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February 9, 2009 / Maleesha Kovnesky

Part 5: Off the Bus

A busful of tired people rocketed toward the gates of lonely Parris Island.  Some of them may have noticed the bright red and yellow sign at the base entrance if they were lucky enough to look up as the bus passed.  Mostly, these people fought their eyes to keep them open.  Most of them were lulled into a peaceful dreamland due to the insane heat and the sound of the bus.

The bus came to a stop, but no one noticed because they were exhausted.  The lights snapped on, and everyone looked up.  A Marine appeared at the front of the bus and snapped (there was that laser beam voice again)

“On behalf of the President of the United States, The Commandant of the Marine Corps, and the Commanding General Brigadier General J.D. Humble, welcome to Parris Island. 



Chaos and panic replaced the heat and humidity.  A swarm of bodies leapt from their seats and sought refuge outside the bus, only to find that there were scary Marines out there too, men and women dressed in uniform and yelling and screaming (it’s widely understood that Marine drill instructors have to yell at a tree, a fence, or other inanimate object for several hours during their training) and people running and being herded like sheep on crack onto the famous yellow footprints. 

If you have never been yelled at by a Marine drill instructor, then you’ve never really had your personal space violated.  Somehow they manage to get close enough to your skin to qualify for bodily fluid exchange, though they never actually touch you. 

I do remember getting my canteen issued to me.  We were ordered to fill it with water, and then we were ordered to drink the water.  All of it.  We were to hold the canteen over our heads upside down when we finished.  And we had about sixty seconds to do it. 

I was so thirsty.  But when I tipped the canteen to take a drink, I tasted mold.  I felt sand in my mouth.  The canteen hadn’t been clean and I was drinking water filled with sand and mold.  I gagged.  A drill instructor was on me in a heartbeat asking me what the problem was.  I tried to say the canteen was moldy but I was ordered to drink.  It’s a good thing I was thirsty.  I drank the water and held the empty canteen over my head.  My gut sloshed around, full of water.

The next two days are mostly a blur.  I remember getting issued a pair of boots that were two sizes too big.  I remember labeling my new camouflage wardrobe with a black marker.  I remember the occasional “Juice Drink.”  There was folding, and unfolding.  Labeling and crossing out.  Heaving everything into a sea bag where it most certainly became unfolded, then heaving the sea bag over my shoulder and marching (clumsily) all over the base.  There were vaccinations for diseases I thought were eradicated in the 19th century.

These were the receiving days.  If you are wondering where the push-ups and the torment is, it hasn’t happened yet.  These were the days of paperwork and supply issue.  These were the days of shock. 


The one thing that I do remember is that there was no sleeping to be had.  When we were finally allowed a night of sleep, I was unfortunate enough to get picked for firewatch.  If you don’t remember firewatch, it’s the part in Full Metal Jacket where the Joker walks up and down the barracks with a flashlight while everyone else sleeps.  Firewatch lasts for an hour during receiving days, but feels a lot longer than that.  Luckily I didn’t find Private Pyle in the bathroom waiting to blow his brains out.  I did, however, see my very first cockroach. 

The night before I left for recruit training, I went to a movie with my boyfriend.  We saw the MTV movie Joe’s Apartment.  It’s actually one of the worst movies ever created.  The plot is all about singing cockroaches. 

To me, that movie was heaven-sent.  Without it, I am positive that I would have screamed like a baby when that shoe-sized bug came skittering out from under one of the bunks.  I counted ten cockroaches during my firewatch. Fascinating little buggers.  You can hear them skitter, they are so big. 

I imagined that they were singing to me, and it was all better.



Leave a Comment
  1. Madame Monet / Mar 4 2009 1:41 pm

    Very interesting post, as usual.

    Madame Monet

  2. rambleicious / Feb 17 2009 2:33 pm

    I have only one question: what song did the roaches sing? 😉

    Stayin’ Alive

    I’m not good with crawly things – I’d have been stomping them in my new large boots (had I been in your new large boots that is).

  3. smalltownsmalltimes / Feb 17 2009 1:24 pm

    Were you thinking “what have I done?” or did you shut it out? How did you survive?

    I won’t say that thought NEVER ran through my mind…

  4. David / Feb 16 2009 12:36 pm

    Thanks for continuing this story maleesha. I can’t imagine how you got through it either, but God bless you for it.

    Why do you think there has to be so much yelling?

    I believe it is because the training is designed to simulate a POW camp as much as possible. It’s much easier nowadays, they can’t legally hit people anymore.

  5. Allison / Feb 15 2009 6:19 am

    Really enjoying these posts 🙂

  6. teeni / Feb 13 2009 11:25 pm

    OMG. Singing cockroaches better than the non-singing kind? LOL. I wonder what was in that juice drink? And shoe-sized? I don’t know how you did it. **shakes head in disbelief**

  7. crisitunity / Feb 13 2009 9:54 am

    There’s such a difference between roaches everywhere else and roaches in the South. The roaches I saw in my mom’s kitchen in Louisiana (and she kept it clean; there’s just no way to avoid bugs down there) had to be four inches long.

    I am with bluesuit and Ian. Keep going!

  8. bluesuit12 / Feb 11 2009 11:44 pm

    I love these stories and can’t wait for the next installment.

  9. pikespeakdenise / Feb 11 2009 6:29 am

    My first “roach” was actually a Palmetto Bug. When Mom came into my room at my screaming, she laughed and told me the difference. The fact that it was a FLYING ROACH did not make me feel any better!

    I learned about those a few years later in Florida. What’s next…roaches driving taxis?

  10. Christine / Feb 10 2009 7:47 pm

    ROFL at you imagining them singing. 😆

  11. morethananelectrician / Feb 9 2009 8:34 pm

    “my bus…”

    “my locker…”

    “my bunk…”

    MY ASS!!!!!

    All too familiar.

  12. Carli / Feb 9 2009 5:26 pm

    I remember my first cockroach too….it was in my kitchen of all places. After I stopped dry heaving, I turned all the lights off and sat on top of the kitchen counter staring fevereshly at the dishwasher (under which it crawled) waiting for it to come out so I could squash it like the disgusting bug that it was. It never came out, so the following morning I proceeded to Home Depot where I purchased $70 worth of various roach killing products. I was determined. Months later we replaced our dishwasher for an improved model. After pulling out the old dishwasher much to my delight there was a dried crust of a roach body lying near the baseboard. Ahhh…sweet revenge!

    $70 well spent, really.

  13. Mike / Feb 9 2009 12:22 pm

    I got to boot camp (Navy) on December 31th, 1971. We were in “receiving” until January 2, 1972, so there was little more time to get acclimatized.

    The more I read of this, though, the more of my suppressed memories are resurfacing, but they are tempered by the 37 years that have passed since then – though, I can still picture, with no effort, the face of my boot camp company commander, Boatswain’s Mate First Class Pharris.

  14. Ian / Feb 9 2009 10:37 am

    I’m still fascinated by this look into something most people only see a Hollywood interpretation of. Can’t wait for the next chapter.


  1. Part 6: Forming Days « Binary Trash

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