Although I consider Color By Number a work of fiction, it’s hard to determine at certain points where real life ends and fiction begins. What I mean is the book’s skeletal events are loosely drawn from the events in my life in the Marine Corps and the events in the lives of the people I knew. I feel as if I had a front row seat as they played out in a way no one really could have imagined. The best way for me to describe it is to say the events, which occurred over the course of my career and the people I knew during that time period provided a starting point for me to step off and create new events, thoughts, and dialogue, which exist only my imagination. With that said, however, I feel compelled to include the following disclaimer:
This story is based on actual events. The characterizations and descriptions of people are fictionalized or invented, as are incidents and dialogue. With respect to such fictionalization or invention, any similarity to the name, or to the actual character, or the history of any person, or to an actual incident is entirely for literary purposes and is not intended to reflect on actual character or history.
Below, I have included a glossary of military acronyms. This book is filled with these “words,” and rather than to try to explain them as part of the story, I felt it was better to leave them alone, where possible, to give the reader a feel for how people use these acronyms as part of normal conversations. For people who are not familiar with their meaning, using the glossary as a reference will make the book easier to understand.
Glossary of Marine Corps’ Acronyms and Definitions
C.G. - Commanding General
CENTCOM - U.S. Central Command
“Charlies” - everyday working uniform
C.M.H. - Congressional Medal of Honor
COMA - Court of Military Appeals (now called the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Services)
C.O. - Commanding Officer
Company Grade - lieutenants and captains
DAT - a fictionalized acronym for Division Reaction Team
DSM - Diagnostic Statistical Manual (not a military acronym) a medical reference book
DUI - Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol
Duty Roster - the list of people who have the daily duty of officer
of the day.
Field Grade - majors, lieutenant colonels, and colonels
FSSG- Force Service Support Group - the organization under which the legal offices, and other support staff are located in the Marine Corps command table of organization
G-2 - Intelligence (on a commanding general’s staff)
G-3 - Operations (on a commanding general’s staff)
JAGMAN Investigation - Judge Advocate General’s Manual Investigation- An investigation into an incident
Land Nav - Land Navigation. A course taught at the Basic School in use of the compass/map
LSSS - Legal Service Support Section or law office
MARCENT - Marine Corps Central Command
MarDiv - Marine Division
MARFORPAC - Marine Forces Pacific
MEU - Marine Expeditionary Unit - pronounced M-You, troop strength was about 2,200 Marines and they deployed aboard an amphibious assault ship. Their purpose was to deploy in immediate response to a crisis.
MSM - Meritorious Service Medal
MOS - Military Occupational Specialty - A system categorizing
career fields represented by a four-digit code.
NCIS - Back in the 1990’s, the Naval Investigative Service (NIS) was called the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS). The name was changed when their job changed to encompass investigating terrorism and other non-criminal matters.
MWR - Morale Welfare and Recreation - a network of support for leisure services
NAMARA - Navy Marine Corps Appellate Review Activity
O’Club - Officer’s Club
OIC - Officer in Charge
OCS - Officer Candidate School
OOD - Officer of the Day
PAO - Public Affairs Officer - officer who manages the flow of
news and information to outside units and media
P.I. - Philippine Islands
PME - Professional Military Education - the professional training, and schooling of service members. It usually refers to correspondence courses.
P.T. - Physical Training, usually running
“Q” or “BOQ” - Bachelor Officers’ Quarters
Quonset Hut - a prefabricated building on a concrete slab made out of corrugated metal. Resembling sectional tubing, cut off at a 90 degree angle in the front and rear, they look like large metal worms, half submerged in the ground.
ROE - Rules of Engagement
R&R - Rest and Relaxation
S-1 - Administration (at the battalion level)
S-3 - Operations (at the battalion level)
S-4 - Logistics (at the battalion level)
SGLI - Military Life Insurance
SNCO - Staff Non-Commissioned Officer - E-5 and above (staff sergeant, gunnery sergeant, master sergeant, master gunnery sergeants and sergeant major)
Staff Secretary - Secretary to the Commanding Officer
“Stand By Targets” - A command given on a Marine Corps Rifle Range, where Marines go annually to qualify on the weapon. It is the preparatory command given before the targets are raised for the timed period of rifle fire.
