Interview of Jason Walters by Dan Ralph (2004)
1. When and why did you enlist into the Marines?
“In 1989, my senior year in high school. My dad was a Marine in Vietnam and he always said every man should serve his country. So I knew since I was about eight that I would be a marine”.
2. Could you explain your involvement with the Marines?
“I was a squad leader in 1st battalion 2nd marines. Our duty was to be ready to attack from sea to land or to attack from helicopter to land also urban warfare that means clearing cities or towns. My job was to train and lead my men, I was in charge of about 12 guys. I was also the hand to hand combat instructor for Charlie Company. My battalion was made up of four companies’ alpha, bravo, Charlie and weapons companies”.
3. Why were the Haitians coming into America? And where were they coming from?
“Haitians tried fleeing Haiti and coming to America. I’m not sure why other than the U.S is just the better country to live in. They had aids, at least 75% of them did and they needed medical attention. All the borders of the U.S. are guarded from all kinds trying to get a better life in the U.S.”
4. While dealing with the Haitians did you believe this was the right thing to do?
“Yes, if we let them in our country they would have spread aids and who knows what else. They were a threat to themselves and us”.
5. Where did you travel with the Marines? And what do you remember about the local people and places?
“I was in Japan, Okinawa, Korea Cuba, Alaska, Philippines, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia. The people of Japan that I seen seemed educated and driven. Some still upset with us because of the bomb in WW2. Now the Okinawans hated us and the island seemed poor although the country of Japan and Okinawa is beautiful. The locals just wanted us to spend money the electronic technology is years ahead of us. Korea was nasty the people are nasty. But, I did train with the Korean rock marines and they are some tough little men and they loved us. We did mountain warfare training there that was intense. I never got off base in Cuba so don’t know much about them. Alaska was cold and very expensive”.
6. What type of people were the Haitians?
“The ones we dealt with were nasty poor black or dark in color and very thin unhealthy. They were in dire need of medical treatment”.
7. Did you ever feel like that you were in danger while being positioned where you were? ( Like Korea or where ever you were at)
“Korea at the time was like a time bomb waiting to go off North Korea and South Korea were divided, and we always heard that we could end up in war with them but when you’re young and a Marine you just don’t fear things like you should. So not really”.
8. A theme we are discussing in class is ” Fall from Innocence” Do you feel that by joining the Marines may have taken away from you Innocence?
“Ha ha I had no innocence, but I can see what it means. You are trained in the Marines to kill or be killed. If I gave my life for my country it was the right thing to do on the other hand if I had to take a life it was right too. If you kill I guess you lose your innocence. I could name a lot of other ways I lost mine, but I don’t think that’s what we are talking about! To answer your question no but I understand and I never killed anybody”!
9. What was the relationship between your fellow Marines?
“We were very tight like brothers, a bond that couldn’t be broken. We had to trust each other with our lives”!
10. What was your daily routine with the Marines?
“The basic routine majority of the time was a 5am 3-5 mile run, then about a hour of cals like push ups pull ups sit ups etc. Chow at 7 am then combat training, target practice, weapons training and assault drills. 11am chow 12:30pm train till 4pm then some sort of work out”.
11. When you came back to “normal life” did you have a period of adjustment?
“Yes, for years you train to kill. You eat fast you are always on a set schedule that you live by. For me it was hard to control my temper, because if you’re messed with in there you just fuck someone up. In the real world it don’t work that way. The way you talk to people is hard, instead of demanding something to be done you have to ask. It’s a different life for sure”!
12. How would you define war?
“Words don’t do it! Horrible ugly inhumane but sometimes a must! News cameras should not be near it because it’s filled with ugly. Normal people can’t understand”.
13. Do you think about your involvement with the Marines often? And is there any specific stories that come to mind?
“All the time, one thing I learned is your body doesn’t die your mind does (mind over matter). The human body can do far more than most minds will let it. Never give up ! After seeing other countries you learn to love everything about the U.S. In the Philippines there is a river called shit river all the sewage goes to that river there is a bridge over that river and a lot of locals hang out on it. Well marines walk it all the time and if you take a penny or nickel and throw over that bridge into that horrible nasty river the locals will jump in to find that worthless penny! Now just how bad do we have it here?”
14. How do you feel with U.S decisions about the war?
“I think the media tells us too much and I think we are getting soft! War is not kind its not fare but we must fight for us to stay strong. Afghanistan I don’t think we are doing enough and in Iraq we cant help them people. We need to finish and get out. Saddam shouldn’t have ever been taken alive”!
15. Do you think you are a different person because you entered the Marines?
“Better yes, I think the marines saved my life its not for everyone but I’m stronger in the mind because if. I’m good under pressure and I believe I can survive no matter what is thrown at me”.
16. What are Haitians? And were they armed when they came over?
“Haitians are people from Haiti. Not with guns, but with sticks, knives and aids yes .I compare them to a cock roach!”
