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By: Ed Creamer

As I was cleaning out some old papers I had, I ran across a copy of a set of orders which ordered me to Vietnam. But, I noticed down in the corner under my acceptance signature were the words, Caveat Emptor”, ( let the buyer beware ). Not knowing why that was on my orders, I called the legal officer at Nellis Air Force Base. He said, “that means once you sign the orders, go to combat, and you get shot at while in combat, you can’t sue the government”.

That started me wondering what other Latin phrases were used in the military. Then I remembered one I had over heard. A young Private had screwed up bad, was caught by his platoon sergeant, and he uttered the phrase, “mea culpa”. But, since he had really screwed up, he said, “mea maxima culpa”.

I once had an occasion to be standing tall in front of my Commanding Officer for a slight misunderstanding I had had with one of the local police officers in town. I knew I was in trouble when the First Sergeant walked into the office behind me. In a civilian court, he might have been considered “amicus curiae” ( friend of the court ). But, when you’re in front of the old man, in this instance it means, your rear end is about to get chewed on even more.

Before Congress decided to pay service members $65 a month for being in a combat zone, the Disbursing Clerk told me the words “pro bono” stamped on my pay record meant I was working in a combat zone for free.

A Chief Petty Officer I knew told me about when he was operating not far from Saigon on a Swift boat trying to clear the water ways of Viet Cong. His boat came under fire from the river bank. The boat immediately started evasive maneuvers while firing their machine guns. Seems as if someone is shooting at you the least you can do is shoot back. During a lull while reloading, the engine man yelled up that it was getting near time to change some fuel filters. To which the reply was, “de minimis non curat lex”. That basically means, “we don’t sweat the petty crap right now”.