The Back Story of FORCE
When I talk about my current projects, whether it is my book, Generals and Grunts, or the documentary, FORCE reconnaissance/swift-silent-deadly, I am asked, “Cindy, Why the Marines?”, “You didn’t serve, so why the military as a focus?”, or “Why Force Reconnaissance?” Well, my love and deep respect for our Armed Forces began as a child, and my interest in the United States Marine Corps came to be in high school, with my primary focus on the Corps happening in 2012. The following is the evolution of my need to bring the ethos of the Devil Dogs to the general population:
I have the honor of being from a family of more than fifteen Veterans – eight sailors, five Marines, three soldiers, two airmen, and two National Guardsmen. My grandfather, Manual T. Gonzales served with the 39th Battalion of the Seabees in World War II, all my uncles (eight in total) also served, as well as my oldest brother Mark and several cousins, so my deep respect for our Armed Forces runs deep in my blood. The call to duty, to serve our Nation, and to protect our rights to live freely is not something to dismiss or spit at; the men and women, who freely choose, to be in the military, deserve our utmost respect and time to know who and what they do for man and country – that is the most basic reason for my focus on featuring our military.
In the Fall of 1979, during my Senior Year at Edinburg High School, we were told that, once again we would be taking the ASVAB - Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery. We took the test as sophomores, and I proudly scored 86 on the exam, so I saw no need to take it again. When I realized it was a military test I wanted to know if I or any of us needed to retest as Seniors. By coincidence a young Marine, who was in his Dress Blue Delta uniform – Khaki short-sleeved blouse and blue trousers with a red Blood stripe, was standing at attention in the main hall, so I walked up to him, and asked, “Sir, do you know if I have to take the ASVAB test again? I took it as a sophomore and did well.”
He gave me a sideways glance and a smirky smile, and said, “No ma’am, once is all we need to know your abilities.” I proceeded to tell my fellow seniors, and we decided to take the afternoon off! Why do I remember that moment in time? Well, the rebellious act is a fun memory, but that is not why that moment stayed with me – no, it was the vision of that Marine.
The Marine stood tall for hours. He did not flinch from his “attention” stance. He did not disrespect a young female asking a question. His uniform was crisp and stunningly memorable. That Marine took pride in his very being, the uniform, and the knowledge that he was a Marine. The image of that young man on that warm fall day still stays with me after forty plus years.
Years passed and I went on my merry way – college, marriage, kids, divorce, careers in corporate America, government, politics, and many other “get me through” jobs. In January of 2012, I was asked to meet with a U.S. Congressional candidate running in the Texas 15th District to discuss his campaign. The candidate was (Ret.) USMC Sergeant Major James (Jim) Kuiken.
At the time, I did not know what a Sgt. Major was or did, but after my initial research on him, I was fully aware that this Marine was very dedicated to serving an ethos and his Nation.
Initially, after our first meeting, Jim began to explain the meaning behind being a Marine in the United States Marine Corps and the rank of Sgt. Major. The ethos and dedication of those serving in the Corps was, and is, a fascinating study in human nature. His lessons reminded me of our forefathers and mothers who fought in our war for freedom during the American Revolution and on the shores of the Pacific Islands during World War II. But the final piece of the puzzle, the final Why, happened during our campaign stops at the Heart of Texas Marine’s breakfast where I met Gunnery Sergeant Blaine Scott.
As I stood at the breakfast buffet, I turned to see a man standing tall and steady, and looking around for a familiar face. His face was completely scarred with burns, as were his hands and arms – what I could see of them. I immediately knew he was a Marine and his wounds were combat acquired. I walked up to him and asked if he was there for the breakfast and would like to sit with the Sgt. Major and our team. He said yes, and so began my journey into bringing the ethos of the Corps to the general population.
The following month at the breakfast, Blaine joined us again. He asked Jim if he could come speak to the wounded Marines at Fort Sam (Joint Base San Antonio). As Jim’s Campaign Manager, I stepped into the conversation to ask Blaine, “When and at what time would the meeting be?”
“Ma’am, we meet each Thursday at zero 6:30 for tacos and discussion” responded Blaine.
I looked at him like he was crazy, and replied, “6:30! Are you crazy, our district is an hour away! I’d have to get up at 4 just to be ready in time.”
The table got quiet, the Sgt. Major said nothing, as Blaine turned to look at me, paused, and then with a straight face replied “Quit your whining, and suck it up…. ma’am.”
Needless to say, the entire table, myself included, had a good long belly laugh. We attended the next week, arriving on Marine time, which meant we were thirty-minutes early.
After a few days of laughing at myself, it sunk in…we complain so easily at being inconvenienced by small things and at having our daily scheduled interrupted, so much so that we forget to see the reality of our freedom. What do I mean by that?
Well, our continued freedom depends on the strength of the members of our armed forces to keep peace, and war off our land. Visualize the men and women in combat – some lying on the desert floor with a thin poncho liner eating MREs, or bending down by a river to scoop up a handful of water in the middle of a hot humid jungle, or still others trying to keep warm in sub-freezing weather as the enemy pounds their camp…these folks would love to attend a breakfast in an air conditioned building eating warm tacos and drinking coffee, or having a hot shower, but they chose to serve each of us and we have to decide if we can honor that decision, by choosing to honor their service. I have chosen to do that by writing about the United Marine Corps’ ethos, and producing a documentary (the first of five) on the Corps…the first one being about Force Reconnaissance’s ethos and training.
Why Force Reconnaissance? Jim is a member of Force Reconnaissance, so I had learned a little about their particular job and what it entails. I learned more after attending my first Force Recon Association Reunion in September of 2019 at Marine Corps Base Camp LeJeune during Hurricane Dorian. The Base officially shut down because of the impending storm, but that did not stop the “Never Quit” Recon Marines. I gained so much knowledge on their dedication to the Corps, to each other, and to being a Force Recon Marine at the gathering – they do not see themselves as better than any other Marine. In fact, they will proudly tell you, “Ma’am, I’m just a Marine tasked with keeping other Marines safe.” It is their humility and love of the Marine to left or right of them that drew me to study and learn more about their ethos of Never Quit, and their training as Silent Professionals that live by the motto of Swift – Silent – Deadly.
My hope is that I inspire the general population to think long and hard about applying the ethos of these men as a way to walk their own paths, but even more so, I want to honor those that fight as Devil Dogs for your and my freedom.
Enjoy the FORCE trailer, and please support the making of this documentary with a financial donation!
Best always, Cindy A. Gonzalez