On duty, always

My husband, Lloyd Brinson, was a Marine officer (oops; I’m told there’s no such thing as a former Marine, so should I say is?) who served in Vietnam. Much later, he was an elementary school principal. He finds that this children’s book has much to offer readers of all ages.

Reviewed by Lloyd Brinson

GOODNIGHT MARINES. By David R. Dixon. Illustrated by Phil Jones. Callsign Enterprises. 40 pages including Glossary.

One of the greatest joys to those of us who love to read is sharing tales about how we came to read this book or that article or how we came upon that essay or opinion piece.

Goodnight Marines was serendipitously presented to this well-traveled U. S. Marine veteran as a surprise gift from two very special young Navy officers who have served with Marines in various capacities, including being aboard amphibious ships for extended deployments, with Marines not always on their best behavior.

Goodnight Marines is disguised as a children’s picture book. But, having been immersed in The Corps tradition in boot camp, I realized that many adult readers could get a better idea of who Marines are by reading this little book and enjoying the delightful artwork.

The story begins with a boy in a room full of battle toys and symbols of Marine history. He’s imagining… “In a land overseas, in a far away place…” His father is Over There, “… guarding his base.”

As you join the boy’s mind envisioning the Marines and the traditional symbols of The Corps who support his dad, the author, David R. Dixon, leads the reader through a short course of Marine history and lore. It is no mistake that his history and the artwork by Phil Jones are so accurate: Both men are Marine combat veterans.

The boy and his stuffed companion, Tuffy Hound, are getting sleepy, so they begin saying “goodnight” to more Marine symbols, occupational specialties, artifacts, heros and characters. The parade is not all inclusive, but it is representative of the rich tradition of nearly 250 years The Corps has been in existence.

The mood has been set, most of the supporting cast is asleep (even Tuffy), but the boy has to say “goodnight” to “heroes who answer the call,” those who gave all, and to his dad in Afghanistan.

But that’s not nearly the end of this little jewel of a picture book. After the story, we find Tuffy sitting at attention facing the words of The Marines’ Hymn. Tuffy, whose name is explained in the Glossary, seems to be saying: “Rest easy world, the Marines are on duty, and while you and I sleep, Marines are awake – all over the world.”

There are then a couple of pages explaining about the author and the artist and how this book came about. The Glossary will provide even the most casual adult reader vivid insight as to why those of us who chose and were chosen to be United States Marines live lives devoted to serving others in the face of whatever confronts us.

I have read, paged through and studied this little book a dozen times and have not been able to figure out why it is so appealing to me. Part of its appeal is the powerful depiction of the Marine Corps with such simplicity. And, there is the emotional tug elicited by being faced with so much of the Marine tradition all these many years out of boot camp. And then there is Tuffy, who seems to have been cleverly placed to remind us of the possibilities our children face in an uncertain present and future.

Goodnight little boy. Goodnight mom and dad Marines everywhere. Goodnight to the brave sailors and Marines I served with in extraordinary times; I trust this younger generation is ready for the next extraordinary time. Sleep tight, little Tuffy – you might have to be a Devil Dog someday. 

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