TBS - The Basic School - a 28-week school where newly commissioned officers are taught the basics of being an officer in tactics, leadership, protocol, and weapons
T/O - Table of Organization - chart specifying how many officers and enlisted Marines are to be optimally assigned to a unit. It lists what occupational specialty each person should have and how many people with that particular specialty should be assigned.
U.A. - Unauthorized Absence
U.C.M.J. - Uniform Code of Military Justice
VTC - Video Teleconference
WTF - What the fuck?
XO - Executive Officer
II MEF - Second Marine Expeditionary Force
III MEF - Third Marine Expeditionary Force
Katherine Francis Martin Cole, Katie to her friends and family, stood outside on the backyard deck of her family’s two-story colonial-looking home, a stone’s throw from Mount Vernon on the
Potomac River. If you could have seen her standing there on that cool morning in April, you would have rightly surmised she was a happily married American woman. In her late 30’s, slender, and very “Stepford Wives” looking; she was dressed in a pale-pink suit, white silk blouse, and her perfectly color-coordinated, grey Salvatore Ferragamo pumps. Her make-up was perfect (emphasizing her green eyes). Her dark brown hair was shoulder-length, shiny with a natural curl, and she wore a string of 22-inch pearls around her neck.
Her portrait was completed by her perfume, Lovely, which perfectly described her. She had chosen this perfume as her personal signature; a perfume endorsed by Sarah Jessica Parker. Katie identified with the actress. They were both naturally slim, had beautiful, thick, curly hair, and she thought, I’m also happily married with lovely children.
Katie was one of those lucky people who comfortably lived her life in the here and now. She wasn’t concerned with politics or the affairs of the world; she had no concerns about money or making ends meet; and she didn’t hold a job outside of her very busy life as a mother and wife. Today, she was unbelievably happy.
As she felt the breeze on her face, she closed her eyes and tried to imprint this moment on her memory—the cool air, the birds chirp- ing above her, and the sounds on the George Washington Parkway just beyond the treetops of their backyard. Today is THE day, she thought. Finally.
She turned around to look inside through the sliding glass doors at her three little girls—ages four, seven, and ten. They were playing with the babysitter on the floor. She walked into the house and called to her husband from the foot of the stairs.
“Jas-per, honey, what’s keeping you? We don’t want to be late.”
“I’ll be down in just a minute,” he called back to her.
Jasper was standing stiffly in front of the full-length mirror in
their bathroom, making sure his uniform looked perfect. His fitted, dark-green Marine Corps Alpha uniform, with his ribbons, shooting badges, and his rank insignia stared back at him, as did his face, which looked like a sterner version of his father’s face. I don’t feel like a hard- ass on the inside, but I sure as hell look like one on the outside.
Jasper Llewellyn Cole had been in the Marine Corps for just over twenty years. At heart, he was still an Oklahoma boy, born and raised in what he called a “one-horse-town.” He wasn’t quite fifty years old yet, but taking another peak at his face in the mirror, he sure looked it, even older, especially since his hair, barely perceptible with his high and tight haircut, was almost white. He was still fit, thankfully. Even though it seems to be getting harder.
But, at 6’1’’, broad-shouldered and slim, he seemed to have lucked out with the distribution of his family’s genes. He was slender and well-built like his dad, but had his mother’s thick hair, dimples, and deep blue eyes. He eyeballed his silver eagles, his colonel’s rank insignia, making sure they were evenly spaced on his shoulder lapels. Looking at them now, he couldn’t help but feel, just for the blink of an eye, that today was a figment of his imagination. In a few hours, he would be pro- moted to the rank of general. He would be the youngest person to ever be selected as the Judge Advocate to the Commandant of the Marine Corps. His new job came with the rank of major general.
“Major General Cole,” he said to his reflection.
“Jasper, come on,” Katie called up to him again.
“I’m coming, I’m coming,” he called, turning to flip off the light in the bathroom.
The Sergeant Instructor screamed at her, “Thirteen minutes! You have exactly thirteen minutes to complete the double running of the obstacle course. Thirteen minutes! Or you’ll be out of here so fast, it’ll make your head spin!”
