In The Field
Nothing throughout this entire book reminds me more of my experience of being a “Marina” at Camp Longhorn than this chapter. At Camp Longhorn, the age group of boys and girls going into the ninth grade participate in this program. The Marine/Marina program is based off of the military. The founder of Camp Longhorn, Tex Robertson, a war veteran himself, started the program back in the 1940’s to teach older campers about respect and the rules of military and the feeling of being in a war. As crazy as it sounds, those three weeks of summer camp were some of the most challenging days of my life. When I look back on all my years at Camp Longhorn, I remember my Marina year as by far my best and most rewarding because of the lessons I learned and all that I had achieved.
On a random morning within the first week of camp, before wakeup, the Marina officers bombard the marina cabins, (which float on the water) while screaming at the marinas and throwing them into the lake. Once in the water, the marinas have to swim to a far away ladder, get out and then sprint to the field where there are more officers waiting and pegging the Marinas with ice. Once all the Marinas have all arrived at the field and the officers have forced the marinas into perfectly straight and ordered lines, the officers go over ground rules and teach the marinas the salutes for each officer. Each year, the Marinas forced to wear certain outfits and hairstyles to ensure that they look as unattractive as possible at all times of the day through out the entire term, as they sing songs (for the rest of the camps entertainment), do team building activities, and help serve the rest of camp.
Going to summer camp in the blazing hot mid-July heat for three weeks without air-conditioning and electronics, is not exactly the same thing as being drafted into the cold Vietnam War. However, these two situations both share the common factor of being sent away for a period of time to an unfamiliar place, with unfamiliar people that become your family within 48 hours. In addition to this minor similarity, my experiences as a Marina resembled some of moments in this chapter. For instance, through out the term we would constantly make jokes about anything and everything, from how we looked like aliens with our two rats nest pigtails on the side of our face, to the ridiculous skits we acted out, in order to make light of the situation. Azar does this too when he says “like those old cowboy movies. One more redskin bites the dirt, (158)”. In this moment, Azar is making an insensitive joke about Kiowa’s death in order to make light of the misery in the situation.
Another similarity between my camp experience and what the soldiers are going through in this chapter is extreme exhaustion. During my Marina year, we had nighttime raids that kept us up late into the night. On top of that, we were forced to sprint everywhere around camp. Just as the soldiers in the chapter “had not sleep during the night, not even for a few moments (158)”, we were sleep deprived. Lastly, and most importantly, one of the most anticipated Marine/Marina traditions is the Marine/Marina mud. I could directly relate to the feeling the soldiers had while they were digging through the mucky mud in search of Kiowa’s body when we had to preform skits in a pit of deep stinky thick mud for the entire camp. However, instead of rain we had officers spraying us with water hoses that caused mud to fly through the air making it almost impossible for us to open our eyes.
In life, there are some experiences that seem unbearable at the time, like war, but when you reflect on them, you realize they have changed you forever. For me, Marina year at camp was one of those experiences.