Big can of tuna no match for Marines
RAWAH, Iraq — One day last month in San Diego, a good-hearted woman whose brother-in-law is a Marine in Iraq had an idea to support the troops downrange.
Her brother-in-law, 1st Lt. Josef H. Wiese, 24, of Steilacoom, Wash., is a platoon commander whose Marines man a patrol base in Rawah, a debris-strewn city in western Anbar province.
Now, what would be a really helpful thing to send to Joe and all those tireless young Marines in the searing Mesopotamian heat?
Tuna. Yes, that would be the thing. Great for snacks, it can be spread on just about anything, and they wouldn’t even have to heat it up. But since there are more than a few Marines there, it would be good to send a big enough amount.
And so it was that the thoughtful woman’s gift made its way through the postal system, across continents, across oceans, and was delivered to Wiese and the Leathernecks of 3rd Platoon, Company D, 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion.
Wiese eyed the gift, with gratitude but also surprise.
“So, my sister-in-law, she went out and bought this whole big family-size can of tuna — not even family size — restaurant size.”
“I was like, ‘Wow, that’s a whole lot of tuna.’”
He realized he now faced a problem in logistics. With this much tuna, how would they keep it fresh once they opened it?
The first step was to stage the tuna, so to speak. Marines being in excellent shape, they managed to raise the can to a perch on the refrigerator.
A day passed. Then two. Days turned into a week.
“I guess it sat up there for about a good two, three weeks, intimidating us,” Wiese said.
Then, at some hour of a 24-hour-day, Lance Cpl. Christopher Martinez finished standing watch.
“I was hungry,” said Martinez, 21, a Squad Automatic Weapon gunner from Corpus Christi, Texas.
“So,” Wiese said, “Lance Cpl. Martinez came to me with this big smile: ‘Let’s eat this.’”
Next problem: “We didn’t have any bowls big enough for this thing,” Wiese said.
Then a solution struck Wiese and Martinez. They could use a big plastic trash bag, and a carton that normally holds numerous Meals, Ready to Eat.
“I used the insides of the box to kind of spread open the plastic bag,” Wiese recalled.
They grabbed a quart bottle of mayonnaise and emptied it in.
In went various seasonings, including a seafood seasoning salt that sells in Wiese’s home state of Washington. A Marine from Louisiana gave them a seasoning familiar in his home region.
“So we finally got this thing mixed up,” Wiese said. “We start popping out hot dog buns because that’s all we had and threw tuna on the hot dog buns.”
Then came the next stroke of genius. If they used the pre-sliced American cheese they had around, they could offer the Marines tuna melts.
Wiese and Martinez fairly exulted in their ingenuity.
“‘Yeah, we just achieved something spectacular. — ‘Hey, you want a tuna melt?’”
“We were trying to pawn off all these tuna melts. ‘No thanks. Not hungry yet.’”
But soon, the Marines finished off the tuna melts. Still, “more than half that tuna [was] left inside the plastic bag,” Wiese said.
But as word spread that it was good stuff, “It went away in a day or two,” Wiese said.
“It was pretty good,” said Pfc. Bryan Gregory, 22, of Bagdad, Ariz. “A little odd … but whatever gets the job done.”