She looked at the Sergeant Instructor. It was her Sergeant Instructor from Officer Candidate School. But, the Sergeant Instructor looked like a female Marine version of Dracula. She was dressed in her Marine Corps uniform of green trousers, short-sleeved khaki shirt, and the thick, green belt with the big Marine Corps Emblem buckle, which designated her as one of the two drill instructors in charge of the female platoon. Her face looked like Bela Lugosi’s, from the old Dracula mov- ies—white, with bright red lips, but instead of having black hair, her blonde hair made a widow’s peak in the middle of her forehead.
The feel of running, rolling by like the fast-forward version of a film, and the loud sound of the stopwatch, like a beating heart, ticking off the seconds, were followed by completion of the run, with one second to spare. The Sergeant Instructor looked down at the stopwatch in disbelief and said, “Well, Walker, it looks like you made it. It must be your fate to be here. Now, get out of my sight before I forget you ran it and make you run it again.”
Julie abruptly woke from her nightmare, covered in sweat. “Jesus!” she exclaimed, breathing hard.
She pushed the damp sheet and the green military-issue blanket back and placed her feet on the floor. She was so glad to be awake. Relieved that it really was only a bad dream. She looked around her. The Quonset hut, assigned as her quarters, was small and stark, with only her bed and a chair with a writing desk. And, it was cold. There was no heater. She looked at the clock, 0620, and she quickly headed to the small, RV-sized bathroom.
As she got into the shower to get ready for work, she thought,
Where does my mind come up with this shit? Thirteen minutes? And, my fate to be here?
After she was dressed and ready to go, she took one last look at her face in the old mirror over the sink. Her girlish, round, fair-skinned, and freckled face, framed by her dark auburn hair (which she had put up in a French braid), was serene and belied the tension and stress she was feeling. This was her first day at her new job—lawyer at the Marine Corps Law Center at Camp Hansen, Okinawa, Japan. She shook her head at her reflection, thinking, Well, Julia Anne, how does it feel to be a bright and shiny new Marine Corps officer? Her reflection just stared back at her and she smiled at her silly dramatics. She turned and walked out the door towards her new job.
“How do I dial out on this telephone?” Julie wondered out loud.
She stood there in her newly assigned office, looking down at the phone.
Her office was at the southern end of the small, rectangular building, which had a hallway down the center and offices on either side of the hallway. The building had been built in the 1960’s; this was when the Marine Corps had expanded this camp ten miles due north, as the crow flies, of its main camp, Camp Foster. The building had linoleum floors and the windows in her office were painted black years ago to keep it cooler. The desk, bookcase, and the two chairs looked like they were about the same age as the building and designed for prison use. The little air conditioner in one of the windows sounded like it was on its last leg.
She looked up from her phone as Staff Sergeant Miriam Blount came into her office carrying an armload of files and placed them on the desk.
“Here you go, Ma’am,” she said, straightening the files, and then standing back to look at the large stack of manila folders in the center of the desk. Then she turned her gaze to Julie.
Staff Sergeant Blount was the senior enlisted person at the legal office at Camp Hansen. She had a petite frame and small bones; she probably weighed one hundred pounds soaking wet. Dark haired, blue- eyed, and sweet looking—she seemed harmless. But, Julie maintained a personal aloofness. This wasn’t just because Staff Sergeant Blount was enlisted and Julie was an officer. Julie felt if she did something the staff sergeant disapproved of, she would find herself running laps around the track across the street.
Although she had only been at her new job for only a week, Julie had seen enough of the staff sergeant’s interaction with the other Marines who worked in the office to know that nobody crossed her or countermanded anything that she said when she made a decision. She learned the staff sergeant had been on Okinawa about six months and her last duty was as a drill instructor at Parris Island. Her promotion to Staff Sergeant was a meritorious promotion for her duty there.
Julie looked at Staff Sergeant Blount standing there silently, waiting for her to speak. She briefly thought about last week’s nightmare featuring one of her drill instructors. Then, she said in her best officer-talking-to-an-enlisted Marine-tone-of-voice, “Thank you Staff Sergeant. I’ll look them over this afternoon.”
“Is there anything else I can do for you, ma’am?” Staff Sergeant Blount asked, looking intently at Julie.
“No. I don’t think so. At least not right now. I guess you know, I have to leave to go to the weekly case review meeting.”
“Yes,” she answered, already knowing where Julie was headed.
Of course she knows. Knows all. Sees all. Julie thought.
