OK, let’s say you’ve seen their two debates so far and are going to watch the one Thursday night. You’ve also watched all of their television ads – or as many as you could watch without going “full Elvis” on your television set. Yet you still don’t know for whom to cast your vote in next month’s U.S. Senate race.
What to do, what to do?
While there may be a dozen or so voters statewide who haven’t made up their minds, chances are most of us knew who would be getting our vote even before the campaign commenced – unless, that is, that highlight in Sen. Kay Hagan’s hair during Tuesday night’s debate changed some minds pro or con, or that Nixonian sweat that dampened House Speaker Thom Tillis’ lip and brow the entire debate provided an epiphany to some undecideds.
With the stalemate now existing in Washington, the fact is that any lone senator’s influence on the collective body will be negligible, unless somebody digs up that character Jimmy Stewart played in “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” and he goes there and wows everyone with his blunt-spoken eloquence.
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That’s not going to happen, but we can still thank Hagan and Tillis for giving us such a stark choice Nov. 4 – between a candidate who calls the Jacksonville Marine Corps base Camp Luh-Joon (Hagan) and one who calls it Camp Luh-Jern (Tillis).
There has been a debate for decades over the correct pronunciation of the base, a debate of which I became aware only recently. My Marine Corps pal Mike “Gomer” Hoke, who spent a total of eight years stationed there, said months ago that only “politicians and Naval Academy grads say La-Jern. Sergeants and Onslow County natives say Lee-joon.”
I’ve even heard some people pronounce it Le-ZHERN. EGADS!
That’s how Lt. Col. L.J. Kimball, USMC Ret., pronounced it when I called and asked for the official pronunciation. Kimball, an historian who retired from Lejeune in 1991, said, “All the great iconic names of Marine Corp history of that generation who loved or worked or served with (Gen. John Archer Lejeune) knew how to pronounce his name.
“I had the good fortune, when I was a young officer, to be influenced by one of the Marine Corps’s most noted historians, Col. Robert Debs Heinl. He informed me rather early in my career as a budding historian that the correct pronunciation is Le-zhern. I was one of the few people of my generation who did pronounce it correctly, and I would try to correct people when they mispronounced it.”
Does he still do that – correct people who mispronounce the name? I asked.
“Well,” he said, “if they’re bigger, meaner and outrank me – I don’t.”
Gen. Lejeune, Kimball said, “had a daughter here during WWII who was a Marine, Lt. Eugenia Lejeune, and that’s how she pronounced it,” he said. “She had periodically to explain to people how it was pronounced.”
Look. You can say it however you want.
Me? I’m inclined to defer to the woman who bore that name – especially when she was one of the first female Marines.
If anyone ever needed a reason to doubt the suppleness of my gray matter when I was younger, there’s this: In the early 1980s, a childhood friend was about to be deployed overseas from Camp Lejeune. He asked me to catch a bus from Rockingham, pick up his van and drive it back home.
As any patriotic friend would – especially one receiving a much-needed $20 – I took the Continental Trailways bus to Fayetteville, got off and waited for the announcement to board the bus to Camp Lejeune. And I waited. After waiting for close to two hours, I asked the ticket-taking guy at the window when the bus for Camp Lejeune was leaving.
It left five minutes ago.
The problem is that I had indeed heard the man on the crackly, staticky loudspeaker announce the bus departures for Camp Luh-jern, but I – being a genius, remember – kept my seat, because I was going to “Camp Luh-Joon.”
Oh yeah. Like I’m the only one who’s ever done that.
OK, maybe I am.
Regardless of how one says it, though, North Carolina voters: We have a choice. Come Nov. 4, do we want a senator representing us who’ll pronounce the esteemed and vital military base the correct way – or the wrong way?
It’s up to you. Now, all we’ve got to do is figure out how to pronounce the name of that other Marine Corps base in South Carolina: is it Parris Island or Paree?