I wrote this letter to some friends in the Marine Corps the night after it happened.
When he came to our group, four of us in all, he went up to Carrie and said, "And who are you?" Carrie introduced herself and the Commandant went around and shook all of our hands. I explained to him that we were with the Tank Battalion and made a little small talk. Then I saw my opportunity and took it.
I told him that it was the third time we had met and that I doubted very much if he would remember. I told him that he came to our TBS class and gave his "Nay Cross" speech (Latin for "Not like yesterday") and then again at the Marine Corps Ball last year.
Then, hogging the conversation, I told him a story about that day.
During that TBS visit, we had an hour and a half lunch that particular day, a veritable unprecedented amount of time for lunch and all of us lieutenants were all looking forward to it. Then I told him that when he walked in unexpectedly, he gave the speech that took our entire lunch period and we had to rush to even grab a bite to eat.
What I did not tell him was that the instructor, a not-so-well-liked SPC, swallowed a mouthful of chew he was not supposed to be using, much to the delight of about 250 lieutenants.
The group was laughing by then and he smiled, ducked his head, raised his arms in a funny gesture. He said, "All they think about is getting chow, I bet they do not remember anything about the "Nay Cross" speech. We all laughed and assured him that we did (The other couple with us was another lieutenant I had gone to TBS with and his wife.) It was a funny moment and I bet no lieutenant had ever mentioned to him that he had ruined a long lunch period before.
We all talked for a couple of minutes until I shot in with another one. I told him that in 1990, I was a corporal and had taken my mother and Carrie to 8th and I for the ceremony. General Gray was the Commandant and when we met him, I asked him for a picture of him with my mother. He obliged, I took the photo, and then asked if I could get one. My mother did not know how to operate the camera and Carrie was not right there so I asked a nearby female PFC to take it. As I was standing there next to the Commandant, I jokingly said that if I get the picture back and it is off center, I would hunt her down and kill her. She took the picture and I thanked the Commandant for his time.
A month later when I got the film developed, the picture of my mom and the Commandant was picture perfect. The one of me and the Commandant.....CUT OFF AT THE NECK!!!!
General Krulak got a kick out of this and I transitioned right in while the laughter was still in the air with, "and so, I ask of you if I could get a picture by someone I trust" and pointed to Carrie. He said "SURE, but even better.." He snapped his fingers at the PFC standing nearby who was taking pictures for Public Affairs and told him to take a picture with the good camera. So we all got in and they took about three. Then he insisted I get a picture of just him and me. Then he told the PFC to grab my camera and made him take a picture with that. It was great.
After that we bid our farewells and Carrie mentioned to the group how I was never the shy one when it came to asking for pictures.
All in all, it was fun. I figure that either I will get a promotion to meritorious captain or McDonalds will soon have a new graveyard shift manager.
P.S. This is the response I got back from Gunnery Sergeant Ron Buckley, a gunny that taught me a good portion of what an officer is supposed to do. He was the Assistant Marine Officer Instructor at the University of Washington's NROTC when I was going to college.
"Well, you never cease to amaze me. One thing is for sure, you did understand the CMC's message of not like yesterday. In the past, no 2nd Lt would have had the confidence to have such a vivid conversation with the Commandant and live to tell about it. You are truly becoming all that I thought you would be. Tell Carrie and the kids hello and stay out of trouble.
Leaders are like Eagles, they don't flock, you find them one at a time...."
Read a great speech by General Krulak about what the Marine Corps stands for.