“Right there on top of the files is your list of cases,” Staff Sergeant
Blount said. “You can take that with you...if you want.”
“Thanks,” Julie said, picking up the list.
She looked at it. The neatly written list had the name of each Marine and next to each person’s name was his unit and what he was charged with.
Looking back at Blount, she said, “I’m sure I’ll have a lot to ask you over the next several weeks.” As an afterthought, added, “and months,” as she stepped to her wall-locker for her “cover,” her cloth uniform hat, to wear to the car.
“Well, I’m here if you need me. I just want you to know that, ma’am,” Staff Sergeant Blount said as she turned to leave the office. Then she stopped, and turned back around. “Lieutenant Walker,” she said, “you’re the first woman lawyer I’ve ever worked for. I’m rooting for you and I’m here if you need absolutely ANYTHING.”
“Thanks, Staff Sergeant Blount. That means a lot to me,” Julie said, caught off-guard by the candidness of Staff Sergeant Blount’s remark.
As she was driving down to Camp Foster, she thought, Although it was nice of her to say she was “rooting” for me, what did she mean, exactly?
Julie was starting her legal career over by joining the Marine Corps at the advanced age of thirty-one years old. Even though she hid it well, she felt completely lost.
Oh, well, she thought, just take it a day at a time and deal with it the best you can. She started laughing to herself, thinking, and, quit quoting “Crash” Davis’ tried and true clichés!
“Crash” Davis was Kevin Costner’s character in one of her favorite movies, “Bull Durham.” I haven’t seen that movie in a long time, she thought. I’ll have to check around and see if I can find the video anywhere.
As she made the thirty-minute drive from Camp Hansen to Camp Foster, she relived last week’s “welcome aboard” meeting with her new boss, Lieutenant Colonel Wright. He was getting ready to retire. When he completed his tour in about five months, he would return to Quantico, Virginia to begin transitioning to his retired life. He was treating the tour at Camp Hansen as his “twilight” tour in the most lit- eral sense. He spent his days in his office, with his door closed: reading novels, working on his resume, and generally just trying to make it to his retirement date without any issues.
Her meeting with him was short but not unpleasant by any means.
“Well, Lieutenant Walker, welcome to beautiful Okinawa and Camp Hansen,” he said, as she walked into his office.
His office looked like he’d arrived a couple of days ago, even though he’d been there for over seven months. There were boxes stacked up against the wall behind his desk, some opened and some still taped shut. His office was identical to hers with the exception that you could actually see out his windows. Not that there was a pretty view or any- thing worth gazing at, but it was nice to have a window just for the pleasure of it. Across the street from his office was a non-descript building occupied by the Headquarters, 9th Marine Regiment.
When she entered his office, his feet were up on his desk and he was reading one of the dozens of novels, which were stacked up against the wall behind him.
“Are you getting all settled in?” he asked, putting his feet down on the floor, setting his book off to the side, and standing up to greet her.
“Yes, sir,” she said and reached over his desk to shake his hand.
“Just put those things there on the floor and sit down,” he said, pointing to the chair against the wall as he sat back down.
There were books and some loose papers stacked in the seat of the chair. She reached down to put them on the floor.
He said, to the top of her head, “I was pleasantly surprised to find out you have substantial trial experience. A former Public Defender, did I hear right?”
She looked up, saying, “Yes, sir. I was a Public Defender for a little over five years.”
She sat down in the chair and scooted it over closer to his desk.
“Good,” he said, happily. “Tell me a little about the types of cases you handled.”
She gave him an abbreviated version of her five-year stint at the Public Defender’s Office, Fourth Judicial Circuit, in Jacksonville, Florida: from the endless number of DUI cases, the heart-breaking period of time she worked in Juvenile Court, and to the final two years as a felony attorney, specializing in armed robberies.
“How did you end up dealing specifically with armed robbery cases?” he asked.
“Well,” she said, the hint of a smile breaking out on her face, as she was remembering, “I had a client with eleven armed robbery arrests. He didn’t want to plead guilty to any of them, so I had to start trying them. We made it through the first three cases before he was finally convicted. My boss decided I had a particular affinity for handling armed robbery cases, I guess. It was during this period that I started looking for something else to do,” she said, looking straight at him.
