'Once a Marine' penned by Kirkland servicemen

Most equate the year 1775 with the birth of our nation, but there was another birth that year. Many might be surprised to know that on November 10, 1775, the United States Marine Corps was born. Two hundred and fifty years later the Marines still stand as a symbol of American patriotism and are often associated with the likes of John Wayne - tough, hardened warriors.

Local author, physician and former Marine, Claude DeShazo, in concert with Charles Latting, authored "Once a Marine." The book, which was published in March, attempts to allay the myth assigned the jarheads, and instead focuses on how the Marine Corps helps its members journey in a positive direction following their retirement from service.

13 autobiographies

The book features autobiographies written by 13 former First Marine Division retirees, veterans from the Vietnam era, excluding 79-year-old Kirkland native Russell McClintick Sr. who served during World War II.

"So often when you read in the newspaper about someone doing something bad, whether it was a bar fight or someone went and shot somebody, if they were in the Marine Corps they always say 'former Marine did something bad,'" said 65-year-old DeShazo.

"Well from our personal experience those things happen, but the vast majority of people that have ever been in the Marine Corps turn out well."

The featured authors are, in DeShazo's words, normal men who happened to have been caught up in the winds of war or who chose the Marines as an alternative to dead-end jobs. It avoids "career Marines, officers, generals, politicians and heroes" and instead focuses on its ordinary members and what they have gone on to accomplish in their lives using their service as a springboard.

DeShazo and Latting's efforts to construct the book were aided by the strong lateral bonds that tie former Marines together.

Ties that bind

"What comes out in many of these stories is the lifelong relationships that are formed with your buddies," said DeShazo. "You learn to watch each others back, you learn sometimes to sacrifice for other people, you feel very deeply the sudden loss of one of the people on your team. I think those are all character building events that by and large have been lost in our society."

McClintick, who served in the Pacific with the 2nd Marine Division during the latter years of World War II, knew DeShazo from the latter's days on the Evergreen Healthcare Board of Commissioners, and so his inclusion was natural.

McClintick served during the invasion of Saipan and Okinawa - a period of the war that saw some of the most fanatical Japanese resistance as they were defending their home territory for the first time.

In McClintick's chapter he focuses on the lighter side of war; however, he describes the ties he developed with his comrades in the communications section of his division's field headquarters and the focus he gained as a result of his tour of duty and training. According to McClintick, the training he learned with the Marines kept him focused after leaving the service.

"They train you to jump from being one of the boys to one of the men and having some goals in life," said McClintick. "We worked together as a team and knew we couldn't screw up because everybody was reliant upon one another. We learned if you give 110 percent you're going to do a hell of a lot better job than if you drag your feet."

Training provides focus

DeShazo attributed much of the focus gained by Marines - many times young men who are often misguided when they join the Corps - to their initial training.

"It's not like going to school where you go for a few hours and then come home again. In the Marine Corps, 24 hours a day seven days a week you have a drill instructor watching you, correcting you ...

"There is a metamorphosis that takes place which nowadays culminates in something called a crucible, which is a 54-hour period of training where people are really pushed to the limit. Immediately after they are given the globe and anchor emblem and are finally allowed to call themselves Marines."

After serving the public through the Marines - a position he volunteered for at age 17 - McClintick decided to devote his life to community service. He earned his bachelor's degree at Western Washington University in Bellingham and acquired a master's degree in education from the University of Washington and subsequently served 30 years as a principal in the Kirkland School District, 35 years as a volunteer with the Kirkland Fire Department, and 17 years on the Evergreen Healthcare Board of Commissioners.

"I always felt strongly that you should give something back to the community," he said. "Most people don't realize how much it gives us -like senior centers, our libraries here and the fire department."

"Once a Marine" can be purchased online at www.onceamarine.org and at various other online sites and local bookstores. All profits go to the First Marine Division scholarship fund.

Chris Butterfield is a freelance writer living in Kirkland.[[In-content Ad]]