Submitted by: Thomas Paul

Category: Stories

My name is Thomas Jay Paul. I joined the U.S. Marine Corps in September 1963 at seventeen. After boot camp at Parris Island and infantry training at Camp Geiger, I attended aviation school at the Naval Air Station (NAS) in Memphis, Tennessee. In Memphis, I was frequently called to the First Sergeant’s office for infractions I did not commit. When reporting to First Sergeant, you recite your last name, first name, and middle initial— “Sir, Paul, Thomas J., reporting as ordered,” I said.

My first report to First Sergeant was for not turning in a liberty card, which I did not have. I explained that I was not on liberty, and he requested my duty section. He checked the duty section four box and then dismissed me. A month later, I again had to report to First Sergeant for another infraction I did not commit. This time it was for allegedly missing duty section muster. I explained that I was in duty section four and did not have duty the previous night, so First Sergeant dismissed me. I was never called to First Sergeant for infractions I actually committed.

During the graduation ceremony, First Sergeant gave me my certificate, continuing down the formation. First Sergeant was presenting another man a certificate. He hesitated and returned to me.

“What is your name,” First Sergeant asked.

“Sir, Paul, Thomas J.,” I replied.

He walked back to the other man asking, “What is your name?”

“Sir, Thomas, Paul J.,” the other man replied.

“You two men report to my office now,” First Sergeant demanded.

First Sergeant had about 400 men to supervise and never put two-and-two together until graduation. In First Sergeant’s office, he again asked, “What are your names?”

“Sir, Paul, Thomas J.,” I replied.

“Sir, Thomas, Paul J.,” the other many replied.

Almost instantly, a revelation came over First Sergeant, and the confusion regarding previous infractions turned to clarity. Despite being in the same graduating class, Thomas and I were strangers. He was in Metal Smith class, and I was in Jet Mechanic class. To settle the dust, Thomas and I got hours extra duty after chow each night. With only a few days left in Memphis, Thomas and I became friends during duty.

Years later in 1965, I was stationed with the 1st Marine Air Wing, Transport Squadron 152 working on the flight line in Futenma, Okinawa. Running down the flight line came a man yelling, “Thomas!” It was Paul.

About the author:

Thomas Paul was in the Marine Corps from 1963-1967. He was a L/Cpl. in Squadron 152 in Vietnam. After leaving the Marines, Paul entered a 34-year long career with General Motors; he went through assembly line to management. From there, he went management to union committeeman. He finished as a corporate auditor for quality at the Doraville plant. After retiring, Paul and his wife raised their family in the Atlanta area where he still resides today. Paul still stands at attention when he hears the Marine Corps Hymn.