Tag Archives: Opinions and People

– What If Nobody Cared? –

What if nobody cared?

What if everything you wrote about, felt strongly about, poured your heart and emotions into was all for naught?

What if the only one who really cared ……was you!

As a self-proclaimed writer, that feeling has wafted over me now and again. It feels like no one is listening and, in essence, that’s like talking to an empty auditorium. All the seats are there except no one is sitting in them. There’s an audible echo from the vast emptiness before you which makes your words sound hollow even to you.

To be ignored is something that is hard to adjust to. It’s hard to keep your focus and be productive (or think you’re being productive) when you think no one is listening or paying attention in general.

The mind needs to be fed, replenished, if-you-will, as it expends thoughts like you must feed your body as you expend energy. The mind needs to be fed through feed-back. Verbal discourse and an exchange of ideas to replace those all ready expended and act as fuel for the next batch of ideas to come forth.

The scariest feeling in the world is that of being alone. Of hearing nothing except your own breathing. Hearing nothing but your own thoughts, your own voice. It’s the free exchange of ideas and thoughts, in general, that help to keep us sane and balanced. Thinking that no one cares about anything you have to say regardless whether it’s an editorial you feel strongly about, an article you felt compelled to write, a part of your life you want to share or a story of fiction that just popped into your consciousness that needed a place to live. Someone needs to care about it. Someone other than just the writer.

I guess it should be enough just to have the ability to put down in print that which you feel and care about. To go back, as I do, and re-read that which I have written. Sometimes I’m amazed that I could have taken the position I did on certain subjects. I won’t change that position, I’m just amazed, that’s all. Sometimes the anger I reveal disturbs me but then I realized that it was just momentary. That “This too shall pass.”

I guess I should be satisfied with being able, no, with being given the outlet for these random thoughts, these opinions, however wrong or right, these stories to be published on the internet so that people, other than myself, may choose to read or disregard my thoughts, ideas and stories. But, I’m not. I want more. I want to know somebody cares. I need to know that someone is listening. Someone other than me.

Those are MY thoughts and I give them to you.

Thank-you and have a great day!

Ed B.

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– The Process of Living Life –

This process I speak of is really the living of life in its many forms. Initially we kick and scratch our way out of the womb and into the light of day only to be whacked on the butt and told to breathe. Think of it. Our first experience is being held upside down by our ankles, get a spanking and all we did was get born. Our mothers, who just went through the birthing process probably figured we deserved the whack.

“Give the dear little so and so another for good measure.” mom probably said with a grimace.

Then, with any luck at all, we grew to be infants and then toddlers and then we became real pains-in-the-asses. We learned to talk and walk at the same time. Mom and dad had to keep urging us by saying,  “Say mama. Say dada.” Or, like my sister-in-law, “Say shit.” Honest, I heard her saying that over and over to my first daughter while she was changing her diaper.

Once the repeated urging finally produced the desired results. What you had then was a walking, grabbing, human destucto machine that wouldn’t shut-up. It’s too late to wonder what you have done because you’ve created a monster, that’s what. But, it’s your little monster and you love it and you love it, yes, you love it. Well, you do don’t you?

“Oh, what have we done to deserve this?” you think, and hopefully, not out loud. Well, that sex manual that you thought you knew all the answers to. You know the one someone gave you as a wedding present that you all laughed at. Yeah, that’s the one. Well, you should have read the whole thing not just looked at the pictures and chuckled. Too late now though, isn’t it?

So now were on to adolescence and the wonder of school. We have our little problems growing up. The nicks and scrapes and broken bones and sprained ankles but, we survived like our parents survived and their parents before them and theirs before them and so on and so forth. The only difference between now and then is we weren’t so sue happy back then.

Our parents never thought about suing our neighbors if we got hurt on their property. They just gathered us up and took us to the doctor or the hospital or whatever. No one was to blame. It was part of growing up. Regrettable, yes, always, but not something they litigated over. If it was serious, the neighbor would be there to comfort and lend a hand if they could but the thought of suing was never in question. How times and thinking have changed. Not always for the better, I might add.

Kindergarten and the early grades when learning was exciting. It was an adventure because everything was new. Everything including all the other kids. You may have had friends in your neighborhood that you played with but, that was what, four or five maybe six kids at most. Now you have dozens of them. All different ages and a play-ground that’s huge. There’s tether balls and kick balls and basketballs. There’s jump ropes and hop-scotch, swings and teeter-totters. It was marvelous. So many things to try. So many things to fall off of.

Then, for us guys, there were the girls. Cute little girls in pig tails with puffy dresses, shiny shoes and shy smiles. We, on-the-other-hand, ignored them. Or, pretended to ignore them. We were shy as well but we were cool, ya know? We would run by them and poke them and then laugh like we had really done something. Then we would run by them again and pull their pigtail or pony-tail, what have you. This was the mating ritual for the five to six-year-old group. Tormenting as a form of wooing. Sure, we liked them but we couldn’t let them know that or each other, for that matter. We had to act like they were from another planet, ya know? They were different from us guys. We just weren’t sure how they were different or why. We hadn’t progressed that far yet. Everything takes time.

