It was brought to my attention that I need to be careful with my use of ERMAs Easily Recognizable Military Acronyms So I will try and spell them out first.
MTF = More To Follow
Phil was going to school in Brockport studying Criminal Justice. I had been in the Navy for a little over 5 years, a First Class Petty Officer, and was stationed at the Naval Ship Yards In Brooklyn NY NY (we were moving the base functions to Staten Island). I had been there for about 6 to 8 Months I guess and the 1st gulf war was happening.
I was working in the Cabinet/Carpenter Shop one day when my Chief came in and told me I had a phone call in his office from a Marine Master Sergeant. My Chief then started to ask me why was a MSgt was calling me, What did I do, Was he going to see a report from base security, why didn’t I tell him I had done something to the local Marines, Who else was involved.. Well you get the idea.
So my Chief escorts me to his office and sits down to wait for the hammer to drop. I pick up the phone and although it has been a while the whole conversation that went something like this (this conversation has been reformatted to fit your screen and has been edited for content to maintain a G rating):
Art: Hello this is Petty Officer Dykeman
MSgt: Hello Petty Officer I am MSgt (I can’t remember sorry) and I have your brother in my office and he tells me he will not enlist in the Marines until you say it is Okay.
Art: MSgt please put my brother on the phone
MSgt: Stand By
PJ: Hi Art
Art: Phil listen to me very closely
Art: As soon as we are off the phone tell the MSgt that you need time to think it through and walk away. Do not let him hold you there or say anything else to you about promises or job or anything. Do not sign anything, I mean anything. I will meet you at home this weekend and we can talk about this.
PJ: But I want to do this
Art: Great but don’t do it until we talk. They will promise you all kinds of stuff but in the end you will only be a grunt. If you want to go that s fine but I want you to know what you are getting into before hand. Don’t sign anything.
PJ: I know what I am doing.
Art: Just wait and meet me at home this weekend.
Art: I am serious about this wait
We hang up and my chief says “At least you didn’t screw up. You know he just signed the papers, right”. I said he better not have but even if he did it is only delayed entry papers and he can still get out of it.
So I go home and guess what my Chief was right, PJ had signed to join the Marines and was leaving in a month for Paris Island. He was joining to be part of security forces and had his first set of orders guaranteed (in writing) that he would be stationed overseas at a security unit for his first tour. I tried to explain that the security thing is the hook to get you so that after your first set of orders you will become an ordinary grunt in the Marines. He said he didn’t care and was doing it.
That was the only time we ever talked about his decision to join. He never told me that I was right and I never rubbed it in knowing I was. We did talk about our military futures when ever it was time for one of us to re-enlist or renegotiating orders. We tried hard to get stationed close or at least at the same deployment locations (another story entirely when we were deployed together)
I didn’t know how strong minded he was until then. Now I can look back and see that he chose a path and followed it, right or wrong, he went with it to the end regardless of what his big brother or anyone else said.
Although we never talked much about some of his decisions, when we did he was always firm in his conviction that this was right for him at this point and time. Believe me when I tell you that he went down some paths (bringing a few of us along for fun) that were definitely questionable (another story(s) for another time) but he was better for it in the end.
He was very proud of the decisions he made. I don’t believe he had many regrets about them. If you had ever talked to him about a decision he made that seemed a bit off to the rest of us you knew it was his way, right or wrong. It was just the way he chose to go, no matter the state of mind or condition he was in when he made it.
I am proud that he was strong enough not to listen to me or anyone else that tried to sway him. Although it was short he had a wonderful life, family, career and was happy doing it the way he wanted.
Christmas in our home was a special time. Mom loved this time of year and always made it special. The Christmas party the weekend before Christmas-everyone new when- no invitation was ever sent yet everyone was there. This is how Dad always came to Christmas. In the stories that came with the family and friends. Though everyone always said they missed him, I always found he was the life of the party.
We ate the leftovers Christmas Day so Mom didn’t have to cook. The candies and peanut butter balls. the mint surprise cookies(thank you again Marie).
