My Summer Vacation at Parris Island

Thirty years ago today (May 10th, 1983) I arrived at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina.  I was unceremoniously greeted with a Drill Instructor’s boot to my hindquarters, which seemed to remain permanently affixed there for the next three months of my summer vacation.  I was not a Christian or a particularly religious young man when I arrived, but I did soon learn that the anti-Christ was alive and well and masquerading at the time under the name of one Sgt. Kirkland—USMC.

Sgt. Kirkland liked me, I think. At least he took a particular interest in me, which is a bad thing on the island.  He often said, as he was thrashing me about, that I was funny and entertaining.  His appreciation of my often ill-timed snarky comments and facial expressions faded quickly when he caught me one day mocking him and doing drill instructor imitations behind his back.  As fate would have it, he caught me when we were out at ICT (Individual Combat Training)—a two week stint in the marshes of Parris Island where we lived in our bivouac shelters and were constantly on the move, immersed in military combat training.  At least that was the official explanation of ICT.  In reality, ICT provided the seclusion necessary for the drill instructors to increase the torture and to field test their most fiendish schemes—the swampland swallowing up even the most robust recruit’s scream.

Well aware that my own death might very well lie before me, I braced for the sure beating that was coming my way.  Sgt. Kirkland surprised me, though, when he announced in front of the entire platoon and our company commander that if I could make him laugh, there would be no punishment.  Having nothing to lose, I gave it my best shot. I suppose with the crystal clarity of hindsight I should have picked any other drill instructor to mock that day. I had practiced them all and had plenty of material to pick from.  But with Sgt. Kirkland standing before me, I just couldn’t resist.  I had the opportunity to send this one belligerent jab his way.  So I took it.  I launched into a full Sgt. Kirkland rant—his voice, his mannerisms, and his quotes.

I was good, quite good if I do say so myself.  Sgt. Kirkland thought so too, as he laughed so hard I thought he would pass out.  For a fleeting moment I thought he might actually honor his promise.  But no such luck with the spawn of Satan.  As soon as the company commander left our camp, Sgt. Kirkland went nose-to-nose with me, his Smokey tapping on my forehead.  Doom crested the horizon.

You could usually tell the difference when the drill instructors were just faking mad or were really mad; that being said, Sgt. Kirkland was in a psychotic frenzy, frothing and all.  I had really stepped in it.  I did pushups, sit-ups, side-straddle-hops (jumping jacks), bends and thrust, and repeated the list until well after everyone else bedded down.  I was finally allowed to go to my tent near midnight.  In the unknown early morning hours, my tent was kicked down and me and my innocent tent mate were beaten and dragged around in circles in the dirt.  I was too exhausted to react.

“The ICT Monster strikes again!” the foul beast cried out in a voice remarkably similar to Sgt. Kirkland’s.  We had been warned that there was a monster in the swamp—the ICT monster—that would randomly attack without provocation.  As elusive as the Yeti, the creature would thump poor unsuspecting recruits and disappear into the night.

In the remaining days of ICT, Sgt. Kirkland (and the ICT monster) unleashed a reign of terror at every opportunity.  Whenever we would stop or take a break, I was exercising at the front of the platoon while they got to eat and drink water.  The ICT monster continued his night visitations.  On our last day of ICT, I was jogging in place with my rifle over my head and my backpack on.  My platoon was eating lunch and enjoying the show, each person just glad it wasn’t them.  Black dots clouded my vision and sweat stung my eyes.  The brutal summer heat bore down on me. The relentless pressure had broken me.  I staggered and the world turned up-side-down as I crashed headfirst into the dirt.  I awoke to my platoon mates pouring water from their canteens on my face.  Sgt. Kirkland stood just behind them, grinning.

“Yo, Mynheir!  You’re looking good, buddy.  Looking good!”

Victory was his.

10 thoughts on “My Summer Vacation at Parris Island

  1. Rob Peaco

    Wow, I love the story. I too was a Marine, and in Marine Corps boot camp May 10, 1983, Parris Island. My Drill Instructors were Sgt. Kirkland, Sgt. Lamb. Sounds like we were in the same platoon, which was 1057.

      1. Mark, yes, I am doing well thanks. I am a retired NYC Correction Officer and currently working at a local college. I was telling my wife about Sgt Kirkland after reading your story, and just how he terrorized our platoon 😉 I pulled out my marine corps recruit book today and I am amazed just how many years have passed since then. Again, great story I do remember it all; thanks for the laughs.. 🙂

  2. Doug Morrison

    I was with platoon 1057 that same summer with you guys. I remember Sgt Kirkland, Sgt Lamb, and Staff Sgt. James real well. It was a summer I’ll never forget.

  3. Doug Morrison

    I was there with you guys that summer in Platoon 1057. I’ll always remember Sgt Kirkland, Sgt. Lamb, and Staff Sgt. James. I’m now living near Charlotte NC where I operate a land surveying business. I got that start as an artillery surveyor in the Marine Corps.

  4. Mark

    Outstanding story! I too was in Plt 1057 (BEST ON THE ISLAND, BEST IN THE CORPS!) I had my own dealings with Drill Instructor Sgt. Kirkland, we were lucky to have him. I ran into SSgt Kirkland in the fleet when I was a Sgt at Camp Johnson, we talked for a very long time, To my surprise he remembered me along with the whole Plt. He hazed us all and I’m sure it made us better Marines. Senior Drill Instructor SSgt James, Sgt Kirkland, Sgt Lamb, thank you all for what you did, OOH RAH!

  5. arthur dunham

    I too was in 1057 those 35 years ago and belonged to Sgt Kirkland’s Fat Body Platoon and he dogged the shit out of me every single day. As I look back it was the greatest time and influence of my life and thank god it was him who “beat” it into me.

    1. Robert Peaco

      Arthur Dunham, Semper Fi Marine! Those were the days-Plt 1057! The Corps made me a better man today.. I wonder where is Drill Instructor Kirkland today? I would like to thank him and find out how life has been treating him.

  6. Ray Romero

    So I just came across this article. I too was in the famous 1st Battalion Alpha Company Platoon 1057. Sgt Kirkland, Sgt Lamb and Staff Sgt James. Mark I could never forget you. I actually remember all of you guys.

  7. Doug Morrison

    Getting harassed by Sgt. Kirkland wasn’t any fun at all at the time, but think of all the stories that he, Sgt. Lamb, and Staff Sgt. James left us to tell because of the way they tortured us all. I’ve always wondered where our drill instructors all ended up at. Where they live and what they do now… I still say Sgt. Kirkland was possessed…

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