“Why’s that?” he asked.
“As it happens, one night I came home from visiting my clients at jail—every single one of them was in jail waiting for their trial or dis- position dates–to find my apartment had been broken into. My high school graduation present from my parents, a gold wristwatch, was taken. And, other small things like that were missing. It finally dawned on me after the police left and I was getting ready for bed—that I had been ROBBED!” She threw up her hands to emphasize the point, and shook her head.
“And, here I was, defending people who robbed other people. My idealism suddenly evaporated. It was like finally seeing ‘behind the curtain’,” she said.
Seeing the look of confusion on his face, she explained, “You know, in the “Wizard of Oz,” when Dorothy pulls the curtain back and sees the normal little man acting as the wizard. The wizard was just an illusion.”
“Oh, yes, of course!” he said, smiling. “Interesting analogy.”
“I went to law school for the purpose of helping innocent people who were wrongly accused of a crime and couldn’t afford a lawyer,” she explained, “not to help guilty people beat the system. I suppose that was the day I grew up and faced the reality of the situation. There are probably one in a million people arrested who didn’t commit the crime for which they were arrested. Well, that’s an exaggeration, but you know what I mean.”
She looked searchingly at his face, to see if he knew what she meant. He looked like he did, so she continued, “Not long after that, I saw a Marine Corps advertisement in my law school’s newsletter. The ad said, ‘The Marine Corps is looking for a few good lawyers.’ One thing led to another, and here I am.” She shrugged her shoulders, smiling in resignation.
“That’s a great story,” he said, thoughtfully.
He reached over and took a half-smoked cigar out of his ashtray and lit it. He sat back in his chair, took a couple of puffs off of his cigar, and said, “Well, no more defense work for you. You’re going to be a prosecutor now. And, even though you’re a brand new First Lieutenant, your experience level is off the charts for a new Marine Corps lawyer.”
Smoking on his cigar, he continued, “The U.C.M.J. is a straight-for- ward criminal law. Very 1+ 2 = 3-type of format and logic. A sixth- grader could read it, and with the exception of the military-specific words and concepts, could probably understand it.”
“Up here at Camp Hansen, you won’t be challenged by the types of cases you’re going to work on,” he said, putting down his cigar, and looked at her with an “I am sorry to say” expression on his face. “But, you’ll definitely get your feet wet, working through the process of mil- itary case work.”
“Well, sir, I’m looking forward to doing something different, and like most things, I’m sure it will take me a while to get comfortable with the job,” she said.
“I told Staff Sergeant Blount to go ahead and start giving you cases,” he responded, “so it’s a good thing you already have a feel for handling a case load.”
He reached over and snubbed out his cigar, and looked up at her when she said,
“It’s sort of deja-vu, seeing all of the case files sitting on my desk.” He smiled at her, rising to his feet.
He followed her to the door to bid her farewell, and as she was walking back towards her office, she heard him holler across the hall for Staff Sergeant Blount.
When she finally arrived at Camp Foster, she had another “deja-vu” moment. It was as if she was back in Judge Kiser’s chambers in Jacksonville for their daily case status updates. Just as in her previ- ous job, all of the defense counsel sat on one side of the table and the prosecutors or trial counsel, as they were called in the military, sat on the other side of the table—State-of-Combat seating. Except for the military-specific differences in the procedures, it felt the same as she remembered from her days as a Public Defender.
In the military, the judge(s) were not present at the pre-trial meet- ing. At the head of the table was a major whose responsibility was to schedule the cases or pretrial motions for court-dates, to be the referee between the trial and defense counsel when they started bickering, and to make sure each case went through the wickets of administrative procedure before finally setting a trial date. Instead of burglary, armed robbery, car theft, or possession of an illegal firearm, the charges were primarily minor offenses like fighting or assault, disrespect to a superior officer, and what became the bane of her existence, the charge of unauthorized absence, commonly referred to as “U.A.” But it was surprisingly familiar: dates to argue motions before the trials, banter between the trial and defense counsel, and trial dates scheduled.
After the meeting, as she was walking to her car, she heard some- one call out, “Julie!”
She turned around. Walking towards her was Jasper Cole, another first-tour lawyer on Okinawa. Although she went through Officer Candidate School and The Basic School with him, she didn’t get to know him at either place since the women were in their own platoon at both schools. She met him at the follow-on school for lawyers, Naval Justice School in Newport, Rhode Island.
