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  • Uniforms get stifling when standing guard in the Yuma sun. Walking around in the desert heat for twelve hours, rifle nestled vertically behind the shoulder and a cartridge belt loaded to the brim with heavy, sweating ammunition. This was just another day of pulling security as a United States Marine.

    The morning air was stagnant and damp. The deep earthy smell of the neatly maintained lawn outside of the military briefing compound was complimented nicely by the subtle brine smell of the silica burdened desert sand. The few birds that could be heard at four-thirty in the morning chirped incessantly while they bounced around in the stout leaves of the coconut palm.

    A brown lizard scuttled across the sidewalk and into the thick, narrow rooted grass and tucked itself obscurely beneath a brittle, sun-dried palm leaf that blanketed the sand. Maybe the little lizard was trying to hide from the beating of combat boots against the pavement, or maybe it was hiding from the angry sun creeping over the roof of the compound.

    When you know that your job is to walk around, loaded to the teeth with heavy steel and stuffy nylon, baking in the afternoon sun, you start sweating before you even leave the shower. That’s just the way it goes. Hot, hot and more hot.

    Standing guard at the compound is monotonous at the best of times. You hold the door for old, fat politicians who manage to sweat while in their air-conditioned Buick La Sables, salty, battle-hardened generals who you pop a salute to, they give you an “Oorah!” and dash off behind the glass door and into the compound or the ever favorite Sergeants Major who only know you as “devil dog” and check your uniform for any discrepancies. Oh yeah, that’s the life… just kidding.

    A cicada rattles away in refrain somewhere in the distance. You can see the haze of the morning burning away and the heat rising off the ground bends the air within it and everything you see becomes distorted. It’s almost like reality melts and objects jiggle and dance around, celebrating the scorching sun and scoffing the crisped earth under it.

    Everything is hot now. It must be the noon-day sun because the air is dry and heavy. Breathing in deep dehydrates the throat and the only thing left to do is wheeze and cough. The sand smells thick and musty, like it’s sweating along with everything else. Tears leak excessively out of your eyes to keep them moist and the matte black rifle nestled behind the shoulder burns your skin at the slightest touch. Breathe out of the mouth and watch the sweat spray out and splatter on the white, skeleton-white sidewalk.

    You sweat so much in those hours your uniform gains ten pounds. It likes it and hangs lazily off the body, making it swing loosely making you feel like a kid wearing your dad’s clothes. Lunch time comes around and the only thing desirable at that point is dipping your head in a bucket of ice water and drowning. Nothing could feel worse than the Yuma sun. Four more hours and you can hide in your barracks room, sprawl on the bed and evaporate for a while.

    The day presses forward; unstoppable: Inescapable. The sun climbs higher into the Arizona skies and gives your exposed skin volatile kisses of short-wave UV light. Another drop of sweat beads up and free-falls from your nose, splattering on the bone-dry sidewalk and looks like a Rorschach painting. Another general, another “Oorah”, and another salute; that’s just the way it goes when you’re pulling security. That’s a day in the life when you’re a Marine.
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