A Different Breed

As I promised, I wanted to talk about the other guys at the Recon reunion when we were at Aaron Torian’s funeral. We all got together the night before at the Rhino Bar and Tap room in DC. I had expected 20-30 Marines there but as I stepped through the door of the small bar, I realized it was full to capacity and there is something very different about being in the company of Recon Marines.

There were 5 guys standing right by the entrance and all of them looked at me as I entered. It was an immediate challenge and assessment. I looked at them and even though I had never met them, knew they were in Recon. I walked by and headed to the bar to look for some of the guys I recognized.

As I met my friends and began sharing stories of other guys and reconnecting, almost every description started with, “Do you remember ********? He’s the big mother f*cker.” I may be one of the smallest Recon Marines ever. Everyone towered over me and was twice as wide. It made me stop and think again, “how the heck did I make it in this unit?!”

The place had almost 100 guys there and there was something else in the room besides just size. There was a lurking aggressiveness beneath the surface. No one argued or raised their voices in anger, but you could sense that if someone threw a punch, there would be a lot of blood.

Halfway through the night, civilians had begun to creep in. I saw them shooting glances around nervously, unsure why the Rhino was so busy on a Tuesday. But at that moment, one of the Recon Marines climbed onto a table and began to clap two folding chairs together to get everyone’s attention.

“We’re gathered here tonight to remember our fallen brother. I want to sing the ‘Brother Recon’ song for him. So raise your glasses, mother f*ckers! OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO…”

And we all began half yelling, half singing a paddle song that sarcastically makes fun of the recipient and encourages him to drink. I watched the civilians and realized they were terrified. They were surrounded on all sides by Recon Marines who are just a different breed of man.

Aaron Torian – KIA

My last post was about when to acknowledge the deaths of my friends who were killed overseas. Then today I learned that a Recon Marine that I served with in 2006 was killed yesterday, February 15th, in a pressure plate IED attack. He became a double-amputee and later died in the OR.

Aaron Torian, or as we called him, Gunny T, was a perfectionist. He was not a gunnery sergeant, but we used that moniker because he told people how things should be done.

Recon Marines never fail. We never give up. We never quit. And yet Torian not only never quit, he wouldn’t tolerate anything short of an absolute. His gear was clean, his body in peak shape, and his aim was true. He expected the same from everyone who fought by his side.

This led me to avoid him in general. He wouldn’t accept answers like, “it’s about 3000 meters.” No. What is the exact maximum effective range of your weapon? 3637 meters. So when you wanted to ask Torian a question (because he had the answer, without a doubt), you better be able to articulate your problem.

This acceptance of perfection meant the Marines who served in his platoon were honed to lethal ability. It kept them alive. I served in the next platoon, in the same company, and in my brief encounters with Gunny T, I know that I came away a better Marine.

Fair Winds and Following Seas, Snake-eater.