Epiphany of the Moo


I watched the beautiful Danish countryside roll by as our Jeep made its way from Norway to Kiel, Germany. The throbbing in my ankle, which had relegated me to be a passenger in this convoy, came from a missed landing the day before. Nothing broken, but “Doc” did not want me making the march back to base with the other companies of the battalion to which we had been attached. So, I got as comfortable as I could on the thin canvas pad, on top of the rugged steel springs, that they call a seat. And I marveled at the number of windmills we passed. Each one conjuring an image of Don Quixote in full dragon battling regalia. What a beautiful place to play out a fantasized valiant quest.

In the left-hand seat sat the antithesis of Sir Quixote. My driver was a stout, young man hewn directly from the heartlands of America. He looked more like Sancho. A proud Oklahoman by birth and obvious accent. He had known hard work and calluses before they were ever introduced by the Marine Corps. He was everything you look for in a prospective Marine. Strong, proud, loyal, and ready to serve. His quaint drawl lent a comfortable air to our conversations as we made our way to port. He talked about his family, his dogs, his friends, and his girlfriend (complete with photos to share of a radiant young woman who loved him back). He regaled me with all the things both of us likely missed being where we were at the time. He was a pleasant travelling companion, but maybe not the sharpest tool in the shed. His work as a driver for the Transportation Battalion was likely a good fit. And I presumed that was true for most of the drivers and mechanics in the convoy. Having been geared to the elitist mentality that comes with special operations and being the “pointy end of the stick”, it was easy to think my intelligence and skills far outweighed what this salt-of-the-earth hick was offering on a daily basis.

It was a long drive and when he had run out of things to talk about, I did not offer any personal information about myself. I had a family, a dog, friends, and likely a girlfriend, but they were not ever topics for discussion. I am not sure if it was just the secretive nature we had become accustomed to in our line of work, or maybe some way of distancing ourselves from the things we loved and lessen the fear of losing them. Whatever the cause, operators are a tight-lipped bunch. We are name, rank, and serial number type of guys. We only really open up to each other because there is a bond there that goes way beyond the casual. So, as I let the silence fall where it must, he seemed to become bored and a bit distracted.

While passing a farm, he began mooing at the cows that stood near the fence by the road. It seemed to me like he was feeling happy driving through the countryside that looked so familiar and comfortable to him. For all I know, he could speak cow. It would not have surprised me a bit. He was that much a good-old farm boy through and through. What neither of us anticipated, was the convoy coming to an abrupt stop. When it did so, his last “moo” ended with a resolute bang, as our Jeep ran into the Duece and a Half truck in front of us.

For a moment I was struck by the irony of surviving a crappy parachute landing in a god-forsaken field in Norway, just to perish in a traffic accident with “Bubba”. It seemed a tragic way to go. But alas, neither of us were any worse for wear. The Jeep was not so lucky. The hitch on the Duece had smashed through the radiator and grill. I took the opportunity to stretch my legs as a group of staff sergeants and other NCOs convened to inspect the damage. I had no idea how long this would delay us, but worried for the poor driver as getting to our destination on time was critical to the movement of all the ships in our battle group and being responsible for delaying an entire convoy could not reflect well on his record.

I peered for a moment over the pasture that lie before me. It was easy to imagine that it was a pasture in so many places just like this in my country. Thousands of miles away, I could easily feel like I was back home. After only a minute or so, I turned my attention back to our vehicle. There were half a dozen guys swarming around all asses and elbows. Tools appeared as if by magic. Within a few minutes, they had replaced the radiator, repaired the grill, and replaced the water. This feat was amazing to watch and could put any Nascar pit crew to shame. Within eight or nine minutes of our crash, we were moving again. That is when I realized my earlier consideration of what these Marines brought to the table every day had been short-sighted. They held vast knowledge, were mission driven, capable of any task, and the epitome of being able to adapt and overcome. I found a new respect for every cog in the big green machine. Every cook, every clerk, every driver, really every Marine brought a set of unique skills and a Marine Corps attitude that made us the formidable force to be reckoned with when brought to bear.

Later, when on mission and feeling the solitary nature of the work, this one event helped me to acknowledge all the Marines and their work that put me exactly where I was and, in a situation, to be well-capable of applying my skill set to the tasks at hand. And in that comparison, I felt the unworthy one. All I brought was the four and a half ounces of trigger-pull my job required.


16 Responses to “Epiphany of the Moo”
  1. beth says:

    I really, really love this one, brad. amazing how it put it all in perspective for you, and amazing what our military is truly capable of, and what they give for all of us. Memorial Day is one day when people focus on the military and what they’ve given, but it’s important to remember them each and every day. I can see you writing a military service book of stories from the field.

  2. Well said my friend.

  3. kristianw84 says:

    I love this story so much! Your title is very clever, and I’m a huge believer in “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” You did an excellent job of portraying the importance of every job!

  4. jonicaggiano says:

    Great story Brad. I think many are quick to apply a negative slang word to someone else without knowing anything about them. Some of the brightest and most innovative engineers never finished college. I like the way you turn the story around. You are also a great story teller. 🇺🇸Jonikins

  5. petespringerauthor says:

    I imagine similar stories have happened to most of us over the years. Every one of us needs a lesson in remaining humble from time to time. You have the courage to write about it.

  6. So many great stories out there but you can put yours into words so well

  7. Brother, another amazing job of telling a story as only you can tell it. Thank you for sharing it with us!

  8. Secret Bree says:

    Gesh, great share Brad. The whole retelling was captivating.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: