This is Part Two of the Dirty-Thirty series. If you are just now reading, please go to my link up to the top of my blog that says, "My Marine Corps Days.." to follow from the beginning. :)
I want to introduce you to another female Marine that made her journey with me through bootcamp. She had seen the quarter-deck just as much as I did. So, here is LCpl Bushard (now Mrs. Purganan, since she has since been married, and now out of the Marine Corps.)
After leaving my parent’s home which was a daily battle, boot camp seemed like a cake walk. I had asthma, a bevy of other physical ailments, but all I had ever wanted to be was a Marine. The plane I was on delivered a handful of us a day late and a dollar short, everyone else had received their gear, learned the gist of things – I scrambled to find my footing. The day we met our Drill Instructors, I knew it was going to be more fun than I had originally thought. Someone peed themselves on purpose, refused to train, others buckled under the pressure, and I remained a wallflower. They didn’t even know my name until week three – it was looking to be more pleasant than I had originally thought. Getting screamed at and being held accountable for other people’s problems were not exactly my idea of a good time, but I was used to it and for once it all seemed to make sense. My dad and stepmom were experts at making me feel like a useless piece of crap, so when then Sergeant De Leon, singled me out and seemed to have a vendetta against me, it wasn’t anything I couldn’t handle. I suppose I deserved it. One night, when we were seemingly getting a chance to let loose for once, I unleashed my spot-on impression of De Leon’s charismatic “march.” The woman looked like she was having a seizure sometimes while marching us, and as soon as I had mocked her, I knew I was going to be dead the next day. She had me on the quarterdeck doing “mountain climbers” for at least an hour. I have never hated a person more than I hated her after that day. When the others belittled us, were hard on us, it was for training purposes or because we genuinely screwed the pooch. De Leon just couldn’t stand me. I think she was just jealous of my fabulous rack (as I was one of the only girls who kept their boobs after a bazillion push-ups). It’s highly, highly probable that’s what it was.
I idolized our other instructor, Sgt. Gonzales. I remember most specifically, the immense pride I felt when then Sgt. Gonzales went through and named the people she thought deserved to be there. I beamed with joy for weeks that she thought I should be there. 20 second shower without soap? Sure! I deserve to be here! Oh, you’re going to dump our footlockers again? Awesome! I deserve to be here! … I wanted very little more than to be exactly like her as a Marine. She was hard on us, but I could see she gave a crap. As a Latina-lite myself, I understood her quirks. One of my funniest interactions with her actually had to do with my heritage. I had made friends with a recruit called Rocio Jaimes. We would clean and hang out, and since we both speak Spanish, it was our language of choice. One day, Jaimes and I had been cleaning the bathroom and I had to go out to the gear locker. I accidently bumped into Sgt Gonzales and, in Spanish, said our usual ditty of “good morning so-and-so, requesting permission to blahblahblah.” She looked completely confused, and once I realized what I had done, I re-said it all, this time in English. She stood there dumbfounded for a second and I slinked my way over to the gear locker – which happened to be right outside the DI hut. A few seconds later I heard a snippet of a conversation about what had happened. Gonzales saying, “She was speaking Spanish.” Knowing they were talking about me, I listened in. De Leon pulled up my record and read the part where it says I am Hispanic. “She doesn’t LOOK Hispanic” I heard Gonzales say, “Well, I guess in her hips and thighs, but she’s so white.” And, for the next few minutes the conversation continued, debating how I do and don’t show my Mexican. Gonzales said something about my attitude and De Leon made a reference to my boobs. Figures.
The last week was when I realized how much more scary the idea of leaving boot camp was than boot camp itself. Everything, even the squad bay thrashings and the lack of a decent shower, had become routine. I was lucky enough to have made a few friends and passed through everything without injury or failure. I wasn’t sure what was going to come next, and the idea of having all that freedom again kind of terrified me. My parents were hard on me, berated me, belittled me, but it was all out of scorn. These women, for better or worse, had made me into the best possible version of me, and I will forever be in their gratitude. Yes, even De Leon. After all, my mother always told me to have sympathy for those less fortunate – and less endowed.
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