Thursday, October 3, 2013

When We March Before Dawn



CS Lewis said one of the great pleasures in his life was listening to male laughter.  One morning last week we were marching just past 5 a.m. and I suddenly remembered how much I like the sound of men singing. 

Our platoon sergeant has the kind of voice born to call cadence, so the whole formation sounds best when he is marching us.  Also, when we form up to march, the short people move forward and the tall people go to the rear.  This is standard practice in military formations, but it has the side effect of making putting the women in the front and the men in the back.

I am just about six feet tall.  With 80 soldiers in four ranks, I am near the back and surrounded by the men with the deepest voices.  With the platoon sergeant’s voice ringing out in the cold morning air, the formation echoed his calls loud and strong for the half-mile march to the gymnasium. 


The calls are all sterile now, none of the sexist bravado and kill the enemy songs of my Viet-Nam-era basic training.  Even when the swearing and bragging are removed, 80 voices sounding off before dawn is an inspiring sound.

If you want to hear marching songs the way I heard them 40 years ago, watch the movie "Jarhead."