Marine Says "Fishing Makes Day Better"

June 6, 2013

Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

A little more than a week ago, the nation celebrated Memorial Day to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. Occasionally, we get the opportunity to celebrate those who are still serving our great country.

Such was the case when Marine Lance Corporal Taylor Klarman headed home to Baldwin County for some R&R after a tour in Afghanistan. Although a big sow bass in Magnolia River refused to fall for any of the lures Taylor tossed her way, he knew he was home.

“Fishing has always been a part of my life,” said Klarman, who grew up with two brothers who were constantly involved in some activity on Mobile Bay and its tributaries. “Fishing started for me in middle school. My mother owned a teachers supply store in downtown Fairhope. During the summer, with her running her own business, some of my buddies and I would go down to the Fairhope Public Pier. We would go down and catch croakers and an occasional speckled trout. If I was lucky enough, I’d catch a flounder because at that age I didn’t know what I was doing. I didn’t have the experience at that point.”

To illustrate how the Alabama Gulf Coast is so inextricably connected to Mobile Bay, Klarman’s brother, Nick, remembered one particular event when a jubilee kept him from getting to school on time. For those not familiar with a jubilee, it occurs when a pocket of water with low oxygen content moves toward shore, pushing all the bottom dwellers to the shoreline.

“We stayed out all night gigging flounder and getting shrimp,” Nick said. “School had already started, and we walked in late to Miss McDavid’s class. We had a math test that morning and we missed it. But jubilees were part of the culture on the Eastern Shore. We didn’t have to check in with the principal or anything. We walked into class and Miss McDavid said, ‘Where have you boys been?’ We said, ‘There was a jubilee last night, Miss McDavid. We’ve been out gigging flounder all night.’ She said, ‘Y’all missed your math test, so come over here, sit in that corner and take it.’ That’s the way it is for a jubilee on the Eastern Shore.”

Taylor continued his fishing during high school, catching nice cobia and red snapper as well as the inshore species. During his college years, he fished a great deal in Venice, La., on the weekends with family friends. One summer, Taylor, his two brothers (also Sean) and mother (Pam Klarman Dean) went to Costa Rica, where they caught their first blue marlins. Still, Taylor lists inshore fishing as his favorite.

Although we fishermen think that wetting a line solves all problems, sometimes that’s not the case. For Taylor, he became “lost.” Eventually, his reckless behavior had alienated almost all of his family.

“The Marines was a place to go,” Taylor admitted. “I had a cousin who was a Marine who was involved in the initial invasion of Fallujah. He came and talked to me and said the recruiters were going to give you one story about the Marines. I’m going to give you the real story. Even after he told me about all that he knew and saw during his tours in Iraq, I was still at the point in my life where I needed a place to go. The Marine Corps seemed to fit my personality, and they would take me.

“As it turned out, the Marine Corps saved my life. The Marine Corps is so much more than going to war.”
After 13 weeks at Parris Island, he went to Camp Lejeune (N.C.) for Marine Corps training at the School of Infantry. He then transitioned to Fort Benning, Ga., for armored training as an ammunition loader on an M1A1 Abrams tank. Klarman then found out he would be shipped to Afghanistan and went for a round of tank training in the Mojave Desert before heading back to his home base.

One of the few Marines left in his company in North Carolina before heading overseas, Klarman got a call from his staff sergeant.

“I was one of the last Marines in my company to leave,” he said. “He said I’ve got four tanks that just arrived on the railhead. I need you to go down and drive one of the tanks back to the tank ground. The duty van came and picked me up.

“I was the first tank off the railhead, and I was following a recovery vehicle called a Mike 88. I had a gunnery sergeant up top. The 88 took off down this back trail. I thought, ‘Brand new tank, I’m going to give it all it’s got.’ I’m rolling through the trails at top speed. Then the 88 slams on its brakes about 75 yards in front of me. They had come to a road crossing. I went to hit the brakes and the linkage pin had come out of the brakes. I had only driven a tank maybe three or four times. So I throw it in neutral and start swerving. I’m hearing all this language from the gunnery sergeant. I can’t stop the tank and I ran off into the woods. I laid over about three trees. The gunnery sergeant said, ‘Marine, what is your problem?’ I said, ‘Gunnery Sergeant, we don’t have any brakes.’ He said, ‘That’s a (expletive [INVALID]d) problem to have.’ The tanks weigh 72 tons with a combat load. They’re hard to stop when you’re going 38 miles per hour.”

Once in Afghanistan, Taylor said the situation sometimes felt surreal.

“You had the cloudless blue sky above and all you could see in front of you was sand,” he said. “It was almost like a cartoon. I expected to see the Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote come zooming by at any time.”
But there were other moments when he definitely knew his deployment was no cartoon. The tank was ordered to an overlook to look for Taliban activity. As the tank moved into position, an IED (Improvised Explosive Device) exploded and wrecked one of the tracks on the tank. Klarman had to exit the tank and check for damage. What he found was chilling. Only one of several artillery rounds the Taliban wired had detonated.
“It wasn’t wired right,” Klarman said. “If they had wired it right, I wouldn’t be talking to you now.”

The tank crew waited several tense hours before help arrived, but no further damage occurred. Klarman finished his deployment without further incident.

Back home on leave, Klarman visited several schools in Baldwin County to talk about his experience as a Marine.

“The visits were my way of saying thank you for all the care packages,” he said. “I love to make face-to-face visits to say ‘thank you.’ Being in a tank crew, we were needed all over the place. We weren’t lucky enough to sit at a base where they have a chow tent with hot food. So those care packages made a big difference for tank crews. It was something good in a care package or an MRE (Meals Read to Eat). My taking my time on leave to say thank you is all I could do.”

Now back in North Carolina, he plans to use his down time to get in plenty of fishing.

“It really takes the weight of the world off your shoulders,” he said. “Before I went into the Marine Corps and being in the position of not excelling in life, and even now that I am successful in the Marine Corps, fishing always makes the day better, in my book.”

PHOTOS: Taylor Klarman of Fairhope, who is currently stationed at Camp Lejeune, N.C., visited schools to thank them for their support during his deployment in Afghanistan. Klarman presented an American flag to Faulkner State Community College. He also found time to do a little speckled trout fishing along the Alabama Gulf Coast.