When I first met Sam, we were still new to Missouri, and he and his family were neighbors of ours in a condo development that was starting to slide downhill. Sam, at that time, always had a spit cup at hand for his chewing tobacco, and had a deep rural drawl, that made his larger than normal vocabulary almost sound humorous. He had just joined our Condo board, as did my wife, and though I privately called him 'burp' (he did, alot), he was surprisingly sharp and diligent, surprising to me anyway - at that time, that his being in the Marines didn't really lend much of a plus in my eyes, not that it was a minus, but I still had a touch of the old 'people join the military because they don't have ambition' view, and it played into the rural air about him (hey, this was nearly 20 yrs ago, after playing in a band for ten years on the west coast, gimme a break - Sam did).
As we began to spend more time together, our wives had become best friends and our boys prickly friends, politics and history began to crop up often in our conversations, and something I wasn't much used to began to happen, something that I wasn't used to happening at all, let alone frequently - I was being not only corrected, but shown some wide gaps in what I thought I knew, regarding the Constitution, the Supreme Court, American History in general, and the Civil War in particular, and even about Edmund Burke.
WTF!? How was this jarhead more knowledgeable than... than me?!
Lol.It turned out that Sam was a fast rising Sgt. (I had no idea how many grades of Sgt. there could be!) in the Marines, a top recruiter in his office, then managing the office, then top in St. Louis, then the district and then over the entire region. He took his job, and the young men his job was about, very seriously. He showed me the recommended reading list for "Riflemen" recruits, and the list he augmented that with, and my jaw dropped. He also was not an unusual character for the Marines, and he saw to it that his recruits followed suit as well. So much for there being any 'poorly edum'icated' meaning to having a rural drawl or any of the other jarhead caricatures. He was a plain spoken man, yet not to be trifled with. A few years later, after we'd both moved out of the condo's to a nicer neighborhood, some poor carload of teen rowdies decided to drive down and up the lawns on Sam's street in the dark of the a.m... their fun met an abrupt end as Sam, clad only in his shorts, flew out of his house with a baseball bat and charged their car, bashing in the windshield, drivers side and rear windows, before their terror could carry them off into the night. Double LOL.
Sgt. Sam was very capable, well informed, widely read, and a damn good guy.
I had the pleasure of being invited to a few of the 'wet downs' after his promotions and to spend time with he and his Marines over the years, and it was always a blast; but not only that, it went a long way towards showing me that my jaded musicians view of the world was the view that was the real oddity, and that a view that saw 'normal' as more likely being that of the solid and trustworthy person, willing and eager to serve and defend their country, that was far more normal and justified a view than I had dreamed - and that was reaching several years back before 9/11 - and what a pleasure it was to be rid of the immature view of the world I'd gathered 'on the road'.
Sam and his family were transferred out of state about 6 yrs ago, and what with another move or two, I guess we haven't seen them in about 3 yrs now, but no matter - come Nov. 10th, it's time once again to wish the United States Marine Corps. a hearty Happy Birthday, and to Sam...wherever you and your family are, a fond