13 May 2008

The Butter-Cutter On “Devil Dogs”

I caught The Butter-Cutter nodding at his station at the end of the virtual chow line and said to him, “Good morning!” 

“Huh! Oh, it's you,” he mumbled and then rubbed his eyes with the back of his hands. 

I smiled, “Were you up late last night?”

“Oh, no. They just had us come in real early this mornin',” he answered. “Waddaya  want today?”

“I've been reading in the Marine Corps Times that there is a controversy over calling Marines, 'Devil Dogs.' What do you think about it?”

“Well . . . actually, I prefer the original German words, Teufelshunde. This sounds badder than the cutesy 'Devil Dogs' 'n' I can translate it any way I want fer girls I meet; like, 'Even The Devil Don't F*** With Me,' er, 'Devil in Bed,' " he then laughed.

“Stop that!” I blurted out. “I don't think you realize what you're saying! The Marines who earned it fighting the Germans in Belleau Wood, France in 1918 echoed the name 'Devil Dog' with pride. This honorific title was earned in recognition of the fighting ferocity they demonstrated in the crucible of combat from the enemy they confronted there. Damn few warriors can claim such a distinction and you shouldn't be making fun of it.”

“Oh, Maan, GET A LIFE! I was just jokin'. The serious shit is: If I'da been there with them guys, I would probably have a Devil Dog picture tattooed on my chest. But, I wasn't there; I DIDN'T EARN IT! 'n' today, bein' called one o' them dogs doesn't fit me er . . .  is somethin' worse. Let me ask ya: When ya were on active duty, how often did ya hear a Marine call another Marine a 'Devil Dog'?“ The Butter-Cutter questioned me.

“Hhhmm, I don't remember ever using it myself to address other Marines and I vaguely remember anyone else using it as an address. If my Drill Instructors at Parris Island or Instructors at the Quantico officer factory called us 'Devil Dogs,' I don't remember it.”

“Well, it IS used today,” The Butter-Cutter said. “But, in all honesty, I've had bad experiences with it. Fer example; we used ta have a master sergeant here who called us 'Devil Dogs' all the time 'n', amongst ourselves, we returned the shot by callin' him 'Pecker Head.' ” 

“Why did you do that?” I asked with surprise.

“Why? Because he went around with a shaved head; 'n' if ya don't see the picture, then, the next time yer takin' a piss, look down at what yer holdin' in yer hand. That's what HIS head looked like!” he said and again laughed.

“Hey! Hey! Some of the finest Marines I ever served with shaved their heads; and, you're talking about a master sergeant here!  Such a label is uncalled for! Where is your respect for that master sergeant and his long service?” I admonished The Butter-Cutter.

“Long service? The Pecker Head was a 'long service' Drill Instructor. He spent the better part o' his career on the drill field screwin' over recruits. An' as far as we could tell, he thought he was still at Parris Island 'n' we were his little Devil Dogs-we didn't like bein' treated like recruits! When he called us that, we used ta say, 'Well, Pecker Head “double D'd” me again today.' ”

“Come on. What about his combat service? Didn't you respect him for leading Marines in combat?” I asked.

“Combat service? The closest this guy ever got ta combat was a GI Joe comic book-he never served in, near, over, er around a combat zone. An', on top of it, he had the balls ta tell us that this lesson er that lesson would someday save our lives in combat. Er, if it wouldn't save OUR lives, we had ta learn it because our buddies' lives would depend on it in combat. All this from a non-player!” The Butter-Cutter bemoaned.

“OK! OK! You're rejecting the Devil Dog label because: 1) you didn't earn it; and, 2) one staff NCO over-used it,” I summarized.

“Nah, there's more ta it than that. Alotta guys with a CAR [Combat Action Ribbon] diss those without one by double D'ing them-especially the real Gung Ho types. The 'CAR carriers' like ta dump on them guys who talk a lot about wantin' ta go ta Iraq 'n' Afghanistan 'n' ta kick butt.” 

 “If you don't like being called 'Devil Dog,' what do you think you should be called?” I asked.

The Butter-Cutter chuckled and then said, “How about 'Private' er 'Marine'?"   

Semper Marine,

Anthony F. Milavic

Major USMC (Ret.)