I have an interesting relationship with the Marine Corps these days. This, obviously, is due to the nature of my work. I happen to run a social media/internet-based business that deals directly with Marines and the military at large.

While I am grateful to say that the Corps itself has largely left me alone in my work, there’s an occasional butt of heads when it comes to the user-submitted content I post to my Facebook page or Twitter. You see, Marines do silly things, and these days more than ever they like to document it with their smartphones and cameras. They send it to me and I put it up for a good laugh.

Rarely, but sometimes, I’ll receive an email or a message asking me to take the photo down. Sometimes the request is vague, but most of the time it’s something like “dude my chain of command is freaking out about that photo can you take it down please?”

I’m not going to sit here and pretend like I’m some insane maverick that abides to nothing. Generally, I will take the photo down when there’s a genuine request on behest of the person in or responsible for the photo because I’m not an asshole. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same about some chains of command, where even after the photo is removed, the Marine is punished.

There is a lot to be said about the advent of social media in the military community in the last 5 years–myself admittedly near the helm of it–and possibly even more to be said about handling of it by the official channels. In my humble opinion, I don’t think the Marine Corps was ready for the rise of Facebook and is still playing catch-up with how to handle it. This was abundantly clear during the reign of General Amos, whose reputation amongst the general enlisted population was nigh abysmal by any standard. Social media played a huge part in this, where even the most general of the general population could voice their concerns and complaints in broad daylight–which is something that really never existed before. What used to be grumblings in the barracks was now a public display of memes, CAR jokes and general discontent.

The military, as an institution, has always relied on militant control over its own. It is the military, after all. More recently, this has been expressed by a quick trigger when it comes to posting content online. Marines are often punished for even the most slight of slights in an effort to control the uncontrollable.

There is an underlying reality that should be noted in all of this, however.

Marines have been doing stupid shit since 1775.

The only difference is now everyone has a camera in their pocket. I often see, in comments on my own content, how Marines didn’t do such dumb stuff back in the “old Corps” (as its known). This is absolutely false, you just didn’t take photos of it and post it on the internet.

Social media in the military is an interesting subject, one I find intriguing on both a personal and professional level. Over the years its been interesting to me not only to see how Marines interact with it, but how the Marine Corps itself has reacted to it.

Angry Facebook veterans are officially the Tumblr social justice warriors of the veteran world.

If you’ve been in the veteran/military Facebook page circuit lately, you’ve probably seen at least once or twice a collective, hive mind outrage at a shirt that Under Armor put out called “Band of Ballers.”

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As you can see, it’s clearly a parody of the iconic Iwo Jima flag raising from World War II.

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This is an outrage! I guess? Don’t get me wrong, I understand the significance of the Iwo Jima flag raising photo (especially as a Marine), but what bothers me is that every week there’s some new collective butt-hurt about some stupid thing that impacts absolutely no one. This week was “Band of Ballers,” last week was minorities stepping on the American flag. Every week there’s something new to be upset about floating around the veteran community and it gets old really fast.

Here’s the thing…

If you truly believe in Freedom of Speech and support and defend the United States Constitution, you will defend even those you disagree with. You should embrace the fact that you are offended, because this is America, and people have the right to offend you.

Unfortunately the vocal minority of the veteran community seems to be the loudest, and any time there’s some insignificant slight that happens, it makes the rounds. I can’t tell you the countless amount of Facebook messages and emails I receive every day that are some conversation with a civilian that dislikes the military, or a dumb Facebook post that’s anti-military, or something as stupid as a shirt called Band of Ballers that I’m supposed to “make famous.” I also can’t describe to you how much I don’t care every time I see it.

This is America.

You cannot demand censorship of someone just because they offend you.

The saddest part of this comic strip is that I almost didn’t do it because I was genuinely worried I might offend some veterans, but then I realized that’s exactly why I needed to do it. To sum this up, everyone just needs to chill the fuck out. Under Armor had no malicious intent with their shirt, and they certainly aren’t the first people to parody the Iwo Jima flag raising.

