Parades and Mess Nights

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Parades & Mess Nights

Parades, parades, parades. Parris Island had too damned many parades. With a recruit series of four platoons graduating daily coupled with a weekly parade for visiting dignitaries, changes of command within organizations at the Depot and the Recruit Training Regiment, mixed with Vietnam combat awards ceremonies--Marines were constantly participating in parades. I love parades. I always have. The marching music of the Depot Band brought out the strut, patriotism and pride in every military man and most civilians. However, Parris Island was overly exuberant in preparing for the parades.

My first parade as K Company Commanding Officer is an example of the above exuberance. The Depot scheduled a welcome aboard ceremony for the Secretary of the Navy. A parade with 21 Gun salute was the plan of the day. The Depot published an Order setting the Parade for 10 AM with a requirement for all participants to be in place on the Depot Parade Deck at 0930. The Recruit Regiment received the order and endorsed it down to the three Recruit Battalions with a requirement that personnel march over to the Depot Parade Deck at 0900. The Recruit Battalions sent orders down to the companies to have the parade personnel assembled on the Battalion grinders at 0830. The Companies then ordered their parade participants to fall in outside the company headquarters at 0800. Imagine the rush of the Drill Instructors from reveille to PT to Chow to dressing in Alpha uniform and falling out at 0755 in formation ready for the parade. Ponder for a moment on the poor recruits in the platoon that were not given a last head call before rushing out the hatch and down the ladders to the formation. The morning coffee was in for a long ride.

Promptly at 10AM the ceremony began. By the commencement of honors the bladders of half the recruits were at the bursting point along with many permanent personnel who thoughtlessly consumed more than one cup of coffee. By the time of Adjutant’s Call puddles were visible around the shoes of many recruits. When time for Pass in Review arrived and the Adjutant faced the troops and shouted, "PISS IN YOUR SHOE!" nearly half of the recruits had already done so.

Mercifully, the recruits in the companies of the battalions kept right on marching past the reviewing stands and the reviewing dignitary, then across the roads to their own barracks and finally to the porcelain receptacles that awaited inside. Only the puddles and liquid trails on the parade deck remained as evidence of the pain and trauma suffered by those unfortunates who stood with quivering bodies trying desperately to control their bladders.

Colonel Tank, my Battalion Commander, held a Mess Night sometime afterward where I proposed a toast. It was after Mike Canaday had expertly entertained us with his bagpipes and after several toasts of Port Wine that my courage was sufficient to stand with my port glass high and say, "Mister Vice, I propose a toast to the Ground Officer’s bladder!"

Clinking his fork against his crystal goblet, Mr. Vice, the junior gold bar in attendance, shouted, "Hear! Hear! A toast to the Ground Officer’s bladder!" The officers in attendance stood up and raised their glasses for the toast.

"I offer this toast to the Ground Officer’s bladder because you can no more compare the Ground Officer’s bladder to the Aviator’s bladder than you can compare the rustic rod of the Roman Gladiator to the puny pecker of a Pagan Pugilist. It is with the deepest respect for the Ground Officer’s bladder that I solemnly swear never to enter a pissing contest with a Grunt!" There, I had done it. I chug a lugged the port and sat down. Much cheering disrupted the dignity of the assembly of gentlemen. In fact, the Tank seemed pleased by events thus far.

Put Preston, one of K Company Series Officers, joined me after the meal. Put warned me of a Captain from another Company who wanted a confrontation. I decided it would be better to depart early than hang around for a disgruntled grunt to start a fight. Put and I walked out the back door in our Mess Dress and proceeded toward our cars. I heard the "Slap, slap, slap," of running feet coming from behind. Suddenly, someone landed on my back with a bear hug gripping around my shoulders. Reaching up over my right shoulder, I grabbed the assailant’s jacket at the base of his neck and pulled him over my shoulder and onto the blacktop at my feet.

In the dim light I could see he was a stocky captain in Mess Dress white uniform. He was cursing loudly about airdales. Obviously he had consumed more than his allotment of Port wine. Blood was trickling down his face from the apparent contact of his forehead with the asphalt. "What do you want from me?" I asked.

Muttering incoherently, he staggered to his feet and faced me as though to fight. I said, "Leave me alone! I refuse to fight you! Go home and sleep this off!" I backed away from him and when about ten feet away I turned back towards my car with Put Preston at my side. Put said, "I know this guy. He used to be Company Commander of L Company."

"Slap, slap, slap." He was on my back, this time pummeling me. Once again, I reached back, grasped his lapel and pulled him over my shoulder onto the hardtop. His contact with the asphalt made a sickening "Smick!"

Looking down at him, I could see a new cut on his eyebrow that was bleeding profusely. His head was not holding up well against the hardtop surface of the parking lot. Put said, "Skipper, you have blood on your dress uniform."

"Oh great!" I said. "Now this guy is going to cost me some uniform money!"

The captain was getting up again. I wrestled him back to the deck and sat on his chest with my knees on his arms. I showed him both of my fists and said, "I have had enough of your crap! Do you see my fists? I haven’t used my fists yet but if you do not leave me alone, I am going to hurt you! Do you understand?" The belligerent captain muttered a list of expletives. He was lying quietly on his back as I got up and walked off again.

A minute elapsed before the angry captain jumped on my back for the third time. I responded the same as before. He landed on his head, but contrary to previous takedowns, he did not try to get up. I was glad. My bladder was screaming for relief.

Put Preston and I went our separate ways. Put to his BOQ room and me to my home in Laurel Bay. My uniform jacket, shirt, and cumber bund were ruined. The next day, word was out within the Regiment about the altercation. My CDI, Top Henry, told me that the captain had run his automobile into the main gate while exiting the Depot.

I never cared much for port wine after that Mess Night at Parris Island.

After reading this story my wife reminded me that within 24 hours, and when I was not home, the captain had called the house to apologize for his conduct at the Mess Night. My wife jumped on him with much fervor, starting with, "Who in hell do you think you are ruining my husband's mess dress!" Her tirade was such that no further calls were attempted by the captain.

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