While in the U.S. Marines, I’d been stationed in Iwakuni , Japan for about 9 months primarily working on Sidewinder Missile launchers. I had the opportunity to deploy to Korea on a team exercise with the South Korean Marines. (ROK Marines)
Unfortunately part of being an E-3 Lance Corporal meant $hit details. In this case it was pulling guard duty. I found myself in a guard shack with a few ROK Marines rotating. I spoke no Korean and they spoke no English.
Being early October there was a bit of a chill in the air. As the sun went down, the stadium type lights lit the nearby flight line elongating the shadows of the praying mantis which covered the Tarmac by the thousands.
Keeping an eye on our Vietnam era F-4 fighter jets and their smaller, F-5’s, we settled in for our duty as many of our brothers in arms headed out for a night in the town. Respectively they gave us crap as they rubbed it in, they were on liberty.
We were well equipped each with a 12 gauge shotgun with one difference. I had no shells. This was in thanks to a fellow Marine the night before who saw a ghost and started shooting across the flight line. I guess a good rifle butt stroke would have to do that night.
As the cold night wore on, I exchanged a few friendly head nods with my ally. Each of our respective NCOs, had stopped in for a report.
We got off duty around Midnight when the ROK Marine told me to follow him.
We headed to their unheated guard shack where there was a ROK sergeant and another peon non-rate like me.
The Sergeant, shouted a few orders at one of the peons who then rushed out the door.
The Sergeant offered me a seat and there we sat. He said something to the remaining non-rate who proceeded to belt out a Korean song like no other. When he finished ole Sarge took a crack at another song whole heartedly.
Not knowing allot of Korean customs, I just clapped when they finished and smiled.
The door opened and in stepped the other ROK Marine with his hands full. He had a couple of bottles Soju, (Korean type Sake) and a big dish covered with foil. Ole sarge updated Peon #2 on the festivities at hand who started singing like a canary.
Sarge cracked open the soju and passed the Bottle around.
He then removed the foil on the dish. When the steam cleared, there was a pile of roast pork … After chowing and chugging abit, my new buddies each whipped out a few tunes each. I got the sense that I was up.
Other than choir I wasn’t sure if I knew all the lyrics to a full song. Then it came to me ..finally listening to all those Beatles albums would pay off…
There in a cold guard-shack in South Korea, I was doing my best to honor Paul McCartney with a rendition of “Michelle”.. I’m sure I butchered the French lyrics but I was in good company. Belly and heart warm, I made my way back to tent city with a great memory I still cherish today.