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Happy Pay Day!

Pay Day is a wonderful holiday celebrated on the 1st and 15th of every month across the Corps. Though typically, the most flagrant and colorful display of the festivities can be found in an infantry barracks.

This holiday brings with it showers of coin and ale! For a typical Lance Corporal, Pay Day can last anywhere from a few days to as little as 5 minutes depending on what he chooses to do. Legend has it that riches are placed into your bank account through means of sorcery and IPAC as a reward for appeasing the green gods. If the green gods are not pleased with you if you fucked up over the week somehow, they can actually restrict your Pay Day celebration by withholding your biweekly gift.

Marines are often known to greet each other on this glorious day by saying, “Hey you want to get fucked up tonight?”

Happy Pay Day!

Happy Pay Day!

On an unrelated note, I just wanted to mention that I unfortunately cancelled my upcoming appearance at AwesomeCon in DC. The guys at AwesomeCon were amazingly hospitable, but unfortunately right now I’m just too deeply embroiled in The White Donkey to step away and fly across the country for even a few days.

I get asked about The White Donkey a lot, and it’s actually really stressful, because I want to answer your questions, but the status of the book simply doesn’t change that often. Currently I’m still doing the primary inking of the 220+ pages. Once that is done I will be passing it off to another (or two other) artist to help me with the watercolor toning, while I will be simultaneously adding dialog to the pages (speech bubbles). It’s a lot of work, but this book is going to be a big deal, and it needs to be done right. I appreciate your patience, as I will be the first to admit that I grossly underestimated how much work a book of this size was.

If you’re reading this and you’re wondering what the fuck I’m talking about, The White Donkey is a full-length Terminal Lance graphic novel that I’ve been working on for a while. I expect to be done within only a couple of months at the most, and by the time it is finished, it will have been 5 years in the making.

Yes, I started writing this book in 2010.

I don’t mention it a lot in my posts because I’m just trying to keep my head low and finish it, but I am honestly a little nervous about it. It’s an intensely personal book, and to my knowledge no one has ever made anything like this. As it gets closer to being done, it’s amazing to look at all the work I’ve put into it and realize that it’s finally working. It’s a real thing that I can hold and flip through and look at with my own eyes, and it feels real.

Anyway, sorry to ramble. I’m excited and believe me, when it’s done, you will all know.

LCPL Gannon telling Abe all about their new MRAP.

LCPL Gannon telling Abe all about their new MRAP.

Much like a troop of chimpanzees, Marines are very close-knit animals in their natural habitat. Personal boundaries more or less disappear as soon as you step on those yellow footprints, as the next thing you know you’re “nut-to-butt” with the recruit in front of you everywhere you go. Of course, this is the military, and much like any of these team settings, you’ll find yourself on quite a few occasions showering or otherwise naked shoulder-to-shoulder with your compatriots.

Get all up in there

Get all up in there

I never really played much sports in high school or otherwise (I know, a total shocker coming from the guy that writes and draws for a living). The hyper masculine environment of the Marine Corps was something I had to get used to upon arrival. I remember being really worried about the initial piss test when I first got to boot camp. Why?

Because I used to get the stage fright.

I know, it’s silly, but I was genuinely worried about it going into the Corps. My worries didn’t last though, because a piss test is surprisingly easier to do than I thought it would be when a sweaty drill instructor is screaming at you. After that first day I never had an issue with the stage fright again.

(For those of you that don’t know what I’m talking about, it’s when a male can’t pee on command if someone is watching or near him. I’m assuming this could happen to women too, but the opportunity probably doesn’t present itself as often, since women’s bathrooms are usually more private in nature).

Still though, there’s some lines you shouldn’t cross. When I was in Iraq in 2007, we had a somewhat… special member of our platoon (who I shan’t name here, though if you were with 3/3 India, you probably know who I’m talking about).

