During my stint in the U.S.Army, I was witness to a lot of things both bad and some, rather funny. I never saw combat but I saw death. I saw the aftermath of suicide and accidental death. I’ve seen the aftermath of a shotgun blast to the back of a human skull. I’ve seen what flames can do to the human body when trapped in a burning car. No, I never saw combat but what I saw shouldn’t have happened, anywhere.
This story is anything but uplifting and therefore, I shall make it short and to the point. Paul Feilissen (I apologize for the spelling), was a quiet, well-mannered and well liked young man who was anything but suited for the military. This guy was as unmilitary as they came and never should have been drafted. He’s one of the thousands that slipped through the cracks and ended up where he didn’t belong.
Let me explain something quickly. Our commanding officer at the time was a Capt. Jimmy L. Jones who, when I first got there, was a 1st. Lieutenant and served as the Enforcement Officer at the Provost Marshals Office. He was well liked by all the M.P.’s on base and knew that he had their backs regarding their duties, schedules, write-ups (Military Police Reports) and that they could count on him for just about anything.
This all ended when he took over as the company commander when our old C.O. was transferred. We all thought he would continue to be the troopers friend but we were dead wrong. When he got his Captains bars and the command, he became a tyrannical son-of-a-bitch. You can’t candy coat it. That’s what he became and he seemed to really enjoy it.
Now, back to Paul Feilissen. Paul just wasn’t cut out for the military and had applied for a hardship discharge which would have let him get out with some dignity. The C.O. said no. He told him if he wanted out that bad, get a Section – 8. A Psychological Discharge; Mentally unfit for military duty.
Paul was mad and that was understandable. None of us could figure out why Capt. Jones was being so stubborn and trying to keep a guy like Paul in the service. It seemed to us better all around if he just let the guy out and replaced him with someone who actually wanted to be there. And, when you take everything into consideration, Albuquerque, New Mexico ain’t so bad when you’ve got a full-blown shootin’ war goin’ on across the pond.
Paul didn’t pull much duty anyway. He rarely if ever pulled any M.P. duty. Maybe he’d stand gate guard once in a while but it was usually the Zia Gate which was way out in the boonies and I mean way out.
It was a quiet night on base and I was patrolling the residential areas across from the barracks and close to the NCO Club. It was a graveyard shift, 11pm to 7 am and, even if it had been a week-end, it was still usually pretty quiet.
I had stopped into the barracks to check in with the CQ, the Charge of Quarters. This was usually a sergeant who would take messages, give wake-up calls, and refer more difficult matters to the appropriate personnel or wait until the office staff came in the next morning.
This night, Sgt. Johnson was the CQ and Pfc. Bell, a red-headed Irishman, was his CQ runner whose job was exactly like it sounds. The coffee at the barracks was always better than at the PMO so I stopped for a cup and chatted a while before resuming patrol.
I guess I had only been out of the barracks for twenty minutes or so when I heard a pained call from the gate guard on the West Gate. He was calling the PMO and said he had just been shot. The desk sergeant asked if he was alright and what had happened while dispatching an ambulance to the scene along with another squad car.
The gate guard was a black kid named Bell, like the CQ runner, but obviously was no relation to the red-headed Irishman.
I heard Bell say that his roommate, Paul Feilissen, had come up to the gate and had been drinking quite heavily. Bell told his roommate that he needed to use the bathroom in the guard shack and asked him to listen for the radio while he was gone. Bell then retired to the bathroom.
He had no sooner gotten himself situated when Paul walked in, grabbed his .45 semi-automatic out of his holster which was hanging up on the door, jacked a round into the chamber and fired a round into his leg. Paul told his roommate that he was sorry and to stay put. He was going to the barracks to kill the C.O. “It’s the only way.” he said.
Paul must have forgotten or was too drunk to remember but the C.O. was on a two-week leave. He wasn’t due back for a week or more. I called the PMO and told them I was right in the vicinity and would proceed to the quadrangle (the parking area behind the barracks) and investigate. All I got was “Roger.”
When I got there, Paul’s car was blocking the entrance to the quadrangle so I had to park behind his car and entered through the double doors that faced down the hall. This was a four-story, cement and steel structure with cement walls and steel door frames. It was built to last.
As I entered the building the CQ’s office was about thirty or forty feet down and on the right. All the office doors were left open during the night for cleaning and all the offices had interconnecting doors from one office to the other. One nice thing about the hallway doors is that they were staggered so you couldn’t look directly form one office across the hallway and into the next.
When I first entered I could hear Paul talking to the CQ, Sgt. Johnson and Pfc. Bell. I couldn’t make out what he was saying but he seemed to be talking normally. I called out to him which proved to be a mistake. He told me to leave and fired a shot down the hall. The round hit one of the metal door jams and ricocheted off to who knows where? I dove into the nearest office and started taking stock. I seemed to be fine except my heart rate was way off the charts.
I started working my way from one office to the next being as quiet as I possibly could and listening. I listened for anything I could hear that would tell me what was going on in the CQ’s office.
When I got to the office that was just catty-corner from the CQ’s I could hear Sgt. Johnson trying to explain to Paul that the C.O was on leave and wouldn’t be back for more than a week. There was a silence then Paul said, “Well, I guess I’ll just have to kill myself.” Sgt. Johnson and the runner Bell tried to talk him out of it but it just seem to make him madder. Finally they gave up.
I heard Paul tell them to lay on their stomachs and place their hands under their chins. He told them that they were going to watch him shoot himself and if either one of them blinked, he would kill them both.
I was just getting ready to get up when I heard the shot. Apparently Paul had laid his right temple against the barrel of the .45 and pulled the trigger. Just that fast and it was over. When I got to the doorway Paul lay dead and Sgt. Johnson and Pfc. Bell were still in the prone position with their hands cradling their chins. Neither had blinked. Their eyes were as big as golf balls.
Paul was a casualty of war as sure as he had been in combat but there was no combat and there was no war where he was at. The only battle was between a young man who wanted nothing more than to go home and an arrogant, tyrannical S.O.B. that couldn’t do the right thing even to save a young mans life. So short sighted was he that an innocent life had to be taken for no good reason at all. And, that was just one life that was taken. That night might well have been much worse. One wounded and one dead and two scarred for life was quite bad enough.
Soldiers place themselves in harms way so you don’t have to. Tell them how much you appreciate their sacrifice.
Have a great day and a wonderful New Year!!