17. Do you believe the Marines have helped you in your daily life?
“With out a doubt. When I was twenty-three about a year after I got out I was in a boat accident. Six people on board my uncle and four friends and me. We hit a barge at 70 mph, four died, me and my buddy dean lived after I swam in 39 degree water for 20 min. I knew my uncle died and my three friends. I knew how to survive, my friend almost quit but I grabbed him and kept us both a float until a boat found us. He was in shock and had hypothermia I was focused on surviving!”
I interviewed Jason Walters, who was a squad leader for the 1st Battalion 2nd Marines. He explained that their duty was to be ready to attack from the sea, air and urban warfare. Urban warfare is the clearing of cities or towns. Being a squad leader, his personal job was to train and lead his soldiers. Jason was in charge of twelve men. He also instructed hand to hand combat for the Charlie Company. His involvement with the Marines came after the Persian Gulf War. He was shipped off to guard the borders of the United States from the Haitians fleeing from Haiti. ” The ones we dealt with were nasty poor black or dark in color and very unhealthy”. Jason did not know why they were trying to get into the U.S but he believed that his orders were justified. The Haitians were infected with aids and all sorts of other diseases, which could have been rapidly spread throughout the states if it was not for the Marines. He never felt like his life was in danger, because the Haitians were not carrying any weapons except for sticks and diseases. During his time with the Marines, Jason was able to travel the world. He has been to Japan, Okinawa, Korea, Cuba, Alaska, Philippines, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia. During our interview he was thankful to have been able to experience these foreign places. “After seeing other countries you learn to love everything about the U.S”. In Korea the U.S Marines were able to train with the Korean Rock Marines for mountain warfare. Jason felt privileged to have the opportunity to work with these marines. ” They were some tough little men and they loved us”. After his time with the Marines it took some time for him to get adjusted to normal life. He mentioned that in the Marines you are trained to kill and eat fast. He also went onto explain that when your with the Marines your on a set schedule. His basic routine was filled with three to five mile runs, push-ups, sit-ups, combat training, weapon training and assault drills. ” It was hard for me to control my temper because if you’re messed with in there you just fuck someone up, in the real world it don’t work that way”. Although he knows that the Marines have saved his life. A year after he was out of the Marines Jason was in a horrible boat accident. He had to swim in thirty-nine degree water and keep his friend above the water. In the accident his uncle and three of his friends died. The only survivors were Jason and his one friend. During our interview, there were many experiences that echoed themes that we have studied, but there were also some differences.
My interview with Jason had similarities to the topics and literature that we discussed in class. In The Rifleman’s Dilemma by Barry Kroll, there was the question whether or not the soldier should shoot the women. We discussed that soldiers must be able to trust each other with their lives. Jason explained the love that the Marines shared between each other. ” We were very tight, like brothers. A bond that couldn’t be broken, we had to trust each other with our lives”. The soldier in the story has a bond with his fellow soldiers to protect their lives; similar to the bond Jason shred with his fellow Marines. In The Price of Valor by Dan Baum, Carl suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder due to his involvement in the war. Jason did not suffer PTSD but did have a period time for adjustment. His temper was his biggest problem. He also mentioned that life in the Marines was on a schedule. Carl and Jason both had a period time where they need to adjust to normal life. The most important theme we discussed in class was “Fall from Innocence”. When I confronted Jason with this theme he laughed and said, ” I never had any innocence”. But, he could understand how there could be a fall from innocence by joining the Marines. He explained that in the Marines you are trained to kill in various ways. He also pointed out that he never killed anyone but obviously that would be a way to loose your innocence as well. The literature we discussed in class pertaining to the theme fall from innocence dealt with young soldiers going to war and experiencing the nasty and horrible outcomes of war. I think the similarities with Jason and the theme we discussed would be that Jason went into the Marines right out of high school and experienced life in the service.
The interview did not reveal much of a difference from what we studied in class. The biggest difference that I noticed from this interview and the literature from class was the interview was real. The stories we read in class seemed fake. The time I shared with Jason and being able to talk to him about his experience seemed more authentic then the stories in class. The only time in class were a story felt real was when your dad came to talk about his Vietnam experience. I enjoyed listening to your dad’s experience in the war because it was true and real. The authenticity of the interview was the biggest difference I noticed between my interview and the literature from class.
Through my interview with Jason Walters I have witnessed many stories of war. Although, Jason was never in a war, he has experience life in the Marines and being called to duty. The most important story takes place in the Philippines. There is a river that is filled with sewage called a “Shit River”. The Marines would travel over this river by a bridge. He explained that the local people would hang out by this bridge and if you through a penny or a nickel into the river that the locals would jump in the river to try to find the money. This story makes me sick. I feel blessed to have the things I have today because of this story. Another story that Jason told me was the boat accident. I have known Jason for five years and this story was important to him. His voice and demeanor changed during the interview when he was telling this story. He lost three friends and his uncle in the accident, but he was able to save his friend’s life. He believes that he was able to survive the accident because of his involvement with the Marines. He explained that the Marines have made him a stronger person mentally and physically. He also went onto say that although the Marines have helped him that it’s not for everyone. This interview has brought our relationship closer. He actually wrote me e-mail thanking me for asking him questions about his experience in the Marines.