Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The Force Slept

In case you might have missed the biggest news in years, the Colonel will let you in on one of the worst kept secrets of all time...

A new Star Wars movie is coming out.

The Colonel remembers, vaguely, watching the first movie in the summer of 1977 -- 38 years ago.

Thirty-eight years!

There's been a lot of gravel crunched under the Colonel's boots since that summer.  And, a lot of mud squished, sand squenched, and dirt disturbed into great clouds of choking dust.

But enough about the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda's housekeeping...

The summer the first movie came out the Colonel was participating in a six-week sleep deprivation study on the banks of Chopawamsic Creek at Marine Corps Base Quantico, closely supervised by a score of sanctioned sadists skilled in the fine art of mental manipulation and menial task motivation.  

A year later, the Colonel and the 250 other rising college seniors participating in this right of passage would be commissioned second lieutenants in the United States Marine Corps.  But, for now, the title was "Candidate" and it was not a particularly prestigious title.

Toward the end of that not-so delightful detour in what had been an otherwise carefree college career, the candidates of Bulldog 77 were granted 18 hours of liberty.  Most found a quiet place to eat a leisurely meal and then spent the balance of their free time catching up on their sleep.  A few came back to the barracks raving about a science fiction movie for which they had sacrificed three hours of their precious free time.  

The Colonel knows, the movie was only two hours long.  But, this was in the days before multiplexes and the line to see this movie on the one screen in the theater was around the block.  So, seeing Star Wars that summer was a three-hour experience.

That night, after lights-out in the 50-man squad bay, one of the candidates who had seen the movie announced in his best Obi-wan voice, "use the force, Luke," and switched on his flashlight. Another candidate switched on his flashlight, and breathed hoarsely, "the force is strong with this one."

The two candidates leaped from their bunks and closed on each other swinging their flashlight beams with a low hum.  As they swung their beams together they both made a crashing noise...

You get the picture.

The squad bay filled with low laughter.  Most of us weren't sure what we were laughing about.  Some of us were laughing because we knew what was about to happen next.

Suddenly the lights blazed on and the flashlight duelists froze as a gravelly voice boomed from the now wide open double doors at the end of the squad bay.  

"What kinda fairy dance are you two fools doing!  C'mere!  Front leaning rest position, move!"   

The two candidates scampered front and center and dropped into the push-up position.

"Begin!"

Obi-wan and Darth began four-count push-ups, counting each move of the exercise and each repetition out loud.

The Marine gunnery sergeant who had been the bane of our existence that long hot summer stepped between the two exercising candidates and strode a half dozen steps further into the squad bay.

"I heard laughing!  Who was laughing at my two fairy dancers!"  

From the far end of the squad bay, a candidate, erroneously emboldened with the knowledge that graduation was only a few days away, let out a loud and obviously fake snore.

Forty-seven candidates, save the snorer and the still counting exercisers, lay tensely still and quiet in their racks, anticipating the command to "Get on line!"  

Seconds ticked by.  

"Snoooore..."

"One, two, three, twenty-eight..."

The command to get out of the rack and line up in the center of the squad bay never came.

Instead, our demonic drill instructor only quietly commanded Obi-wan and Darth to "recover."   The lights went out, and a voice that was far too human bid, "Goodnight, candidates.  Reveille is 0330."  

Four days later, the Colonel and four of his Ole Miss NROTC (Marine Option) buddies were headed back to Mississippi leaner and meaner than ever.  Stopping overnight in Knoxville, the five decided to take in a movie.  

The Colonel fell dead asleep somewhere shortly after "these are not the droids you're looking for."    

                    

  
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