Many years ago I was in a high school Marine Corps JROTC program as the Vietnam War was coming to an end. It was not a real popular time to be in uniform.
It was a turbulent time. One of the many changes was that girls had just been allowed to participate in the JROTC program for the first time. It was a big deal. Television crews came to the school and the female cadets ended up on TV and in the newspaper. They got so much attention that many of the male cadets were understandably jealous.
I stood up for the girls and the girls program. Probably partly because I supported them, I was asked to be a sort of student teacher in the all-girls JROTC class. There was also, of course, an adult retired Marine instructor. I was there to assist him in teaching the girls. I felt honored to be trusted in this way.
I loved those girls. They were like family to me. I knew what it was like for them to wear a military uniform during the Vietnam era.
Worse for them, the girl’s uniforms appeared to have been intentionally designed to make the wearer look as unattractive as possible. Their uniforms were downright ugly! And the girls initially had to deal with the resentment of many of the male cadets.
For some reason, uniform day was on a different day that week for the girls than for the boys. On this day, the girls were in uniform. I was in civilian clothes walking about twenty feet behind them as one of the girls led them in formation down the long tunnel-like hall that ran through the center of the school.
As they marched along, three boys (who weren’t in the JROTC program) who were standing in a group near some lockers began taunting and jeering the girls, calling them all sorts of names.
This type of thing was something the girls had to endure a lot. I don’t know what set me off that particular day. I guess that I’d just had enough.
Irritation had become anger, which had unexpectedly turned to rage.
What happened next must have been due to a brief outburst of temporary insanity. I ran toward the boys with both of my arms extended out from my sides and slammed all three of them them into the lockers. The crashing sound startled everyone within 150 feet; those boys and I most of all.
I saw the looks of surprise, shock and fear in the eyes of those boys.
Unfortunately, about two seconds later, anger was clearly their primary emotion, and my eyes must have been the ones reflecting shock, surprise and fear as we all realized what had just happened.
They and I quickly did the math as we all came to our senses: Three of them and one of me. All four of us knew what was going to happen next and only three of us were going to enjoy it.
I was in BIG trouble and about to get pounded into the ground.
In the meantime, the girls who had been marching had heard the crashing of the boys against the lockers. They stopped and turned to see what the commotion was about and quickly realized what had just happened and just how much trouble I was in. Two of the biggest, most athletic girls peeled from the girls’ formation and stood behind and slightly to each side of me. There was no doubt in anyone’s minds that the fight was no longer going to be 3 against 1.
The boys quickly re-did the math. They realized they were now in a no-win situation. Even if they won the fight, everyone in the school would know that they got into a fight with girls. And, there was always the possibility that they wouldn’t win. By now, I was the least of their worries; I doubt whether I was even in their equation anymore.
I don’t recall exactly what happened next. I like to think that I asked the boys to apologize to the young ladies for their insults and that they did.
But it may be that the girls demanded an apology and got one or that the boys apologized on their own.
I do know what didn’t happen. I didn’t get pounded into the ground!
I will never forget those girls. As I said, we were like family; a family that stuck together and stood up for one another. It didn’t go unnoticed.
Word spread around the school about the girls standing up to the bullies and the girls were accepted and respected more after that.