Christmas morning Phil and I would wake each other up and sneak a glance at the stockings and presents. Though the rule in the house was you could have your stocking when you woke up, Phil and I would wait until we got Mom up. We would start the fire and get her coffee water on and wait until we couldn’t wait any longer to wake Mom up. She’d make herself a cup of coffee and say get your stockings. Santa always put the fun stuff in the stockings. Phil and I would play for a while watching the clock tick til she said we could wake up Art. This wake up call Art always enjoyed-with a little bit of fear Phil and I would jump on Art remove his covers make lots of noise and if that didn’t work I’d get his cookie(a freckle on his heel). He would eventually get up and Phil and I would run to Mom to save us. We’d watch as he opened his stocking and we’d get the big present Santa always brought us. One year he brought us a black and white TV for us kids. It was that year that suspicion arose as the tag had similar handwriting to our Mother. That morning we snuck around on this mission to find the truth– if Mom’s handwriting matched. We had her give us writing samples and just as we realized they did match, She said “you know, if you don’t believe you don’t recieve” and just like that the quest was over and we never questioned it again–to this day we’ve never stopped believing. Though a few years later we did realize that Santa never filled Mom’s stocking or got a big present like we did–and she was definitely on the “nice list”. We decided it was to hard for Santa to do the parents too and became his helpers. In our home we had Santa and the Three Elves deliver presents-that was a good Christmas-Have you ever experienced the real Joy of giving? And so a new tradition was born. We would spend the day snacking and playing games-trying to beat Mom at whatever we were playing and laughing. Christmas is good times.
I hold tight to this thought every year as my brothers and I eventually started spending Christmas with our spouses and children recreating our childhood in the tiniest of ways. A phone call to each other to make sure we know we are thinking of each other. Christmas is for the children. For believing in the unbelievable. Happy times even when a piece of us is missing. And now for the first time in eight years, I am spending Christmas with my little brother’s family. Another piece of me is missing as is a piece of them, but we shall tell stories and laugh and play games and have the merriest of Christmas’.
I was at Brockport with Phil when he decided to join the Marines. When he first told me my response was “OH NO”! As we caught up so many years later I told him how glad I was he was fighting on our side. My husband is a Master Chief in the Navy and I know that these men are strong minded and wouldn’t want to be doing anything else!
I left for boot camp on 26 DEC 1984. The first Christmas I was home for was in 1986. I came home for about 3 or 4 weeks. I can’t remember all of the presents but PJ wanted a BB gun. Those of you who knew our mother know she didn’t care for weapons. I couldn’t have a BB gun growing up. Mom and I had long discussions about it. I actually tried to push for a .22 Rifle but it didn’t go anywhere. So after all the discussions and promises to teach him how to use it safely I was allowed to get him one.
So Christmas morning PJ gets his BB gun and is all happy. We go over the important safety stuff like don’t shoot Kathy or the dog (with anything more than a single pump, two if it was a long shot). Just kidding.. But really.. We both took turns shooting at cans and targets and such.
I don’t know how long after this Christmas but it was summer so it had to be at least a year and a half later and I was home on leave again. We were playing with the BB gun out in the front yard. At some point he threw an apple at me which was pretty common at our house as we had several apple trees around the house. Anyway I pumped that BB gun 30 times or more. (I actually lost count and can’t remember but 30 sounds good) I kept threatening to shoot him and he kept running, hiding and throwing apples.
You probably need to be familiar with the layout of our house to fully appreciate this but here is the Shot:
I was at the Maple tree next to the driveway probably 60-70 feet from the foyer to the house. He was in the garage and out of apples. I couldn’t get a clear shot at him as he got through the garage into the pantry. The door into the house was open and there was about a 4 foot distance between the pantry to the house. From where I was standing I only had about a 2 foot gap where I could see him poking his head out looking for an opportunity to bolt across the opening. I was moving to get more in line with the opening to give myself a better chance when he made his move. I saw him start I shot I heard him yelp with pain. I knew I hit him in the but or leg although I didn’t know where until we both got inside.
The BB didn’t go through his jeans but did leave a really good welt on his thigh. Having been hit similarly earlier in my life I knew it stung. He didn’t cry he wasn’t really mad he just said that it hurt. To my knowledge he didn’t tell mom I shot him and although he threatened me with vengeance he never took it. He literally turned the other cheek. I apologized to him of course. I really didn’t think I would be able to hit him on the run with only a 2-3 foot gap with a bb gun at 60-70 feet away. But Every now and again he would remind me that I shot him. As in the first story this was one of the things he would bring up to make me feel guilty and such.
I am not real sure what this says about PJ other than he was a forgiving man.