Capt Donald Miller, U.S. Marine Corps (1970-1984)

April Runner Up


The following Reflection represents Capt Donald Miller’s legacy of their military service from 1970 to 1984. If you are a Veteran, consider preserving a record of your own military service, including your memories and photographs, on (TWS), the leading archive of living military history. The Service Reflections is an easy-to-complete self-interview, located on your TWS Military Service Page, which enables you to remember key people and events from your military service and the impact they made on your life.

Can you recount a particular incident from your service, which may or may not have been funny at the time but still makes you laugh?

If there was one thing that could strike fear into any Marine recruit back when we actually received service numbers, it was the fear of being sent back for some mischief, thus prolonging our time in purgatory. I faced that very real possibility between Phase 2 and Phase 3 at MCRD, San Diego, and it was Mess and Maintenance week.

I was on mess duty. One private was bakery man. Bakery men worked in the area where they made desserts for recruits. My senior drill instructor would not allow us to have desserts and craved sweets.

At the rear of the mess hall, off to the right, sat a cooler room. In it were kept 55 gallon drums filled with table scraps from the recruits. Twice a week, a local pig farmer would come to the chow hall and load up those 55 gallon drums to feed his pigs. In this cooler room, the 55 gallon drums were kept on top of wooden pallets.

One day bakery man brought a 36 X 24 white sheet cake and slipped it between the wooden uprights of one of the pallets. Recruits would slip into the cooler. I went into the cooler, closed the door behind me, knelt down, and pulled the cake out. Grabbing a handful, I stuffed it in my mouth while replacing the cake. I just stood there rapturously, trying to chew and swallow the large amount of confection in my mouth. Suddenly the door flew open, and there stood a Hat, a DI, a recruit’s worst nightmare.

My pucker factor went off the charts. I could imagine myself being sent back to Receiving Barracks. I froze, but the DI I was just getting started. “Whataya got in yer mouth, private?” he bellowed at me. But I was temporarily under a gag order. When someone’s sympathetic nervous system is activated, unnecessary functions cease—things like digestion, saliva excretion, and swallow reflex. I could not say a word. But the DI was full of conversation.

“I asked you whataya got in yer mouth private?” Even without saliva, I was slowly choking the cake down. Finally,  when most of it was out of my mouth, I answered in my best Marine Corps recruit voice, “Sir, garbage, sir.”

As I said those words, the DI looked around the room. Fifty-five gallon barrels filled with curdled milk, fuzzy meat, half chewed whatever it was. But by now, I had gotten my voice back fully. “Sir, private never gets enough to eat sir, so private has to come in here to get filled up.” As I explained my actions in typical loud recruit manner, I was sending a small flurry of crumbs on his crisp shirt, razor creased trousers, and highly spit-shined shoes.

The DI could no longer look at me. All he said as he was leaving was, “Carry on, private,” and he closed the door.

A few days later, a general announcement was made in all the recruit platoons. Privates were now allowed to go back for seconds, something we were never able to do before this.

Read the Military Memories of our Runner-Ups.

Boot Camp, Units, Combat Operations

Join to Create a Legacy of Your Service

U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Army, U.S. Coast Guard


Tags: Marine Corps, Mess and Maintenance week

1 Comment

  1. Anthony Mack

    I remember those times like it was yesterday. I served in the Corp from 1988-1996. I remember I was considered an under weight private and we were partnered with an overweight private when eating at the chow hall. I would have so much to eat and the overweight private would have nothing but cottage cheese, fruit, and two glasses of water. I would sneak some of my food into the other recruit’s plate when the DI wasn’t looking hoping and praying that we wouldn’t get caught 😂. Those were the good old days of becoming a Marine!!


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *