Marines defend American citizens and despise them at the same time.
“I can tell you that all Marines hate civilians,” said Jimmie Gann, a former Marine. “They are nasty and irritating. I went and gave for my country and all they want to do is complain about the military.
“You sign up to defend your country, that’s where your involvement ends. Politics controls everything else. The politicians are who controls the military. Why bitch about the military instead of the politicians? You have no choice in it; you’re just doing your job.”
You wouldn’t guess that Gann was a Marine by looking at him. Gann is average height and could easily fill out a Santa suit. He has a flat top haircut and the chin section of a goatee. Gann speaks intelligently but would fit in well with a group of sailors.
Gann said he could summarize his view on civilians with a quote from the end of the credits of the HBO TV series Generation Kill, “There it is folks; we are sitting here fighting for your freedoms. You got the right to say what you want, we got the right to punch you in your f****** mouth if we disagree.”
Aaron Reeder, a friend of Gann and a former Marine, said he agrees that all Marines hate civilians.
“There is an amount of accountability in the Marines,” Reeder said. “We operate under an honor code; civilians don’t have the same accountability.
“Most civilians don’t care or hold little value for Marines or what Marines do. There is a lack of appreciation and respect. Marines have a hard time dealing with civilians and their complaining. The changes aren’t apparent until after the Marine Corp.”
Reeder said Marines feel a separation from civilians.
“There is a social separation from others,” Reeder said. “You feel like an outsider, I don’t know how to explain. It’s almost like a social withdraw syndrome. Partly due to the experiences Marines face and the structure of the Marine Corp.”
Along with his newfound displeasure for civilians, Gann said he has had trouble assimilating into society.
“I used to be an authority figure,” Gann said. “I had control over several men. Now, I’m the low man on the totem pole. It’s irritating.”
Gann, now an electrician, served in the United States Marine Corps from 2002 to 2009 and was stationed in Iraq from 2008 to 2009.
Gann was part of a mobile assault platoon commonly known as a combined antitank team. Gann described the combined antitank team as the “backbone of the Marine Corp.”
“We did anything and everything,” Gann said. “We provided firepower for anyone who needed it. We would be sent out on ordinances (checking for illegal explosives), be part of a convoy. We would sneak around and destroy stuff.”
Gann had two military occupation specialties. First, Gann was a toe gunner. A toe gunner is the person who sticks his upper body out of a Humvee to fire a 4-foot missile. The toe gunner guides the missile to its target using two knobs while looking at a screen in front of him that shows what the missile is headed toward. Think of an Etch-A-Sketch; one knob controls the line up and down and the other knob controls the line left and right. The same concept is used when directing the missile.
Gann’s second military occupation specialty was a sniper for the combined antitank team. He wouldn’t talk about how many confirmed kills he had. It was clear that was one door that would remain closed, but he said one of the scariest moments in Iraq was when he was a sniper.
Gann said on one mission he and two other Marines were on top of a three-story building watching the Iraqi municipal building. As soon as Gann started scanning the buildings around him, he realized he had no cover from enemy fire. As he scanned the windows of a nearby building, he noticed one window with a window barely opened enough for a rifle barrel to stick out and shades cracked just enough for a rifle scope to see out. Gann said you eventually learn to read the signs of possible dangerous situations.
“I just didn’t feel right,” Gann said. “I had a bone-tingling chill crawl up my spine. I called for backup to look, but none was available. We had to stay at our position until the mission was over. We must have been up there for a couple of hours, but it seemed like all day. I knew that if someone wanted us dead, there was nothing we could do the stop it.”
Fortunately for Gann, if someone was looking out the window, the person decided not to do anything.
Gann said the danger he faced regularly was not as bad as the distance from his family.
“You don’t get to talk much on the phone,” Gann said. “Mostly e-mail and not every day. It’s very sporadic. You might not get an e-mail for weeks and then one day you get 30. It’s hard because can’t pick up the phone and call like normal people do. It’s worse with your kids. You miss the events of them growing up.”
Gann said Marines have to try to stay busy when they get time to themselves.
“If you dwell, that’s how you lose your edge. I know a lot of guys that it screwed with their head to the point where they had to be put on suicide watch. You have to shake it off and go to work even though you are working on only five hours of sleep.”
Beth, Gann’s wife, said she wasn’t bothered when her husband was away for training missions but was worried when he was in Iraq.
“It was like a vacation, but I’m independent; I like space,” Beth Gann said. “Iraq was different because I was constantly worried about his safety and his mental stability. The lack of communication is really hard.”
Gann constantly complained about the living conditions he was given. He said the majority of the time; Marines have to sleep in a random storage-hanger or in a half-destroyed building for multiple days.
“It’s horrible,” Gann said. “You are stuck in a run down shanty for five or six days with no shower, no running water and no bathroom. The locals around the area start messing with you because they know you are running on five hours of sleep and multiple energy drinks.”
With all the negatives aspects about serving in the military Gann said he misses it and would do it again.
“You always miss it, but you don’t know why,” Gann said. “I guess it’s the experience. Ninety percent sucks ass and 10 percent you want more. It’s the brotherhood you share with the other Marines, the ties that no one else with understand because they haven’t been through it.”
Gann said the good experiences stay with him, such as the time he and 300 Marines were on a Navy vessel traveling from Morocco to Spain.
“The ship was traveling at 40 knots through a storm,” Gann said. “The Navy crew were eating and laughing because all 300 Marines were getting sea sick. I remember thinking it must have been hilarious watching us.”
Or the time his combined antitank team was part of a convoy and the toe gunner ate something that upset his stomach.
“We couldn’t stop for anything,” Gann said. “The toe gunner needed to relieve himself so we made a private first class hold a military rations box underneath the toe gunner. Keep in mind we are in a Humvee going 50 mph through a desert. There isn’t a paved road so we are going over rocks and hitting holes. The toe gunner wore goggles and gloves but he was still covered. We couldn’t stop laughing.”
Jimmie Gann said some Marines are affected negatively by their experiences in the military, but he isn’t one of them.
“I saw a therapist once,” Gann said. “He told me I had post traumatic stress disorder because I sometimes think back to when I was a sniper. I remember how it felt to have my crosshairs point on someone and the 2.5 pounds holding my trigger in place, the power of being able to send that person to meet their maker.
“The therapist told me to seek help immediately after I left but I just went home. I don’t think I PTSD, not like one guy I know who lost his mind.
“Another sniper I know had to shoot a woman who was holding her daughters hand because [the mother] had a suicide vest on. He went crazy because of that. I heard when he went back home he left his wife and kids, moved to Arizona and no one has heard from him since.”
Gann said he doesn’t have any experiences like that that have affected him, but his second-guessing himself does. He said sometimes he will think whether he let someone go whom he shouldn’t have or he might have missed a sign the person was acting suspicious.
Beth Gann said Jimmie doesn’t talk about his experiences as a Marine but she isn’t worried about him.
“He was crazy before he went to Iraq and he is still crazy now,” Beth Gann said. “I haven’t seen much of a change since he has been back. Jimmie is strong-minded and does a good job at internalizing what he thinks and feels.
“He knows he can talk to me if he needs to, but I don’t want to be one of those wives that tells her husband he has to let it out. It does kinda bum me out because I would like to know what he is thinking. When he cried watching Saving Private Ryan I wanted him to share, but I wasn’t going to ask.”
Caitlian Gann, Jimmie’s stepdaughter, said he didn’t change much when he returned home.
“He was kind of nice,” Caitlian Gann said. “He used to be more strict. He is still strict and dad like, pretty much the same as he was before he left.”
Kelsi Ellis, a friend of the Gann family, said Gann should be remembered for the love for his family and his strong will.
“He loves his wife and their family,” Ellis said. “He is strong willed and carries himself proud. Going from the military to a home life was not a challenge due to how much he loves them.
“I feel the bigger factor was the change in routine. The months away and living through a phone call to being a dad in person, doing the daily wiping up of spills, helping with homework and working through daily issues that arose. He did it with extreme and has the respect of his wife and the family.
“Jimmie knows what working hard is about and not only did he do it for the military, but he did it for his wife and family.”