There are some male adults who, to this day, think that the proper way to approach a woman is to be callous, crude and obnoxious. And, I must say, there are some woman who like that sort of man. They promote that kind of behavior by enabling these cretins. They must have a very low opinion of themselves is all I can say.  Woman of all ages deserve better than that and the sooner they stop accepting that behavior from men, the sooner all women will be safer.

Oops! Got too serious there. Didn’t I?

Once we trip and stumble through the elementary levels of life and education we enter what is now called middle school or, the halfway house of life. We are just barely adolescence any more and not barely teenagers. Our hormones are going wacko and nothing seems to fit for very long. Not our clothes. Not our shoes. Not our ages. Not anything. It’s like our bodies have turned against us and the outside world is helping. We are what we are but we can’t figure out what exactly that is. Very awkward indeed.

But, thank goodness that only lasts for four very long years and then we enter our next awkward stage. We’re teenagers. We’re in high school. We know what girls are and we finally figured out why they’re different from us guys. And we like it. Now, we have to figure out what the heck to do about it.

We can’t go back to pulling their pigtail or pony tails. That wouldn’t be appropriate at our age. Standing and giggling like said girls isn’t behavior befitting guys like us so we had to figure out a different approach.

“Let’s ignore them. Yeah, that’s what we’ll do, we’ll ignore them. That will get their attention.”

Sometimes I wonder what we were thinking of back then.

Well, I guess that approach, or lack of approach, worked for some guys but, it never had the desired effects for yours truly. I finally had to go about it the old, old fashion way. Work up the courage and ask her out (whoever that her might have been). As a wise man once said (about sales) every ‘no’ you get brings you one step closer to a ‘yes’. I think the same holds true with dating.

I still have hopes.

We made a lot mistakes and by we, I’m including everyone and especially the ones who claim to have made none. Their mistakes cannot be looked back upon and reviewed for they have none to reflect on. I feel this is sad for we learn from our mistakes, hopefully, and to think yourself so perfect right out of the chute. Well, good for them, I guess.

I, for one, am thankful for my mistakes and treasure them like old friends. They’re something to look back on and laugh about today and for me, a source of inspiration for my never-ending stories. I wish my children to read these stories and see for themselves just how imperfect their dad really was, and is, but how much he enjoyed his growing up and especially, his sharing of those moment with them and with all of you.

“The Process of Living Life” is different for each person yet, remarkably the same. Our paths may take us in quite different directions on our journey’s through life but, eventually, we will all end up at the same place. How we get there, what we do along the way and how or if we are remembered will be the only difference. A big difference, granted but not  a defining difference for, once again, we are all equal. Not one better than the other. Maybe more accomplished but not better. And there is a difference.

I have been blessed with the gift of gab although my daughters might consider it a curse because I almost always insist that they read my ‘stuff’. This one will be no different. I’ll ask them to read it as well. I hope they enjoy it. I hope you enjoyed it and will tell your friends about my site and that you will come back and visit again.

I look forward to hearing from you but, until then….

Have a great day and a Happy New Year!

Ed B.

– Mr. Obama – We Are Hemorrhaging Money We Don’t Have –

It’s time to turn off the tap and start explaining, in terms we all can understand, where in the hell are you getting all of this money you’re spending. You’re like a drunken sailor on leave. My apologies to all sailors everywhere but, that’s what it seems like.

What’s a trillion dollars here and a couple of billion dollars there and oh, we can’t forget that little country over there. They haven’t gotten anything for a while. Let’s throw them a couple million just for grins. Let’s fund this project and that project and let’s get that health care bill through at all costs, by all means. Who cares if it screams of Socialism or not? Who cares if it has already been proven not to be efficient or effective? Who cares? I mean, who cares?

“Change You Can Count On!”  “Change For The Better!”

Has anyone seen anything change? It looks like business as usual to me and a whole lot of other people as well. Where have all of the lobbyist gone? Have they all disappeared like they were supposed to? No! As-matter-of-fact, they have not. They are still comfortably tucked inside the beltway with a number of congressmen and senators neatly tucked under each arm. Which, by-the-way, is a perfect place for them because they are ‘the pits’.

Have you noticed how government has shrunk dramatically under the new administration? No, I don’t believe you have because, well, it’s grown. Now there’s ‘Change You Can Count On!’.

Have you noticed how our enemies fear us since the new administration has taken office? NO?!?! Well, that’s not surprising seeings how terrorist activities have picked up both abroad and (Guess what?) right here at home as well.