Every night that we were back at Camp Fallujah, he would surely be in the shower trailer stark naked, rubbing himself with cocoa butter. If you’re not familiar with shower trailers, they’re usually split in half; with one half having about 6 individual showers and the other half with sinks and mirrors.

Obviously I make a lot of jokes here, but I am not making this up.

He would be completely nude on the mirror side, rubbing cocoa butter on his soft, flabby skin. If you walked in at the wrong time, he would turn to you and say, “hey bro, can you rub some cocoa butter on my back?”

Oh, on an admin note, if you’re interested in advertising on Terminal Lance, please click the “Contact” tab at the top of the site.

I’ve always had a somewhat rough relationship with my recruiter. If there’s one thing I can credit him with, it’s that he was always completely honest with me. I know, right?

I was an easy sell though, he didn’t really have to convince me of anything. The story of my enlistment is a bit strange, at least anecdotally compared to most stories I’ve heard. At the time, I was attending Portland Community College with some intent on being an artist or filmmaker professionally. I was walking out of the school’s chow hall (cafeteria, as civilians call them) and there happened to be recruiters camped out in the main hall.

“Hey man, you ever think about joining the military?” he said to me.

“Yes, actually… I have.”

My family wasn’t exactly a military family, I didn’t have any role model I was aspiring to be. I simply wanted to be an artist. I was looking for something that I knew I wasn’t going to find unless I did something absolutely insane, by most standards. What could possibly be crazier than enlisting in the United States Marine Corps and going to Iraq? With an ASVAB score of 92 I went open-contract infantry (0300) by choice. My recruiter even tried to talk me out of going infantry, but I figured if I would rather join the Air Force if I wasn’t going to be a grunt.

I just wanted to see Iraq with my own eyes, and I got that opportunity twice as an 0351 with 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marines.

Waxing poetic; tortured artist–call it whatever you want. At the very least, I put my money where my mouth was. As for if I ever found what I was looking for… I don’t know, but maybe that was the point.

Despite the humor here, I can’t exactly blame my recruiter for anything. I’ve heard the stories from other Marines, but mine was upfront with me about basically everything. Well, one of them was. I later heard that one of the other recruiters at that particular RS got busted for sleeping with some poolees.

I can’t imagine the heartache that Marines are feeling at the moment, as General Dunford has been nominated to become the next Joint Chiefs Chairman and relinquish his position as Commandant of the Marine Corps after only 6 months.

As I’ve been doing Terminal Lance over the years, I notice a lot of things happening over the landscape of the Corps and the veteran communities. One thing is for sure, Marines actually really love Gen. Dunford. He’s a grunt, a Marine’s Marine and I can’t think of anyone that wasn’t happy to see him take Gen. Amos’ place.

Lore was spoken of him across the land, legend said that he would restore balance to the Marine Corps from Gen. Amos. Tattoo policies would be changed, women would never be in the infantry, and the chow hall would serve beer on tap. To the lament of many Marines, with such a short time in office, none of these expectations really came to fruition.

At the very least, I’m sure he’ll do a fine job in his new position; but beer in the chow hall might still be a ways off.

In other news, have you ever noticed my baller Twitter feed on this page? You can follow me on Twitter here.

You know, hurting small animals is a clinical sign of a psychopath. The FBI even found that cruelty to animals is a common trait among murderers and rapists.

If you’re reading this and you don’t know what this comic is about, you probably aren’t a Marine. For you non-rates, this is a really common “moto-cadence” that is sang during platoon runs. Everyone commonly hates singing cadence, so most people only actually do it when they’re trying to impress the CO or something dumb. It’s one of those things that literally everyone hates doing but still do it, like the Marine Corps Birthday Ball and showing up to formation sober.

If you read the Marine Corps Times newspaper, you might have already seen this strip before. I’m juggling a few things at the moment and didn’t get a chance to make a new strip today. I know a big chunk of my audience doesn’t read the paper (civilians for instance), there’s some talking going on about how to make those strips accessible in the future. Did you know there’s over 200 comic strips that were only published in the Marine Corps Times newspaper?

