stLt Jason D. Grose
1st Tank Bn Adjutant
A couple of months ago, my wife came to me and said she
had a plan to plant grass on the side of our house in place
of the expanse of sand that had been unable to support anything
resembling plant life since the last millennium. I smirked
and in a condescending manner wished her luck.
Over the next week, she overturned the sand, mixed in
some topsoil, and put down the green cotton candy-like mixture
of grass seed, fertilizer, and metabolic steroids necessary
to give life a fighting chance to grow. Over the next
few weeks, she watered this little patch three times a day,
using as much water as the base swim tank uses in a summer.
At first, we had a beautiful patch of wet sand next to the
Then it happened. First, just a little green fuzz
starting forming and I naturally assumed my wife had labored
to successfully grow the largest patch of mold in base housing.
Certainly, she had used enough water to accomplish this and
I was duly impressed. But then, as though on cue, the
grass shot up, filled in, and unashamedly stood tall as if
to defy all I had learned in my 8th grade biology class.
What did this teach me? For one thing, to never
question my wife which, after 12 years of marriage, she will
be glad to hear. But more importantly, it reminds me
of something all of us stationed here at Twentynine Palms
can do well to learn. It is cliché, it is trite, but
it is so true. You must bloom where planted.
I came here to the desert on May 18th, 1998 (known in
my house as “The Day of Banishment). Being stationed
in Yuma, Arizona for five years as an enlisted Marine, I knew
the desert and the misery normally associated with those first
few weeks. I had also known MCAGCC as a young corporal
at CAX many years ago and therefore thought I was prepared
for what I was getting into. I had come to love the
desert while stationed in Yuma and coming to “The Stumps”
was no big deal. Or so I thought.
Driving to the base for the first time in May, the first
bad sign was when all my truck windows melted. OK, maybe an
exaggeration but it was blowtorch hot. That night, I
drove to the water tower to overlook the base and wondered
what I had gotten myself into. I had a wife and two
small children who were finishing up school in Washington
State waiting to come and join me. Many questions ran
through my mind atop that hill. What was I bringing
them into? What were those beautiful, shimmering rectangular
pools of water reflecting the moonlight? What was that
I thought I was going to be prepared. I thought
I would show up and love the desert just like I loved Yuma
and fairy princesses would herald my arrival. Well,
I showed up but things were different. Even the fairy princesses
I realized that you do not love the desert right away.
There is a “breaking in” period where you come
to appreciate the beauty of the desert over several months.
Coming from four years in Seattle, Washington, and six months
in Quantico, Virginia, the desert was a total shock despite
my former experience with it. But now, and please do
not let my monitor hear this, I really enjoy the desert.
What was that I heard, a few snickers? Was that a guffaw?
Who said “Yeah, right!”? Well, I have learned
a couple of other things since I have been here that I would
like to get off my chest.
At my first hail and farewell, 1st Tank Battalion was
saying goodbye to a Gunner and his wife out at Indian cove
Campground and after he said a few nice things about his time
here (almost inevitably the phrase “I will miss the
people but not the place” is uttered) and then turned
it over to his wife. The first words out of her mouth
were “I hate this place.” It did not get much
better after that and I made a mental note to slip her a “Toastmasters”
card. But what sticks in my head about it is that she was
miserable their entire tour here and I wondered why.
For all the bad things said about Twentynine Palms (and
the sympathy points you rack up when talking to Marines stationed
elsewhere, and don’t tell me you don’t play on
that), I go back to my point of “bloom where planted.”
If you want to sit in your house all day and cry about the
environment you are in, then yes, you will be miserable and
this will be an awful, desolate, boring duty station.
But that will be your choice, not the Marine Corps’.
“Heck, LT, what is there to do?”
Good Lord, I wish I did not have to sleep because there
are so many things to do here! I am a computer geek
so I would go to the library and use the powerful, underused
ones they have there for free. I read a lot so I would
take advantage of the library on base. If you like movies,
there is a free one at a real, full-size theater every night!
If sports is your fancy, they have cheap bowling, two
gyms, intramural sports including basketball, football, softball,
soccer, bowling, and golf just to name a few. I have
the bruises and a currently-useless shoulder to prove the
football program exists.
You can also invest in yourself. For the price of
a weekend in San Diego, you could enroll in a college course
and start your continuing path to self-improvement.
With Tuition Assistance paying 75% of your enrollment costs,
even the most junior enlisted Marine can get educated with
a little discipline and motivation.
As a Marine or a family member, your free time could be
used to help others. The Navy and Marine Corps Relief
Society is always looking for help. The Key Volunteers
Network at your Battalion is also a good way to help your
fellow Marines. There are Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and
YMCA opportunities. Instead of sitting in the barracks
or wasting time at the bar, you could help children whose
daddy might be gone. I am sure that those kids would
adore even just a little of your attention. You could
even earn a ribbon for doing this!!
The list goes on and is only limited by your ability to
give of yourself. We are Marines and Marine families.
We help others when we can because help is what we would want
when needed. What better way to chase away the self-pity
of living in Twentynine Palms than to invest in ourselves
or help others in need?
A small patch of grass overcame the scorching desert because
someone cared enough to create an environment to succeed.
My advice to you is “Get off your butt and bloom.”
The Marine Corps has provided the water.
Me? I have to go mow the grass.
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