CAMP LEATHERNECK, AFGHANISTAN - Marines honor the history of the Corps in many different ways: running 238 miles, doing 238 pull-ups, or 238 push-ups, but one Marine at Camp Leatherneck has created an unusual buzz with his quest this year to eat 238 pies in honor of the Marine Corps Birthday.
Sgt. Robert "Fat Bob" Cushman, a 2311 ammunition technician with Combat Logistics Regiment 2, Regional Command (Southwest), began his arduous dine-in on September 25 and has been methodically consuming one whole pie for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and "midnight rations."
"When I was in garrison, I always heard Marines saying we needed to sacrifice for our brothers and sisters who are deployed," Cushman explained in-between mouthfuls at the chow hall. "Well, I'm deployed, so I think I should show my appreciation for their sacrifice by consuming as much as possible."
By his own estimate, he's eaten apple, peach, blueberry, pumpkin, sweet potato, blackberry, banana cream, cherry, and custard pies. He had also planned to eat pecan, raspberry, rhubarb, and strawberry pies, but those are no longer available in Afghanistan due to budget cuts and the drawdown.
Cushman has also enlisted the aid of friends and family in his hometown of Biloxi, Mississippi, who have been making up for the shortfall by pitching in to mail him as many pies as they can. Some have also began their own pie-eating contests in solidarity with the brave Marine.
He expects to finish his eat-a-thon the day before the Marine Corps Birthday, which should allow him to make room for the birthday cake.
Of course all great feats have their drawbacks: as the deadline, like his waist, grows larger and larger Cushman has been forced to start eating two or three pies per sitting to make sure he finishes on time. He has also struggled with watching his weight, which has increased by roughly seventy-five pounds so far.
"My original plan was to go run several miles after each pie, but after a while that got really impractical," he said while waddling by a horrified First Sergeant. Cushman said he has also been feeling somewhat fatigued lately, and this correspondent noted that he seemed to have some difficulty breathing.
Cushman also described some adverse reactions, such as a promotion board which laughed him out of the room and a Gunnery Sergeant who on seeing him started shrieking and throwing things until he was able to hide in a nearby formation of sailors.
At one point his command grew so concerned that they sent him for a cholesterol test; but even though the results came back with the startlingly high 250 mg/dL, a level which normally results in an emergency angioplasty, Cushman has only grown more determined.
"Marines always come in first, whether in battle or obesity," he said. Other Marines in his unit agree.
"I originally thought Bob's plan was so unbelievably stupid that I assumed he was kidding and told him to go for it," said his chief, Staff Sergeant Albert Schermer. "But we're turning it into an educational opportunity for our Marines on the importance of exercise and proper dieting: basically by telling them to do the opposite of whatever he does."
Schermer added that as a practical joke they had told several of their interpreters that Sgt. Cushman was being fattened up to eat for Thanksgiving, but stopped after several began asking which parts they could send home to their families and lurking outside his trailer at night.
Cushman has already confirmed that next year he will be celebrating the Marine Corps Birthday by getting 239 non-judicial punishments.