Now, you may not have liked “W” (Mr. Bush) very well but on his watch, this would not have happened and didn’t. The enemies of this country knew what he was capable of and that he wouldn’t stand for any of their shenanigans. He’d sooner bomb them into next week as hear any of their lies or cries of capitalist this or Americans that.

Simply put, you don’t mess with a Republican president. You just don’t.

Eisenhower was a proven military leader. Every nation knew what he was capable of. Kennedy was a P.T. boat commander that was truly heroic but, he got us and himself into a situation that almost led to World War III with the Cuban blockade and the Bay of Pigs botched invasion. He left the Cubans, that our military trained and transported to the invasion site, without air support, supplies or a way to retreat, all which were promised to them. Kennedy backed down and left them to die or be captured.

Johnson and McNamara got us into a shooting war in southeast Asia. At first called a police action, Johnson had the Navy make up a torpedo boat attack by the Vietnamese Navy on our picket destroyers that never happened. A way to get us more involved in the war there. Then he and McNamara micro-managed the war from the Oval Office not allowing the field commanders to do their jobs effectively. This resulted in enormous air losses both Navy and Air Force casualties, hundreds of planes shot down and captured pilots, aircrews and ground personnel. Most of which were unnecessary. Nixon came in and resumed bombing up north, removed unnecessary and unreasonable restrictions placed on combat crews and started to fight to win. Soon, the Vietnamese came back to the bargaining tables and the war, for us, ended. Well, for the most part.

When Jimmy Carter was in office for his one term, he got the American Embassy in Iran over-run and captured. He tried an ill conceived and poorly planned rescue mission that resulted in loss of equipment, lives of American servicemen and embarrassment among world leaders. The American personnel were held captive for 444 days until Ronald Reagan was inaugurated. This so frightened the Iranians that they released the captives the next day. No questions asked. They knew what to expect.

Reagan told Gorbachev, the Russian Premier, at the height of the cold war and referring to the Berlin wall dividing East and West Germany for decades, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down that wall.” Gorbachev did just that and for the first time since the end of hostilities during World War II, Germany was once again a single nation. Not a nation divided.

In stead of depleting our military reserves and weakening our defences as was the way of the democrats, Ronald Reagan re-built our military into what it is today, second to none. He then restored the economy and gave small businesses and farmers the boost they needed to get up and running profitably.

George H. W. Bush, Gulf War I. He did just what the United Nations allowed him to do. Did he want to go all the way to Baghdad? I’m sure he did. But he could not. The U.N resolution would not allow it. It would only allow him to secure the territory unlawfully annexed by the Iraqi forces which he did.

George W. Bush, Gulf War II, acted like any president should under the circumstances. When your country is attacked, you retaliate or you perish. Now, maybe that’s a little extreme but, I can just imagine what it would have been like if that other guy, the tree hugger, had gotten into office in stead of Bush. You know the guy I’m referring to, Al Gore, Yeah, him. We would still be in a wait and see posture trying to figure out what all those ‘other’ explosions were all about.

And now, we have Mr. Obama. This guy takes ‘wait and see’ to a whole ‘nother level. Wait and see what the polls say. Wait and see how the election turns out. Wait and see who’s on first. Wait and see if we’re still here after waiting and seeing so much. This wait and see president is going to get us all killed. None of our enemies fear him. None of our allies respect him nor do they trust him. If he can’t figure out how to cure or solve a problem, he throws money at it. “Yeah, that’ll work.”

I’m waiting for one Democrat to be honest with him or herself and, with me of course, and say they are shocked and dismayed at their choice for commander-in-chief. Just one honest democrat, that’s all, and I’ll be happy.
Well, for a while anyway.

That’s MY opinion and you are welcome to it.

Have a great day!

Ed B.

– Writing, Writers & The Written Word –

I am speaking only for myself mind you for I can honestly only do that. I have not been empowered by some supreme writing god to intervene on the behalf of others so any comments made here are strictly my own and relate entirely to myself. If, perhaps, others out there should feel the same way or are experiencing the same things, well, that is totally coincidental I assure you.

One of the first things I published on my very first blog, as-a-matter-of-fact, the very first thing I published was an article titled “Opinions and People”. The first line, if I recall, was “Opinions are like a–holes. Everyone has one and most of them stink.”

What do you think? Any truth to that statement? I’m still thinking that there is a modicum of truth there. It may not apply all the time but the majority of the time, people say things just to hear themselves talk.

I’m as guilty as the next guy when it comes to that. On occasions, I will arbitrarily blurt out something I know not to be true just to keep a good conversation from going dry for the simple lack of stimulus. Come on, anyone who isn’t just a casual observer has done that once or twice (maybe more, truth be known). You would have to have been as disinterested in the conversation as a knot in a piece of wood not to have done it at some point.

