Chapter 36: Man, I wish I knew how to spit shine boots

"0131, 0131, 0131....seriously, it's still closed for promotion? Ugh!!!"
This was my frustration for seven months. Waiting for the cutting scores to come out was like watching to see if your stocks went up or down. Nothing was worse than the pay of a Lance Corporal in the Marine Corps. Okay, maybe the pay of a Private or Private First Class, but who cares about them. This is all about me.
I did everything that I possibly could to get promoted. I was an Expert rifle shooter, had a First Class PFT (even thought I really hated to run), maxed out on my off-duty education, had outstanding Proficiency and Conduct Marks, and was a Lance Corporal for forever and a day. I was sick of being a Lance Corporal. What made it worse was watching Crew Chiefs fresh out of MOS school, checking in as Corporals. How I despised those Crew Chiefs.
To top off my misery, reality set in. Nothing is more embarrassing than the Sergeant in your office reviewing the advance pay roster and asking, "Who only makes $258 a pay day?" Knowing it was me, I kept my mouth shut. "Cox, what, you owe someone some money? Government checking your pay? What the hell?" After I told him that my car payment came out my paycheck and that's all that was left over, he laughed hysterically and called me a loser. Gee thanks.
Making fun of a broke-ass Lance Corporal just isn't right. I thought it was cool when my parents bought me a brand new car, but I didn't think it was that cool once they made me pay the $400 car payment. I was stuck eating in the chow hall for every meal or just dated guys for a free meal. Trust me, $258 didn't go that far. Oh and that was for two weeks, not one. Poverty I tell you. Granted, I had free rent and utilities, but man, this girl really wanted to get her drink on, and $258 for two weeks just wasn't cutting it.
After feeling bad about me making close to nothing, the Sergeant gave me an idea. "Why don't you try to get meritoriously promoted?" Hmm, interesting. It would be cool to get some extra money. My MOS had been closed for months with no hope for it opening up any time soon, I have done all that I could to get promoted, and hell, why not just go for it.
So, I went home and started studying my little Green Monster. Hadn't opened it since Boot Camp, so I was a tad rusty on my knowledge. So I wiped off the camo paint off of it and started reading up. For two weeks, I studied every bit of Marine Corps knowledge. I was like a robot. If you asked me a question, I gave you the answer. I had this...I just knew I did.
I went ahead and showed up for the Squadron Board. Turned out it was just me and this kid that just picked up Lance Corporal going up for Marine of The Quarter. I was a tad nervous, especially when I looked down at his boots and noticed how super shiny they were. I looked down at mine and thought, "Damn, I wish I knew how to spit shine my boots." All confidence was gone - over a spit shine. After wallowing in self-pity, my name was called. I entered the room, snapped to attention. "Lance Corporal Cox reporting as ordered." "At ease, Marine." There in front of me was the Squadron Sergeant Major, the Squadron Gunny and the Maintenance Chief, people that I have seen on a daily basis for over a year. Didn't matter...made me nervous as hell. I was still bothered over the stupid spit shine. Then the questions started. "Marine, what is located on the Page 11 of the Service Record Book?" Thinking in my head, Are you freaking kidding me? This is my job. I look at Page 11's all day, I answered the question. The questions kept getting easier and the answers kept flowing out of my mouth. Then the Sergeant Major asked me when my birthday was. I froze up. I couldn't remember my birthday. I just blurted out a date that came to mind and hoped that he wasn't paying attention. After a long pause, he dismissed me from the room. I did an about face, and left the room. Kicking myself in the ass, I lied to the Marine following me and told him that the senior enlisted were acting like pricks so be strong. The look on his face was epic.
After he went into the room, I paced back in forth in the hall, pissed at myself. Seriously, my birthday? I didn't know my birthday? All of sudden, I heard a roar of laughter. Within minutes, the other Marine was back out with me, with a beet red face. When I asked him what happened, he shook his head. We were then called back into the room. The Sergeant Major asked me, "LCpl Cox, how do you spit shine boots? Puzzled, I told him, "Boot polish, a dauber, water, a cloth and pressure?" "Very good, Marine." He looked at the other Marine and asked, "Marine, how did you spit shine boots?" With a nervous voice, he said, "Mop and Glo, Sergeant Major." And with that, my friends, I won the Marine of the Quarter Board. The Sergeant Major then told me, "LCpl Cox, congratulations. You have won the Marine of the Quarter Board. The next board will be on November 20th at the MAG. Represent us well." Crap, are you serious? That's my birthday! I sheepishly told the Sergeant Major, "SgtMaj, thank you for selecting me to represent the Squadron, however, I will be on leave that day for my birthday." Confused, he looked at me and said, "Isn't your birthday in May? Isn't that what you just told us? Who in the hell doesn't know when their birthday is?" I simply replied, "Sgt Major, I was testing you to see if you were paying attention to what I was telling you. Attention to detail is a trait that great Marines should have." With that, he grinned, and said, "Great job, Marine." Have a great birthday.
Needless to say, I didn't get promoted and I was still poor. Mop and Glo Marine went to the board in my place and guess what? He was meritoriously promoted to Corporal. I went home on leave for my 21st Birthday and saw Rugrats in Paris with my nieces. Yep, still a loser and still poor.


  1. great story! You should of became a combat correspondent and wrote stories for the Corps like I did. You would of picked up real quick hahaha! I use to spit shine my boots till they looked like mirrors, but never used mop and glo. I heard other Marines did it and laughed my ass off! LOL
    John Sayas
    USMC 96-04


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