Years ago, my son came back from Basic Training saying that they (meaning the Army) were better and tougher than the Marines. He was of course a mere eighteen years old and suffering from an overdose of testosterone brought on by the toughness Basic and AIT is supposed to instill in a fighting man.

I looked at him. “Don’t ever bad mouth the Marines in my presence. I may not have been a Marine, but those boys saved my butt twice!”

So, here’s the story of the first time.

I was a twenty-one year old rookie cop, and I hadn’t learned some of the finer arts of interfacing with your community. One of the first commandments a rookie cop should pay attention to is to be very careful about partying in a town where you work. The second rule is never let a good looking, half naked woman talk you into helping the management.

I was about to break both rules simply because I was being stupid out of season.

As a college student, I’d frequented an establishment known as the Goal Post. The owner had been a wrestler at Adams State and was a bit of a legend. He and I were friends, of course, as were most of the people who worked there.

Some of the regulars were the Yahn Brothers. There was a whole squad of them. Each was roughly the size of a tank, with not an ounce of body fat on them. They lived in the gym, and for kicks used to use the rear axles of wrecked cars as weights. Every one of them was a Marine. Some were out, some were in, and some were going in.

I met them when I met their sister. I asked her out on a date, went to pick her up, and was confronted with this wall of humanity that informed me in no uncertain terms that if I did anything stupid, they’d bury me without the use of a shovel!

If they were looking to scare me off, it didn’t work. Instead, we became friends . . . Sort of!

That night, they’d been in the Goal Post partying and dancing when a young lady I’ll call Rose came up to me. I knew Rose from college, and to say she was “hot” would be to do her an injustice. She was good looking as heck, had a knock out body, and wore Daisy Duke shorts and tops that left little to the imagination.

She comes up to me and says, “Rich, do you have your badge?”

Of course I did. I’d purchased a badge case and had it in my back pocket. And to impress this vision of womanhood, I was about to put myself in harm’s way.

“They need some help at the door.”

So, being the total badass I’m not, I went over. “What’s going on?”

The bouncer was another ex-wrestler. “Guy’s drunk and already causing problems. Can you badge him and ask him to leave?”

I did that, and the guy tells me what to do with my badge. I asked him nicely a second time. This time he swung at me.

This was almost boring. I grabbed the hand, used his momentum to spin him around, then brought his arm behind him in a hammer lock. With my other hand, I grabbed his other arm so he couldn’t spin out of it so easily.

“The man said to get out, so let’s go.” I pushed him out the door.

What I didn’t stop and think about was I’d just committed a horrible tactical error. It’s the old problem of once you’ve got the tiger by the tail, do you dare let it go? Normally, I’d have gotten the guy, shoved him through the door, and let the door close behind him. But the Post was built up high, and there was a cement staircase with several steps. If I’d simply shoved him through the door, he’d have probably gotten hurt.

So, I’m shoving him out, through the door, and down the steps, and that’s when I saw his friends. All ten of them. They’re getting out of cars, yelling obscenities at me. I’m thinking, “Oh man, this is going to hurt!”

Suddenly the door explodes open and this rush of guys comes out. It was all the Yahn brothers and the Priest brothers.

A quick note about the relationship between the Yahns and the Priests. They couldn’t stand each other. The Yahn’s were Marines, and the Priest’s Navy. ‘Nuff said on why they couldn’t stand one another.

Thank God they put that aside in my case because the beating I’d have taken would have been epic.

They formed a battle line between me and the guy’s friends, and when his friends tried to get through, they simply shoved them back. “He’s a cop doing his job. You aren’t getting to him.”

I got cuffs on the guy. The Alamosa cops showed up shortly afterwards and I was able to turn him over to them. The patrol sergeant told me to go home. I looked over at the guy’s friends and decided that wasn’t a bad idea. I left for home under the watchful eyes of the Yahns.

Lesson learned. I never partied in town again. And I never let a pretty girl talk me into anything after that.

And I’ve never stopped being thankful to the Marines for having my back that night.