4222 Clinton Way. Monday, 21 June 1976. 1800 Zulu (11:00 AM PDT)
The Bicentennial Planning Committee was by far Carol Brady's favorite civic project to date. As chair of the committee, it was her task to make sure that the event planned at Westlake High will be the most patriotic 200th birthday party in the country. Thousands from throughout the Southland were expected to attend. Mrs. Brady was joined on the committee by Mrs. Kelly, Mrs. Ditmeyer, and of course, Alice. The Brady girls, now young women, were also in the room, seated next to a rather large Marine with a lot of stripes and even more ribbons.
As Chairperson Carol addressed the group, "Ladies, our big Bicentennial celebration is getting closer to reality. Let's quickly report out what we have accomplished before I turn it over to guest. Alice?"
The Brady Housekeeper reported, "Sam and the Caterers are all on board. We will have a 4th of July picnic like you wouldn't believe. Watermelon, hot dogs, hamburgers, ice cream, soda…."
Carol continued, "Thank you Alice. Mrs. Ditmeyer?"
The Brady's neighbor informed the group, "All necessary permits have been approved and filed."
Mrs. Kelly, another of the Brady's neighbors added, "Police, fire, and ambulance are all on call."
Mrs. Brady added, "Let's hope we don't need them." Addressing her daughters Carol encouraged, "Girls?"
Marcia Brady, the USC fashion merchandising freshman home for the summer, reported, "There are several gross of patriotic outfit accessories in the garage—Uncle Sam hats, red, white and blue giant sunglasses, USA tiaras, etc."
Jan Brady, who is doing a summer internship with her dad while waiting for her high school senior year to start, assured the group, "The stage will be good to go by the end of the month."
Cindy Brady, recent Fillmore Junior High Grad and debate champ, was last with, "Keynote Speaker Brigadier General Edward Gray, U.S.M.C. has confirmed that he will be available Sunday July 4th."
Mrs. Brady acknowledged her daughters and neighbors, "Thank you ladies." Carol then turned her attention to the one gentleman in the room, continuing, "This celebration would not be the same without the help of the Marines. It was actually my youngest daughter who gave me the idea to 'call in the Marines' to accomplish this task, and I took her literally. Here with us today to discuss the Marines' role in our celebration is Sergeant Major Vince Carter, USMC. Sergeant Major Carter is the senior enlisted Marine at nearby Camp Henderson, as well as a veteran of the conflicts in Korea and Vietnam. Before returning to his old post at Camp Henderson, Sergeant Major Carter very recently finished a tour of duty at the White House. I now give you Sergeant Major Vince Carter, USMC."
Carter blushed as red as the stripes on his pants while the ladies applauded. He thought he even heard a whistle, which no doubt would make his wife Bunny more than a bit jealous.
The Sergeant Major addressed the group, "Well ladies, it is an honor to be part of such a well-planned celebration. As the young lady before me informed you, General Gray will speak at your celebration. We will have a color guard from Camp Henderson to kick things off. The Band from the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego will send us their contemporary music ensemble, which really should liven things up. Thank you once again for having us part of your Bicentennial celebration."
Carter was a man of few words. Fortunately there weren't many questions, so he was able to sneak off back to camp. Once in his car, he chuckled about the reference to his 'tour of duty' at the White House. Carter was given Presidential Unit duty in the Spring of '75 after receiving the Navy Cross for his heroic efforts in the evacuation of Saigon. The following winter was a cold one, and the President slipped on the icy steps of his helicopter, Marine One. Carter thought and acted quick catching his Commander in Chief, most likely preventing him from severe injury. The problem was most every newspaper in the free world was graced with a photo of a panicked looking Vince Carter holding up an awkward looking Gerald Ford on their front pages. Within weeks, Carter was 3,000 miles away 'promoted' to leading Marines at his old base.
When Carter made it back to his office he couldn't help but notice 1st Lieutenant Chuck Boyle and his platoon sergeant, Gunnery Sergeant Duke Slater, standing in the corridor. Both men were former corporals of his. Boyle went through the enlisted commissioning program after 'Nam, now he was technically Carter's superior. Slater surprised everybody by rising to such a senior enlisted rank. trying to appear inconspicuous, but looking like a pair of cats who feasted on canary.
Ignoring protocol, Carter suspiciously asked, "OK you two, what gives?"
Lt. Boyle answered, "You have a visitor Sergeant Major."
The Sergeant Major, remembering his rank, responded, "Thank you, Sir."
Snickering, Gunny Slater added, "It's the section leader for the Marine Band Ensemble performing at the Westlake High Bicentennial Celebration."
As soon as what the Marines said registered, panic spread across Carter's face. The combat veteran thought no, no, no, it couldn't be as he entered his office. But plain as day, sitting in front of his desk, was a very familiar lanky Marine. He had a few more years and a couple more stripes on him since Vince saw him last, but the Sergeant Major recognized the Marine vocalist instantly.
"Surprise! Surprise! Surprise!" Exclaimed Sergeant Gomer Pyle, U.S. M.C.