You can buy the first 100 in this Kindle book!

For your weekend liberty brief: don’t drink or fuck anything that seems unsafe.

Platoon commanders, they’re all yours.

In my mind, I’ve always typically divided the Marine Corps up into thirds. You have the infantry, the ground side POGs (which is what you typically think of as a POG, such as an office guy or girl), and the wing. Obviously, there’s some exceptions and some leeway in some areas, but that’s generally how the Marine Corps is divided up. The wing (air wing) are POGs as well, but they’re really an entirely different culture than the regular POG life.

It’s not unlike a set of high school cliques; exclusive and loyal to each other. The grunts are the jocks, the rockstars, and the guys that everyone loves (even if they won’t admit it). They party hard and fuck shit up when the time comes. The POGs might say they hate them, or that they aren’t impressed with them, but if Jock McBadass offered to let you touch his penis (even just once), you’d probably let him.

The age old argument I see often from the POG side is that being infantry means you won’t have any transferrable skills in the civilian world when you get out of the Corps. True, but who cares when the Post 9/11 GI Bill can set you up with literally any career you want? May as well get the glory while you can, lest you regret it later.

As for the wing, no one really knows what the fuck goes on over there. They usually get a whole section of the base to themselves, with their own PX and barbershops, and when you occasionally see them on your side of town they’re always wearing flight suits.

No one understands them.

The following was written by Combat Artist Robert Bates:

Hey all, Terminal Lance Rob Bates here. Anyone who’s ever been to Afghanistan and had the opportunity to work side by side with Afghan interpreters should know how important Thursday is to some of them. I can’t speak on behalf of those who’ve served in Iraq, because I’ve never been there—but I can safely assume that if you’ve served in a line company, or in direct support of one in Afghanistan, you probably have your own Man Love Thursday stories to share.

This strip is loosely based on a true story. About 11 years ago while deployed with BLT 1/6 near Tarin Kowt, I remember waking up only to see from 10 feet away one terp resting his head on the bare chest of another terp. Both were lying in that pose while talking to a third terp who was standing in front of them. I can’t remember whether or not if this fell on a Thursday but, regardless of the day of the week, it was a pretty disturbing sight to wake up to.

I can’t say for sure who coined the name Man-Love Thursday, or how it all got started. What I can say, though, is that it’s a very real thing in that area of the world and in various parts of West Virginia.

Before I go, I would also like to share with you the art that I make. In addition to being a former 0311 Terminal Lance with two hashmarks, I’m also a freelance combat artist and a professional editorial illustrator. Follow me on my Facebook page, where I post regular unscheduled updates about the work that I make. Lastly, a here’s big thanks to Max for asking me to make today’s strip and for the plug-in.

Rah, yut, kill.

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Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had plenty of fun nights at Kahuna’s on MCBH Kaneohe Bay, but there’s a definite disparity between the E-Club and the O-Club. Of course, this is to be expected, as officers are shiny gods and enlisted are… enlisted.

I once had the pleasure of eating lunch at the Officer’s Club at MCBH. It was an experience, to say the least. Overlooking the beautiful MCBH Clipper Golf Course (one of the most gorgeous golf vistas in the nation), nothing makes you feel more like a lowly peasant than being gawked at by offended officer wives as a few Lance Corporals awkwardly made their way through the high-end Mongolian Grill and salad bar.

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It’s a stark contrast to the dive-bar experience of the E-Club, where you’ll meet an assortment of characters ranging from drunk Lance Corporals to… more drunk Lance Corporals. To be fair, karaoke and wing night make for a much more colorful and entertaining experience.

Still, the lifestyle contrast between officers and enlisted is always shockingly stark. I mean, I get it, officers are a big deal and enlisted are a dime a dozen. The military wants to retain good officers, so they treat them like posh royalty. It’s probably the only place where a bachelor’s degree gets you an automatic high-class lifestyle, even if you occasionally have to slum it with us lowly enlisted folk.