I first heard the phrase “sick, lame, lazy, cripple, crazy” (SLLCC) by one of my drill instructors in Marine Corps boot camp. My drill instructor would call us to attention and point out each and every recruit that was slithering their way to “sick bay.” Boot camp recruits going to sick bay, according to the DI, were “missing their mommy, May Lou, or just frickin’ wasting government money here at Hotel San Diego!” (Some of the “Sick Bay Commandos” were trying to skate, but most had things like shin splints, terrible blisters, heat exhaustion, and more) Our wordsmith Dis informed us that they would “pay with time in the pit.”

One private, Private Ryan (not his name and nothing could save him) embodied the SLLCC. He had flat feet, was overweight and severely near-sighted. He was a retread, failing two other previous recruit platoons for physical failings, moving into our platoon was his last chance. He tried so hard to avoid sick call, but the DIs knew his weaknesses, targeting him for his many failures. In their minds, he did not look like a good Marine and he was a “walking and talking f&*# up.” This recruit was always last on runs during PT and thus always the last to shower and get to formation. At the Rifle Range portion of training, Private Ryan was especially late after a run and our platoon had already formed to march to chow waiting for Private Ryan. One DI, Staff Sergeant Derriere, was loudly, repeatedly, and very, very slowly calling for Ryan. As Ryan came stumbling out of the barracks barely dry and glasses fogged, he ran toward the wrong platoon about to pass between the Platoon Senior DI and his platoon. We watched, at attention, horrified. The instant Ryan crossed the line between the platoon and leader the recruits pounced on him, pushing, shoving, and smacking Ryan around. All the while the “wrong” DI was screaming at Ryan that he was disrespecting him and his authority and our DIs were gathered around him screaming that he was a disloyal puke. Ryan’s glasses were still fogged and we could see him just turning from voice to voice and suddenly he simply collapsed.

The din of screaming continued adding useless commands to “Get Up!” Momentarily, one of our DIs marched us to chow leaving Ryan with three DIs. When we returned, he and his “trash” were gone. Drill Instructor Staff Sergeant Derriere informed us that Ryan was on the way out of the USMC. SLLCC…”Slovenly pieces of human refuse” (not quite so nicely stated, however) according to any drill instructor…clearly, THEY did not have the “right stuff.”

Ryan was an OK guy. This experience left me with two emotions: revulsion and commitment. It was revolting to observe the degradation of another human being in such a way and I was committed to dying before being SLLCC in boot camp. I saw Ryan at my recruit training graduation (at that time, discharging a recruit was a bureaucratic maze and took many weeks) and would not even meet my eyes when I spoke to him.

It stayed with a Marine throughout the future service. I served in eight years of relative peace so no combat was widespread. It was fine to receive a medical discharge for service related injuries but not EVER to be associated with THAT crew which surfaced within active duty.

I have been out of the Corps for over 25 years but the Marines have a way of creeping bone-deep into a person…even if you didn’t LIKE it! (More on that in a later post) I was glad I went in and really glad I got out. But, hey, I still have a Marine sticker on my car, the Marine Corps Hymn chokes me up, and the uniforms are still the best. So, certain aspects permanently reside in you and one particular, for me, was this negative idea of the SLLCC.

Just three years ago I was working one full time job and two part-time jobs. Then I got sick…which left me literally lame and crippled…feeling lazy and crazy. The Social Security Administration has officially declared me “disabled” with all of $1200 a month to prove it (anyone who thinks disability is the way to wealth and leisure should check the pay charts first!). I am not totally confined to a wheelchair yet, but I use a cane and it is difficult to walk much. I look healthy and I don’t drool much, so most people wonder what is wrong. Sometimes even I wake up and once the excruciating pain passes, I think all this disease stuff is part of my ”lazy” or “crazy” -time and I just need to get up and get going…STOP sloughing off with the SLLCC. The funny part is I can get a few things done (dishes and shower) and then the wheels come off…the disease wins. I wish I could tell you that this blog is going to be inspirational show-tunes with me training for marathons but it will not.

So, now that I am a card-carrying-member of the SLLCC I wish to apologize to all those I have disparaged in my mind over the years…being SLLCC is not all that it is “cracked-up to be” (no pun intended). I would not do this on purpose for any amount of free time.

In this blog I will muse about my physical, spiritual, psychological, and familial “space” because of my diseases. Most of the reason for undertaking this venture is selfish. I know that continuing to express myself through various means will help some cognitive issues I have (yes, due to the disease and the medications…not just because I was in the Marines!).  I hope it is a way to reach out to my wife and sons with things they have heard a thousand times but in a different way. Also, it is a venue to talk about hard things like suicide…death…and taxes. Oh, I am Christian and darned humbled to be one.

Dirk McChin

(*I told that specific event for this blog introduction, but it does not represent the entirety of my boot camp experience. One funny example was a recruit caught laughing during bunk inspection so the DI put a trash can on his head and laugh for thirty minutes straight and when he started to wane in his laughing the DI would smack the trash can with a ruler and scream, “I can’t hear you!” I guess you had to be there…)