If there’s one thing I think we’ve all learned from “Terminal Lance,” it’s that the strip’s creator, Max Uriarte, doesn’t pull any punches. Case in point: “Numbers,” another exclusive from the Marine Corps Times archive. This strip first appeared in the newspaper dated Aug. 29, 2011. “It’s a fairly simple image,” Max told me when he submitted this last summer, “but I think it speaks pretty clearly.”
For me, this strip calls to mind the story of Gunnery Sgt. Benjamin “Gus” Lepping, whom Marine Corps Times’ senior staff Dan Lamothe encountered three summers ago while embedded with Marines at an austere patrol base in Marjah, Afghanistan. An EOD tech with a gift for neutralizing IEDs and a penchant for politics (dude has a tattoo of Sarah Palin’s face on his butt), Lepping wore a head of hair that probably pushed the bounds of even Air Force grooming standards. Bushy would be a fair description.
Anyway, when our profile of Gunny ran in the newspaper, it was accompanied by two photos: one showing his tattoo and another showing his face. Not a soul contacted us to take issue with the fact that we published a photograph showing a man’s bare ass — a testament to you, Marines, and your collectively high threshold for immodesty and your wonderful sense of humor. We did, however, take it on the chin from a few readers appalled by Gunny’s shaggy hair and facial stubble. One retired Master Guns wrote us so incredulous at Gunny’s “audacity” that he said “I hope his sergeant major … saw the picture and had a piece of him.”
I’ll admit, I never saw that coming.
What do you think? When, if ever, should it be acceptable to relax grooming standards?