By Christina Menes
On April 15, Los Angeles Harbor College welcomed guest speaker Sgt. Robert Reid who spoke to the students in NEA 128 about his adventures in the Marine Corp. The 26-year veteran was outfitted in a blazer dressed in medals, a red tie secured by a gold pin and a hat adorned with the famous globe and anchor, and his named “Bob Reid” stitched alongside it.
As Reid prepared for his speech he monitored the classroom as more and more students piled in. By 11:15 a.m., the classroom was overflowing with students; many had to stand up in the back of the class. LAHC students were brought into the event by their history professors, while others came at their own free will. After the filled classroom settled, Reid began his speech.
Reid started his speech by saying he was one of the first African American soldiers to desegregate the Marines, because before he enlisted the Marines had been an all white male institution. Reid joined the Marine Corp right after graduating from a high school in Cambridge, Mass. at the age of 18. After being asked why he joined Reid responded with a story of how he met his recruiter who had piercing blue eyes, was built like a bull, and had a stern, controlled voice that had zeroed in on him and his friends.
Intimidated by the recruiter, the group slowly made their way over and had been given the quick overview of the Marine Corp history and was convinced to enlist rather than be drafted into another military branch.When going into boot camp, Reid was forced to go into a segregated Marine Corp and at the time did not know what the concept segregation was. “It was harsh, but they treat you like a man.” Reid said. While what he said may have sounded crazy,, he acknowledged that racism was always going to be a problem. Reid also said, “They never told us that we would be going to a separate black boot camp.”
In fact, until after WW2, black recruits had all black instructors. “Some white marines didn’t even know there were black marines because it wasn’t publicized.” Reid kept repeating how it had always been an all-white institution.
Reid emphasized how hard boot camp was by saying his platoon started with 43 people and only 24 of the men made it to graduation. He also told a story about a fellow potential graduate who was in the middle of a routine drill of rolling and getting into firing position. The hopeful marine to be did just that but didn’t position his rifle correctly and knocked out his teeth and bled all over the dirt. As his instructor went over to the hurt rookie, he yelled at him to race over to the infirmary that was half a mile away from their training camp. The injured man slumped over; dragging his rifle was yelled at again for putting his rifle in the dirt. Reid mentioned he never saw that man after he knocked his teeth out.
As Reid began talking about the Marine Corp he referred to it as family and pointed out to a man in the crowd wearing a Marine Corp hat and brought him to the front of the class. Veteran Robertson, who served 6 years, went to Vietnam and was in force recon. Robertson was also a Marine Corp boxing champion. Robertson said, “They teach you one thing, and that’s kill,” when asked about force recon. Although the men had never previously met, the act of the “Family” was in full presentation when the two embraced in a handshake in front of the class.
Reid also told his story about his re-enlistment after his 3 years ended. After receiving his Globe and Anchor Reid was advised to get more training under his belt, but did not want to continue serving. After being “COG”. Reid decided to re-enlist for the money and receive $100 per year he served, and gain $400. Reid, chuckled and said “$400 made me a better person.” After re-enlisting, Reid went to San Francisco and traveled to Guam where Reid was “As happy as a pig in Poo-Poo.”
During his presentation Reid had the classroom light-heartedly laughing along with him as he made witty jokes about his experiences in life and the military. Reid also joked about trying to re-enlist this day and age but laughed as he said “what can and 80 year old me do for them.” As the event came to an end he answered questions students had about the military and Reid’s involvement. When all the questions went answered Reid congratulated fellow military men who were in the audience for their service.