I enlisted in the United States Marine Corp in 1981 and did my boot at the legendary Parris Island Recruit Depot in South Carolina, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, Platoon 3033. Over the course of eleven weeks, I learned what it means to be a United States Marine. We worked out physically and mastered the basics required to be part of the Marine Corps infantry (all Marines are riflemen and, when I was in, we were formed up in four-man rifle squads; I was a grenadier rifleman). This included two-weeks of rifle range during the second phase of training. The first week we qualified, the second week we worked the chow hall for the next set of platoons coming to the range. Everyone in Platoon 3033 easily qualified on the M16A1 rifle.
Meanwhile, back in Ohio my wife Mary (Mare) was working and taking care of our new son Michael. On graduation day from PI, Mare came down with some of my immediate family to see graduation, after which we drove back to Ohio.
Mare was raised in rural Ohio For several generations, her family had owned and operated a dairy farm. Like many young ladies raised by independent strong dads, Mare was very competent at outdoor activities. She owned a horse and was a masterful rider. She can fish, hike, climb, and weather the outdoors as well as anyone; a very tough gal.
After we arrived home, over the course of the weekend, we were discussing the training, and I mentioned the rifle range. She said, “oh that sound likes fun, let’s go do some shooting.” I had never shot with Mare (actually didn’t know she knew how), and wasn’t entirely sure what she was suggesting but followed along as she pulled out a small single-shot .22 and we headed out to the pasture.
A wooden fence ran along the south side of the woods, essentially cutting the woods in half. We walked out and lined Coke cans along the fence, then headed back to the other side of the field, roughly an acre away.
The rifle was a single-shot .22 with a pump, so the user needed to pump the rifle after each shot, which chambered the next round. Having just arrived from PI, I confidently shouldered the rifle and fired at the cans. Well the .22 is not as accurate as an M16, and I hadn’t sighted the weapon; also, I was firing from a standing, off-hand position, and it was a wooded area with distractions, and I was cocky as hell, a tad overconfident. I nailed the majority of the Coke cans but not all of them, cool enough as long as I did better than Mare.
We trotted down the hill, lined the cans up again and ran back to the firing line. Mare picks up the rifle. I started to say something and she gave me this interesting look that essentially said “I’ve got this but, thanks…”
I stood back and watched her. She shouldered the weapon, ripped off a round, pumped, fired, pumped, fired, and so on.
Every single can hits the ground with a clean hit.
She lowers the weapon, looks at me and says, “were you paying attention?”
Yes ma’am I was.
That is one of many reasons why she is still one of my dearest friends after two kids, seven grandkids, and a ton of life has passed.
Some lessons are learned very well, very quickly!