CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. — Though Cpl. Hector Garcia is a non-commissioned officer who has never deployed to combat, it would be hard to guess it from his extreme levels of motivation, intensity, and excitability, all of which are more typical of a senior staff non-commissioned officer (SNCO) who has never deployed to combat.
That is because every day, Garcia chooses to go the extra mile in personally exemplifying the many eccentricities he wrongly believes characterize Marines who have been to war.
It begins when he steps into his car, the back of which is plastered with bumper stickers from Sgt Grit's, a store dedicated to apparel, t-shirts, stickers, and hats for Marines.
"I like Sgt Grit's, but that kid has made me hate those goddamn bumper stickers," says the SNCO of Garcia's section, Staff Sgt. Michael Branch, who was on his first combat deployment when Garcia was 13-years-old. "He actually turned one of them into his email signature, then attributed it to himself as a quote. 'Heaven doesn't want us, and hell's afraid we'll take over, -Corporal Hector Garcia.' It's so fucking asinine that sometimes I can't tell him from my fellow SNCOs."
"Not the good ones," Branch explains, "just the ones who haven't been anywhere or done anything, and really overcompensate for it."
"C-130 ROLLING DOWN THE STRIP!" shouts Garcia during a morning PT run, oblivious to the eye-rolling and icy stares from almost every other Marine in the formation. Though the cadence dates back to the Vietnam War, many modern Marines are personally acquainted with the C-130 from their time in Afghanistan or Iraq.
These Marines are intimately familiar with the deafeningly loud droning of C-130 engines and the maddening length of most C-130 flights. These Marines are not interested in calling a cadence that begins with a C-130 doing anything other than sitting quietly in a hangar or flying toward a large airbase as the first leg of a trip home from a lengthy deployment.
"OORAH, DEVIL DOG!" screams an equally oblivious SNCO on the other side of the formation.
"I kind of wish Garcia would go to Afghanistan and actually fly somewhere on a C-130," says Afghanistan veteran Sgt. Edgar Mendoza. "Not just because I want his neck to get fucked up from trying to sleep in unnatural positions with shit sticking into his back, but also because I think there are decent odds he'd stand up in the middle of the flight, shuffle to the door, and jump right out before anyone can stop him. Man, that would be awesome. That's one funeral detail I'd lead in a heartbeat, just to tell his mom "well, he did his best" and then bury him deep."
Sources confirmed that Garcia spends a large amount of his free time on Facebook, liking and commenting on any status posted by the Marine Corps Recruiting Command (MCRC), which maintains the official Marine Corps Facebook feed. The tremendous motivation evident in Garcia's comments, which he routinely types in all caps with multiple exclamation points, has not escaped the notice of the Marines at MCRC.
"I write our status updates, and even I think they're dumb as shit," says Iraq veteran Sgt. Owen Case, who runs and moderates the MCRC Facebook feed. "I literally wake up in the morning, look at my CIF gear, and then post some stupid question about the first piece of gear I see, like 'what does IFAK stand for?' It's meaningless crap if you're a real Marine, but it's not meant for real Marines. It's meant for poolees who have never left their hometown, or for their relatives who are still getting integrated into the Marine Corps family."
"No Marine who's banked a combat deployment, active or retired, actually sits there systematically reading and commenting on that crap. If they comment at all, it's usually only to ask 'what is this shit?,' and then I privately message them to say 'hey, brother, here's a link to Terminal Lance. I'll buy you a drink in the VFW sometime, now get the fuck off my message board, it's just for the new guys who aren't even boots yet and their families.'"
Nearly 100 percent of them eventually understand, Case says, but not Garcia.
"That idiot sits on there all day commenting alongside these teens from Lincoln, Washington, or Roosevelt High School or wherever, probably feeling like the biggest ape in the jungle because he knows all this simple shit and has already been to boot camp."
In spite of his high support for MCRC, there are some Marine Corps policies that Cpl. Garcia strongly disagrees with, such as wearing the bravo uniform on Fridays.
"We're warriors, and combat utilities should be the working uniform of a warrior," says Garcia, glumly sporting a thin row of decorations on the chest of his class bravo uniform. His pouting is almost indistinguishable from the pouting of the small number of SNCOs who have to be seen in public once a week with nothing on their chests but Navy Achievement Medals and Navy Commendation Medals after more than a decade of continuous warfare.
Even if Garcia deployed to combat, his fellow Marines are skeptical of his ability to live up to the claims made on the rear bumper of his Toyota.
"Garcia once put on full [personal protective gear] to go on a convoy out to a range," says training chief Gunnery Sgt. David Riggs. "He wore it all, like right down to the gloves and hood, and this was in the middle of July. He moved like that little kid in the snowsuit from A Christmas Story. Then he screamed 'contact right' over the radio during the drive over. I got on the net and asked what the fuck he was doing, and he just laughed and spouted off some moto bumper sticker bullshit."
"What a complete dickweed. You just know he's going to be a non-deployed first sergeant one day," Riggs added.
Still, not all of Cpl. Garcia's fellow Marines are so critical. Sgt. Maj. Frank Allen told Duffel Blog he kind of likes the kid.
"He grows on you with all his silly bullshit quotes from Heartbreak Ridge. He's kind of a blast from the past," says Allen, who first deployed as a private first class during Operation Desert Storm. "I remember when I was a young Marine, and I thought that's what real Marines were like, because that's what all the peacetime SNCOs were like. Seeing that nonsense again now makes me feel like these hordes of never-deployed Marines are just a disease we just periodically get, and that, God willing, one day a group of young Marines will sit down in the aftermath of the next Iwo Jima, Chosin, or Fallujah, and say 'hey, do you guys remember Gunny Garcia? What a tool he was.'"