In the early 1990s, I was beginning to collect USMC insignia. My uncle had served with the 3/26 Marines in Vietnam. So I was beginning to learn about these battles he had participated in.
A fellow ASMIC collector gave me a Marine Corps drill sergeant campaign cover; commonly known as a DI Cover.
However, it was missing the leather strap that held it to the drill sergeant’s head. To me as a collector, this leather strap was an important part of the campaign cover. I needed to get one of those leather straps.
I drove onto base, and pretended that I was “lost” so that I could get close to a drill sergeant and “scope out” his uniform up close and personal.
I managed to drive almost all the way to the quonset huts where the recruits were getting smoked. The DI who approached the truck to tell me to leave the area could barely speak. His voice was horse from yelling at the recruits. It didn’t really matter though, I wasn’t really listening to him. I was intently making note of the items on his uniform.
After getting a great view of the Drill Sergeant’s current uniform, I knew what I needed, a leather strap. Next I drove to the USMC SD Command Museum. Perhaps I could get some ideas from the displays.
The USMC Command Museum was awesome! It took me the better part of three hours to completely view the stunning displays and dioramas. Those displays only made me more determined to get that leather strap.
While walking around the museum, I noticed that the museum NCOIC was a Gunnery Sergeant named “Archuleta.” I spotted the name on the door to the curator’s office. And believe it or not, I spotted GYSGT Archuleta entering the museum. As he passed near me, and I made eye contact and he greeted me. That was opportunity knocking and I intended to answer.
I greeted Sergeant Archuleta then immediately launched in to a conversation about HIM. I noticed an impressive display of “fruit salad” on his chest. Those ribbons told me that he had served ion Desert Storm. So, I asked him where he earned his Combat Action Ribbon.
To make a long story short, Sergeant Archuleta invited me to his office and we chatted for some time. He told me all about his experience in the first Gulf War. The “Gunny” pulled out a memory book about his experiences in the Gulf. We paged through that gem for at least forty-five minutes.
Eventually GYSGT Archuleta asked me what I was doing at the base. I told him I was researching Marine uniforms for my PhD dissertation. My real motive was to acquire one of those leather DI campaign cover straps.
After talking for what must have been about an hour, GYSGT Archuleta found a way for me to gain entrance to the base clothing store; wink, wink. Thanks to GYSGT Archuleta, I left USMC San Diego with a DI campaign cover leather strap.