She had felt an immediate connection when they met; she came to think of Jasper as the baby brother she never had. He was younger than any of the other lawyers. Twenty-five years old, maybe younger, she thought when she met him.
He looked like the “Westerner” he was; lanky and roughly handsome like Clint Eastwood in High Plains Drifter. He told her his great-great-grandfather staked a claim to his family’s farm, one hundred and sixty acres, in the late 1800’s, in the great Oklahoma land rush. He and his older brother were raised on the “ranch,” as he called it, but these days, he had told her, it produced primarily alfalfa.
“Jasper!” she said, as she walked towards him.
He hugged her, even though they were strongly discouraged from showing any kind of physical affection when in uniform.
“So, you’re here? At Camp Foster?” she asked. “I wondered when you were going to get to Okinawa.”
“Yeah. I’m working, to start out, in legal assistance,” he said. “They put me at Camp Hansen. In prosecution,” she responded. “Prosecution, to start out with? You don’t say!” he said, enviously. “Hey, it’s nothing to be excited about,” she said. “It looks like I’m just going to be the hand of the military machine.”
He looked confused, like he didn’t know what she meant.
“What I mean is it looks like the only kind of cases I’ll be prosecuting are U.A. cases,” she said. “I got that idea from Lieutenant Colonel Wright, the OIC at Camp Hansen. It’s like a rite of passage for first time prosecutors. I won’t have any other types of cases to deal with - for a while at least,” she explained.
“Well, at least, it sounds like the type of work I thought being a lawyer in the Marine Corps was all about,” he said. “Not about helping some lance corporal figure out why his wife in the States is divorcing him and how he’s going to afford the child support payments for the kid he’s not even sure is his,” he said, shaking his head, looking aggravated.
“Well, I guess we’ve both gotten our ‘Welcome to the Marine Corps’ wake-up call,” she said, reaching out to touch him lightly on the arm.
“I mean, hell, I was a defense counsel for years, and I HATED prosecutors—stuck up, smug, and self-righteous SOB’s. Isn’t it ironic?” she responded. Then she continued,
“Everybody gets a turn doing the three basic jobs: legal assistance, defense and prosecution. I guess it’s just happenstance I got prosecution or that you landed in legal assistance. Like my dad always told me, “the grass is greener on the other side of the street.”
“Damn straight about that,” he said, smiling.
He reached over and squeezed her hand, and then, changed the subject.
“You want to come to the Foster O’Club tonight? A few of the lawyers from Camp Foster are getting together,” he said.
“Sure,” she replied, “but, unfortunately, I can’t stay around long. I’m still learning my way up to Camp Hansen. I live in the “Q” until Matt gets here in a couple of months.”
“You’ll have to tell me what it’s like up there, tonight,” he said. “But, I’d better get back inside—don’t want to keep my client’s waiting.”
As he turned to go, he said, “Darlene and I will see you tonight, then. You’re gonna like the guys, I think.” He gave her a wave good-bye as he walked back to the building.
As she got into her car and started her drive back to Camp Hansen, her thoughts turned to Jasper’s wife, Darlene. Darlene was almost six feet tall, very blonde, and looked like a Victoria Secret lingerie model. She had long, thick light-blonde hair, very blue eyes, and a few freckles sprinkled across her nose. These freckles gave her a look of fresh-faced American innocence.
Jasper met her when he was in law school and she was an undergraduate at the University of Oklahoma. Julie wondered how Darlene was adjusting to being a military officer’s wife in Okinawa. She couldn’t help but think Darlene was biding her time, waiting for Jasper’s fascination with the Marine Corps to fade, so they could return home.
She knew, from Darlene, Jasper went to Officer Candidate School right out of law school where he had graduated in the top 2% of his class. She had told Julie proudly the first time they met, “Jasper was in ‘Who’s-who in American Law Schools’ last year.”
Julie had responded, “Wow! Really?”
She neglected to tell Darlene that she had no idea what that publication was or who published it. But, she took Darlene’s statement to mean Jasper didn’t join the Marine Corps because he couldn’t find a job anywhere else. It suddenly occurred to her, I’ve never asked Jasper why he joined the Marine Corps.