HIGHLAND | It wasn’t just Uncle Sam, glaring from a poster, who said “I want you,” as Warren Eubanks remembers.
It was a 6-foot-6 U.S. Marine in his dress blues at the Columbia, S.C., induction center saying, “I want you, you and Smiley over there.”
“Smiley” was Eubanks, a Hammond-born recruit whose paperwork likely was delayed from Lebanon, Ind., where he had registered, before arriving in South Carolina where his family had moved in 1952.
“I quit smiling,” Eubanks said, well before he was billeted in Parris Island, S.C., the next day, a “green as grass” youth “who didn’t know split beans from coffee about nothing” when he was drafted into the Marine Corps.
The Highland resident, who doesn’t smoke, drink nor swear, was in the best shape of his life after “grubbing out” trees where his grandfather was building a mobile home court. He could run the boot camp obstacle course repeatedly while others were still struggling to climb ropes to avoid falling into muddy water.
The Corps, however, is “a foul-mouthed outfit,” and for Eubanks, drill instructors were a foreign experience.
“I never use profanity,” the retired welder said. “I tell people I’m an American. I speak English. … Physically, they couldn’t hurt me, but mentally (the language) … that kind of got to me.”
At one point, Eubanks threw down his carbine and said, “I quit” when a DI had called him out by name and had used the SOB phrase.
Eubanks told a commanding officer, who asked whether he was “some kind of a preacher,” that he “wasn’t taking orders from anything like that.”
Rather than be busted in rank or otherwise disciplined, Eubanks was made a section leader, and ultimately recognized as the outstanding member of his platoon before the unit was sent from Camp Pendleton, Calif., to Korea.
By the time the 21st boatload of Leathernecks arrived in Korea on June 6, 1952, most of “the rough stuff” — campaigns like the Frozen Chosin, Pork Chop Hill and Heartbreak Ridge — had been fought. Aside from running supplies, stringing telephone lines, repairing pot-bellied stoves and pulling guard duty in the Ascom City area of Korea, Eubanks’ most perilous experience was with a train in the dead of night.
But that doesn’t mean he wasn't at risk of a fight to uphold his beliefs.
Eubanks had stopped in a USO near Seoul to get a Coke when it happened to be filled with Australians just relieved from the front. Seeing he was a Marine, the Australian marines at a table urged him to come over and have a drink with them.
When Eubanks declined, the Aussies took exception, asking if he was “too good” to drink with them. Even after the Hoosier native explained he just didn’t drink alcohol, there were some who had scooted their chairs back as if preparing to come over and teach him a lesson.
Although Eubanks had been told that a Marine could “lick two sailors and a couple of paratroopers at any given moment,” he wasn't so sure he was prepared to take on a platoon of mates from Down Under.
At that moment, a group of Australians from another table who were drinking Cokes, too, invited him to sit with them. He did.
“The Australians aren't so bad, they just talk kinda funny,” Eubanks theorized.
Eubanks was back in the States when the war ended. His work as a welder led him back to Northwest Indiana, where he’s lived since 1958.
Until recently he and his wife were going scuba diving, square dancing and clogging — until everybody’s knees gave out.
Recuperating from a recent heart procedure, Eubanks shakes his head and ruefully asserts, “They say Marines are tough, but this old Marine isn't so tough.”
That is a matter of opinion.