Terry Thomas

The Smoking Lamp is Lit

The Smoking Lamp is Lit: By Terry Thomas


The first week of boot camp was without a doubt the hardest seven days I can recall. It was all about brain washing and brain washing they did. And they did it very well.

We progressed quickly though as far as leaning the dos and the don’ts and the different commands for marching. After all it was week one and there was much to learn before graduation came.

Your were not giving a lot of time to recall you had to focus or you would wind up marching into your own men. That wasn’t cool, not cool at all.

I noticed some of the boots on base had their trousers bloused. This was where your pant legs were cupped above your boot top and it looked good. They also had the same green hats as ours but their hats were well formed and shaped. Ours were soft and crushed like they had been in inside your boot for a few weeks.

I know the DI’s knew we were looking and wondering and they continued to let us do just that for the next few weeks. Same thing every day, march, run and study the Marine Corp manual. And of course mail call.

Then there was the bathing time. Now in the Corp you were led to the showers with your towel around your waist and when told so you were to entry. The shower room was small and tight and it had twelve shower heads so everyone got to shower at one time.

Now keep in mind we were still kids and it brought back memories of the showers in the locker rooms at school, only smaller. So first thing everybody kind of forgot they were in the Marine Corp and starting laughing and cutting up. That was not good.

We heard the whistle and everybody snapped to attention as best we could. You know naked and the sound scared the crap out of you. Out of the DI’s mouth came the word on your bellies and down we went. Twelve naked young men on their bellies in a room big enough for about seven young men. That was not fun, so up and down we went based on his command until he was sure we understood that fun was not part of the Marine Corps manual.

After about five minutes I think he knew we got it.

Now this next thing I swear to be true. It was day seven a Sunday and the DI had just given everyone a Head break. No one could go or do anything without the DI’s permission. So after he gave us a Head break, Head being the term the Corp used for a bathroom we returned to the road and set on our foot lockers organizing and polishing our stuff.

I had not taken a dump since I arrived, yea seven days. And now it was time. I walked down to the DI’s hut and banged on the wall shouting “Sir, Private Thomas request permission to use the head, Sir”.

And out came the DI. After drilling me for not using it when he called Head call and me explaining I did but I hadn’t had a bowel movement since I got here. I could see the look on his face. It was like that he understood. As long ago he too had to pass through boot camp. So permission was granted, that was one fine sit down.

Later on that morning we heard the DI call out, smoking lamp it lit. We all just kind of looked at each other before it settled in. We could smoke. Seven days and now we could smoke.

So here we were a small group of boots dizzy as all get out from that first cigarette. Hacking and coughing as our lungs had been cleansed by the Marine Corps six days of running and drug free program.

Just standing there wavering back and forth and smoking that cigarette like we had been friends for life.

Three pound old coffee can for the butts.

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