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  • Writer's pictureDeric Hollings

Touching Grass From the Past

In 1999, when initially assigned to a security detachment (det) at the United States (U.S.) Consulate General in Rio de Janeiro, Brasil, I met a fellow Devil Dog who I’ll call “Busta.” Prior to the assignment, Busta was a junior member of the Rio Marine Security Guard (MSG) det. We were both corporals (E-4) at the time.

As we were fans of Busta Rhymes, I nicknamed my friend after the rapper, though Busta’s official call sign within the det alluded to rapper Trick Daddy. To this day, Busta is known to others as “Trick,” though he’s still “Busta” to me.

“Busta” was an ironic term of endearment, like referring to a tall person as “shorty,” because “busta” was also used in urban settings when referring to someone unworthy of regard and who ruined things. To me, Busta was highly favored, he didn’t ruin my time in Rio, and my admiration of him was well earned.

Busta told me that during his time in the diplomatic security role, he’d been subjected to what would now be considered as hazing. This was said to include disparate treatment from other members of the det, such as the assignment of extra duties, limited liberty privileges, and what some may refer to as bullying in the form of disparaging comments and discriminatory actions.

This sort of behavior was common at the time, as arbitrary rites of passage were also used at my prior duty station in Okinawa, Japan. Likewise, when I interacted with street gangs before military service, hazing rituals in the form of jumping-in members, use of racial epithets, and degrading tasks of various sorts were common among members of various sets.

I didn’t join gangs, in part, because it made no sense to me how someone I would one day call my “brother” would be the very individual who may’ve physically assaulted me or verbally derided me. I had enough of that treatment in both homes of my biological parents, as well as experiencing similar events in a children’s home.

Nonetheless, it seemed as though comparable behavior occurred in various cultures and civilizations spanning the globe. Confusingly, establishment of cohesive bonds—at least among male-dominated groups—involved harassment and abuse.

The same practice I experienced in U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) boot camp, Marine combat training, military police training, and in Okinawa was present across the globe and in the Rio det. Regardless of whether or not it made sense to me, life functioned as it did.

Generally speaking, men tended to abuse other men when forming in-group bonds. At any rate, Busta expressed gratitude for my arrival to Brasil while also voicing concern. He told me that the treatment he endured from senior members of the det would likely be expressed in increased fashion, because of my lifestyle choices.

I didn’t smoke, consume alcohol, use the services of sex workers, or partake in other activities common for most other Marines in the det. Because of my dissimilarity, I was said to have painted a proverbial target on my back.

Whether or not he was aware, Busta could’ve played the lottery at the time and become independently wealthy, because his predictive capacity was accurate. Though he still remained the subject of mistreatment, I received most of the det’s attention.

Like my older sister who used to share in the focus of our mom’s maltreatment of us, Busta and I formed a bond—not from having bullied one another though by allying against a common aggressor. We stood together in opposition to being pushed around.

Busta and I had both entered USMC service in 1996. We shared with one another the realization of our disillusionment regarding recruitment ads which promoted brotherhood when juxtaposed with the reality of our circumstances.

We were assigned the least desirable duties, derided during team meetings, and given special attention in what was referred to as the “dog log”—an unofficial logbook in which det members would disparage certain Marines, à la a Mean Girls’ “Burn Book.” There once was a written account of our castigation.

Marines who read this blogpost may scoff, offhandedly dismissing the description of my time in the Marvelous City as unnecessary whining. Bear with me, because there is an objective herein, albeit a method of meandering to a meaningful point.

When allowed to take liberty together, Busta and I danced the nights away during humid evenings in Rio. And although our Cinderella stepsister-esque det members were considered undesirable, Busta and I were prepared to stand with them against any perceived threat facing our tactical team.

In all fairness, there were some members of MSG det Rio who were neutral actors. For them and those who bullied alike, Busta and I wrote blank checks to the sum total of our lives in a pledge to live and die for our fellow Jarheads.

It was an uneasy day for me when the time came for Busta to rotate from the det, as his assignment in Rio inevitably drew to an end. I have no shame in admitting I was sad to see him leave—not merely because of the suspicion that I would become the sole target of maltreatment, but due to the high regard in which I held Busta.

We’d come from similar abusive childhoods and were mistreated by our adopted Marine family in Rio. Busta was a standup person and his departure signaled an end to what I concluded was uncommon allyship regarding my military career up to that point.

He spoke out against differential treatment, advocated equality, took the high road when an easier path presented itself, and didn’t opt to simply go along to get along—cowardly camouflaging himself among other Marines for the selfish advancement of his own career.

Even if it meant he would endure further unpleasant conditions, Busta defied oppressive action and earned the description as my brother-in-arms—not by mere title of Marine, though by extraordinary valor in the face of tyranny. He had my respect.

After Bust shipped off to his next det, and I continued challenging gross abuse of authority, Busta and I retained intermittent contact throughout the years. This was common of many Marines I met during service.

There is no fault assigned to those who simply continued moving in directions opposite of mine in life. In the Corps, it was said that “outta sight, outta mind” claimed the bonds forged by a significant number of those I once called my brothers- and sisters-in-arms.

Remarkably, Busta ultimately wed a Marine who also shared a similar background to Busta and I—one of childhood abuse and neglect. I’ll call her “Nails.” She and I maintained the connection I had with Busta over the years, as Nails served as a conduit of sorts.

This past February, Nails invited me to Busta’s retirement ceremony in Virginia. He survived 27 years of faithful and honorable service to the Corps—something I was far from having accomplished.

On May 26, 2023, last having seen Busta and Nails for a visit in 2006, I attended Busta’s ceremony at the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Prince William County, Virginia. It was the first time in approximately 20 years that I’d attended a formal USMC ceremony.

Likewise, it was the first time in a number of years that I took a working vacation on behalf of my psychotherapeutic practice. I wanted to honor Busta by touching grass from the past for his retirement from an organization with which I hold conflicted views.

Sitting in the second row, behind Nails and the three insightful and praiseworthy daughters of the dyad, I listened attentively as Busta stood before uniformed military personnel and sharply dressed civilians, addressing his almost three decades of service to the Corps.

I was aware of certain details with which others in the crowd may’ve remained unfamiliar, like how the bureaucratic nature of an ailing branch of service foolhardily bypassed Busta for a final promotion—presumably due to similar behavior Busta exemplified in Rio, as he didn’t shy from identifying the emperor who often presented himself to the masses as nude as the day he was born.

I heard Busta’s veiled chastisement tactfully delivered, taking careful consideration when grazing the toes of feet upon which he stepped when issuing his delivery. Currently, I wonder if any members of the audience went home limping after having their feet tread upon.

Busta’s level of diplomacy was far more polished than when together we once aired our grievances before MSG det Rio during Sunday morning “church”—team meetings at the U.S. consulate, often intensely passionate and ending in entrenched sides of any particular matter.

Busta delivered to the crowd a shrouded analysis of higher ups, praise for junior warriors, and a touching message of gratitude to Nails and their children. Perhaps caught up in emotion, Busta forewent specific recognition of my presence when thanking individual sources of support in the form of fellow Marines and friends in attendance.

Who could blame him, as he spoke with tears streaming down his cheeks—trying to maintain his military bearing while formulating intelligible sentences and stumbling through a bureaucratic minefield of brass and bullshit culminating in the form of one last hoorah?

As Busta spoke, I thought of my practice of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT). I contemplated the whining in which one could engage, carefully maneuvered herein.

I further thought about how my 23-year-old MSG self would’ve interpreted Busta’s words, versus how I perceive them through the lens of REBT at 46-years-old. A lot has changed for me since 1999.

Without knowledge of unconditional acceptance, low frustration tolerance, or disputation of irrational beliefs, Busta tiptoed through the proverbial minefield masterfully and without unproductive self-disturbance. It’s almost as though he had some sort of REBT foundation.

I was proud to have had an opportunity to witness a man with whom I’d served in arguably the most sought after MSG post at the time, as he reminded me about the value of gratitude. Busta could’ve stood before everyone as a Master Sergeant of Marines and whined, moaned, bitched, and complained.

However, he chose not to self-disturb when delivering a message of gratefulness, hope, and tolerance for a career he’d not expected to end as soon as it did. I was then—and remain—proud of Busta.

One of the hip hop tracks to which I’ve frequently referred over the years is “What It Is,” with a hook featuring the inquiry, “Busta, what it is right now?” It references a question to rapper Busta Rhymes, asking for guidance.

When reflecting upon his 27 years of service, Busta effectively told everyone in attendance what it was in the moment. And that is a lesson I’m glad to share with others.

When experiencing a challenging situation, it isn’t uncommon to conclude that one’s circumstances are what cause an unpleasant reaction. However, this misinterpreted Action-Consequence connection isn’t an accurate sequential description of events.

Rather, what we assume about situations is what causes reflexive results—forming a Belief-Consequence connection. In general terms, we upset ourselves with our beliefs about events.

It was Busta’s belief about his circumstance that led to his emotions, bodily sensations, and behavior. Only, he chose not to self-disturb, because Busta opted not to maintain rigid and unhelpful beliefs about his situation. He accepted his retirement with grace. I admire that.

Dear reader, what lesson may you learn about how to approach an abrupt end to a near three-decade commitment—only to be casually discarded by the very entity to which you devoted your life? How would you respond when experiencing unnerving beliefs?

Moreover, how will you handle day-to-day persecution, perceived victimhood, or careless disregard for your wellbeing—such as the experience of Busta and I in Rio, or the mundane existence many of us routinely face? Will you disturb yourself or gracefully maneuver your proverbial minefield, as Busta did during his retirement ceremony?

Touching grass from the past invigorated me to continue helping others through use of the REBT method. To those willing to navigate situations with hidden problems—challenging unhelpful beliefs which may cause you to explode—I’m here to assist so that a healthier outcome may be achieved. What it is right now?

If you’re looking for a provider who works to help you understand how thinking impacts physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral elements of your life, I invite you to reach out today by using the contact widget on my website.

As the world’s foremost old school hip hop REBT psychotherapist, I’m pleased to help people with an assortment of issues from anger (hostility, rage, and aggression) to relational issues, adjustment matters, trauma experience, justice involvement, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and depression, and other mood or personality-related matters.

At Hollings Therapy, LLC, serving all of Texas, I aim to treat clients with dignity and respect while offering a multi-lensed approach to the practice of psychotherapy and life coaching. My mission includes: Prioritizing the cognitive and emotive needs of clients, an overall reduction in client suffering, and supporting sustainable growth for the clients I serve. Rather than simply helping you to feel better, I want to help you get better!

Deric Hollings, LPC, LCSW


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