Drill Sergeant

He could run all day


As he yelled out cadence

Or screamed at the shitbirds

Who just couldn’t stay in step

Everyone tried to stay out of contact

With those glaring brown eyes

No one wanted him in their face

With the brim of his hat

Pressing against your forehead

As he screamed at you

With breath so foul

It could tarnish brass

We were told he was up for promotion

But they wouldn’t give him that stripe

Until he got off probation

For killing a man in a bar

Killed him with his hands

After taking the knife away

And tossing it aside

YES, DRILL Sergeant!

We yelled time and again


In answer to his questions

The smallest infraction caught his eye

And was immediately corrected

With yells of “Assume the position”


And give me 25”

We did it right

No one wanted to falter or fail

And have that madman in our face

Or to find ourselves on our backs

Arms and legs in the air

Dying cockroaches

No mistakes

They were not allowed

All orders were to be obeyed immediately

No questions, no hesitation

Or pay the price

He made us more afraid of him

Than we were afraid of dying

When we got better

And weren’t just raw recruits

In the mornings he called for sick call

“Sick call.  Too late.  Get back”

All in one fast breath

He talked to us sometimes

Told stories

Pointed out that the best use of a condom

Was to put over your rifle barrel

To protect it from the rain

Gun? GUN?

Drop your pants!  Drop ‘em!

Now say it

“This is my rifle, this is my gun

This is for killing, this is for fun”

YES, DRILL Sergeant!

One afternoon

He showed me

How to wrap the poncho beneath my butt

Put my rifle at an angle inside

Drape the hood over my head

And make a mini-tent

That would protect me from the heaviest rain

A lesson I used time and time again

In a land of rain and jungle and terror

One of many lessons

One of many that were all designed to help us

Come home

He had

He had three times and now they wouldn’t let him

Go again

So he trained us instead

After his second tour

He wanted to go to the Jungle Warfare School

In Panama

But they said no

After two tours in the jungle

And his CIB, a star or two

And hearts

No need for that school they said

So he took 45 days leave and went on his own

Uncouth, vulgar, a madman

A killer

Proven in at least two parts of the world

A living terror

Who put the fear in all of us

Fear of doing it wrong, not getting it right

Of having him on our ass

We learned our lessons well

We became hard and smart

We moved together and we move fast

We became terrors in our way

No time to think, just do

“What is the law of the bayonet?”

He would scream

“KILL!!” we screamed the reply

“Get down!” He would scream

And we would drop

But not fast enough

UP! DOWN! UP! DOWN! Until we got it right.

And we did, all of it

Thank God

In times that followed I didn’t think of him

But the things that he drilled in me stayed

They became keys of survival

Not once, but day after day

I just reacted the way he made me

In all those hours of getting ready

For the times when it would be real

When the shitbirds would pay with more

Than having to assume the position

And give more than another 25

Now more than 30 years have gone by

Who knows where you might be

Or where so many of my friends are from back then

Did they come back because of you

Or how many could say that

But I thank God for what I became

For what was drilled in me

Are some of us here because of you?

Let me answer with the same first words

I ever said to you

Yelled at the top of my lungs





8:56 PM