Read A Marine Goes to College Part One and Part Two.

While plenty of college life felt foreign to me, one thing I knew I’d have no trouble getting used to was the drinking.  For better or worse, the Marine Corps will teach a guy how to drink.

In the military, just about every event you can think of is punctuated by a night of heavy drinking.  Going through a breakup?  Get that guy drunk.  Got promoted?  Get that guy drunk.  Got demoted?  Get him drunk too, but someone should probably take his keys.  We used alcohol as a means to celebrate and mourn, to congratulate and share disappointment, to remember, or sometimes to forget.  I realize that alcohol is a drug, and that consuming a lot of it is bad for you… but when the life you lead is inherently dangerous, it can be hard to worry about what another beer will do to your insides.  As a result, the culture of the Marine Corps, a fighting branch born in a pub, is heavily soaked in spilled booze and fuzzy memories, and my years in uniform were no different.

By the time I arrived on campus, I had been drunk in almost two dozen countries on everything from home-made gin in the mountains of the United States to wine I could neither pronounce nor afford in Italy.  I wasn’t an expert in any particular kind of booze, but I was certainly a jack of all drunken trades – and while I made it a point not to attend parties (although I found the invitations flattering) drinking pervaded college culture just as deeply, it would seem, as it did in the Marine Corps.

The first time I drank on campus was a few weeks after classes began.  I was walking down the road from the campus to the commuter parking lot when a good-looking girl from one of my classes came jogging up alongside me.

“Hey, you’re Alex, right?”  The chipper tone to her voice somehow accentuated the age gap between us in my mind.

“Uh, yeah.  You’re Christy?” Name changed to protect the innocent.

“Yeah!  Are you heading home?  Because my friends and I are heading to a party.  Wanna come with?”  I almost laughed out loud.  I pictured my wife, supportive and strong, as she looked me in the eyes before I started school again and told me, “I know you wouldn’t cheat on me, but you’re going to be surrounded with hot young chicks… and I want you to know that I love you very much… but I’ll murder you in your sleep.”