MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, CA, UNITED STATES
MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. — Dimly lit by the neon glow of chem lights, Lance Cpl. Jared Honeyman escapes from his day into a sanctuary of spades.
Seated in his tent on a box of meals, ready-to-eat, he draws a deck of cards from the cargo pocket of his utility trousers. He deals cards out to three friends seated around him, and in return, receives an equal number of sarcastic comments. A balmy desert heat permeates the air, ignoring the fact the sun has long since disappeared below the horizon.
Honeyman's days are long and often boring. He rotates through a tedious cycle of standing post, picking up trash and practicing infantry skills. Playing spades is his escape from the grind of grunt life.
"After training and working in the heat all day, it's a good mental break from the stress and monotony of being here," Honeyman said. "Everything we're doing has a purpose, but there is always down time. Sleeping gets old."
Though Honeyman sits among infantrymen, he isn't one. He's an administrative specialist-turned-grunt with 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment's Guard Force Platoon. Since he's a POG — the grunts' affectionate name for "personnel other than grunts" — there's a gap he needs to bridge. By opening conversation over spades, he steps into their personalities and family lives.
"Even if we only have a few minutes, we throw down a game, open up and break the ice … that barrier," Honeyman said. "A simple card game builds a common bond and gives us a chance to compete. We're Marines; competition filters into everything we do."
Necessity didn't lead him here. At home in Tulsa, Okla., a short while ago, the 26-year-old was near completing a bachelor degree and managing his successful lawn maintenance business. But he knew money and book knowledge didn't equal life experience.
As he relaxes and festers in a filthy, sweat-starched uniform, he's experiencing life. Honeyman doesn't say it, but he knows he's somewhat crazy to have left what he had. He wanted a challenge, and in this moment, it's winning a card game and fighting to convince he's been wearing sunscreen. A toothy grin and leathery red face kill his argument.
In the desert, Honeyman's been humbled by filling sand bags and serving chow. These menial tasks have adjusted his perspective. They've helped him relate to the boiling pot of Marines with which he lives and works.
"We've come from different walks of life, been thrown into this platoon and are expected to ace our mission," he said. "Simple things like playing cards help us build trust, so when crap hits the fan, you know the other Marines will be there for you — whether it's in our personal lives or on patrol."
The days leading up to his deployment to Afghanistan are long, but the weeks go fast … and Honeyman's key to relaxation is only a cargo pocket away.
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This work, Killing Time: A sanctuary of spades, by Sgt Reece Lodder, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.