Veterans were well-represented at Justus Gage Friday.

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Marines define discipline for Justus Gage

Published 5:27pm Monday, November 12, 2012

Trust Vietnam-era Marines to convey the discipline military service demands.

Mental toughness is harder to achieve than physical fitness, according to Capt. Richard Affriseo of the Cass County Sheriff’s Office.

He and Harvey Ross counseled Margie Brosnan’s fifth-graders as part of Justus Gage Elementary School’s Veterans Day observance Friday.

“You can’t join the Marine Corps if you have any drug-related offenses, if you have any criminal record, if you have an abundance of visible tattoos and you have to finish high school,” said Ross, his shoes freshly shined.

Affriseo described Vietnam was an unpopular war with a compulsory draft.”

“If you were picked up for a small offense, they’d give you a choice — two years in the military or go to prison. That’s gone because now you’ve got people willing to step up and defend our country.”

“Don’t get caught up in body art and tattoos,” Affriseo said. “It will be hard to get a job if you have tattoos on your neck or forearms. You eliminate the opportunity to serve your country. Unless you’re going to be a glamorous rock star or play in the NBA or NFL, tattoos and piercings don’t serve much purpose. Where are you going to work besides McDonald’s or Burger King? If you do something like that, do it on a very small scale where a regular piece of clothing will hide it. These are all choices you’re going to make in your life as young men and women that could eliminate opportunities.”

He talked to a girl with pink hair.

“Enjoy it because the Marine Corps would not let you have it. You’d have to have it in a bun, off your collar.”

Discipline is the military way of stripping individualism, he said.

“The first thing they do is shave dreadlocks or big ’fros. Two reasons, one to get rid of that individual spirit so you look like your buddies. Two, to eliminate head lice with 200 people together in boot camp. Every item of clothing they issue you, you have to stamp it exactly where they tell you. You have a very small world. When you make your bed, it has to be pulled so tight a quarter bounces on it or they’ll tear it up so you have to make it again.”

Children’s eyes widen in disbelief, their mouths forming circles.

“You get six pairs of boxers, and underwear has to be stacked in your foot locker, folded in exact squares with your name visible. Everything’s about order. You have to march the same way so you don’t step on another’s heel. You wash and iron your own clothes. We were the Laundromat on Sunday, no talking. If you do little things with precision, you’ll do big things the same way. It looks stupid — and I was a ‘mess-up’ who was going to change the Marine Corps because they were wasting my time — but that’s how you become a company. You’re only as strong as the weakest guy in your unit. You have to build him or her up and bring them along. That’s why they discipline leaders. You can’t fall into fear on the battlefield. You don’t get to make choices. At first, it’s hard,” said Affriseo, explaining that the brig was waiting for those who faltered.


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