So, where is all this leading. Why talk about writing, writers and the written word and, and, the opinions they (we) express? Because they (we) express our opinions not only vocally but in print as well. We don’t just voice our opinions we put them down so people can pass them on. So people can go back and refer to them. Or, so they can go back and point fingers at them and say, “Look at what that idiot just wrote.”

Why is it that we (as writers in our own right) feel our opinions are so much better than everyone else? Because, that is what we are saying, isn’t it? Isn’t that why we feel compelled to put it down on paper? To place our thoughts in print and publish them on the internet for all to see (or ignore, as the case may be).

What is it about our way of thinking or our way of looking at a certain issue or personal bug-a-boo that makes our opinion worth your time to read or listen to? Frankly, I have no idea! But you do and that’s what keeps me and others like me going. Something in what we are saying rings true with you and it keeps you coming back.

I don’t care whether you agree with me or not. As-a-matter-of-fact, it’s much more interesting for me when I get a dissenting view from a reader. In spite of what I have just said, I like to discuss things and, should you show me the light and prove my viewpoint wrong, I will freely admit it. But, let me warn you, I won’t tolerate middle-of-the-roadisms. Don’t just criticize. Have a counter point to offer. And, if it happens to deal with religion, I don’t accept, “You just have to take it on faith.” as an answer to anything.

So, there are the ground rules and I really look forward to your comments. Challenge your intellect. Hell, challenge mine. Challenge your beliefs, if you dare. It can only make them stronger.

I’ve taken up enough of your time for now.

Have a great day and a wonderful New Year!

Ed B.

– Suicide – An Unfortunate Side Effect – #5

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!!

Ed B.

– From Army Basic to A. I. T. – Advanced Individual Training – #3

To say that army basic training is ‘basic’ is an over-simplification of the term. It is anything but basic. What you need to do is take individuals who think independently, act independently and, for the most part, question everything and turn them into a cohesive unit who think as a unit, act as a unit and do things when told and ask questions later.

Think of yourself in combat. I know that’s asking a lot of some of you but try anyway. Your life is on the line 24/7 when you are in the line of fire. You have to trust the guy or girl next to you with your life because, like it or not, that is what’s at stake here. Should anyone in your command whether you’re in a squad on patrol. A platoon on an interdiction or a company strength search and destroy mission. If anyone says “Hit it.” or “Drop.” or “Take cover.” the only dead person is going to the guy, or girl, who says “Huh?” and doesn’t react.

Think of the cartoon where a hunter is out looking to bag a turkey. He’s calling out with the gobble, gobble, gobble thing trying to get some stupid turkey to stick his head up over some fallen tree trunk and then BLAM, turkey dinner. The soldier who doesn’t react fast enough……… is that turkey. Understand now?

This is what “basic training” is all about. Taking the individual out of the civilian and putting the team member into the soldier. It’s the only means of survival when you are in combat. You have to think, act and respond like a team. Everyone has to trust everyone else to be on the same page or the whole thing would and, most probably will , fall apart.

Basic training involves physical training, basic hand to hand combat, bayonet training, marksmanship and weapons care, first aid, camouflage  and concealment, running, lots of running and marching, lots of marching which, by-the-way, is the single most important part of all the training and here’s why. It is a subtle way of teaching troops how to move as a unit. Stay in step and react to orders or, in this case, directions as a unit.

Everyone moves as a unit at the same time, in the same direction, without question, they just do it. This results in lives saved in combat. Very simple, very basic, seems almost silly when they’re being taught the moves on the parade ground and, they are never really told why it is so necessary. It’s the least strenuous or mentally taxing of all the training they receive yet it is the single most important training they receive that will  possibly save their lives or that of their fellow soldiers.

I wonder just how many former or current soldiers realize the importance of Drill and Ceremony when it comes to combat. It would be interesting to hear from some of you and get your opinions.

After basic, we all got our orders for whatever was to come next. My buddy and I had volunteered for airborne infantry so we were pretty sure where we were headed. Everyone else in our training platoon, not so much.

The army or, the military in general, is not known for their logical disbursement of their available troops. Former mechanics, instead of going to the motor pool, would end up cooks. Guys with some college would end up not in a training brigade but in the infantry. High school drop-outs would end up with the technical jobs and anyone with a medical background was liable to end up as a supply clerk. There was no rhyme or reason to their selection process. It was like they used a dart board and a blind man to arrange the assignments.

Phil and I, like I said, volunteered for airborne infantry so, naturally, Phil went to the Signal Corp to learn how to run a radio and send morse code and I went to Military Police school to learn how to become a cop. We both dropped our request for airborne when we arrived at Fort Gordon Georgia. What was to become our home for the next two and a half months.

It’s funny, I don’t remember much about my M.P. training. We took classes on military law, self-defense hand to hand training, how to drive the new light-weight jeeps aggressively while still being safe, weapons training with our new best friend the .45 cal. semi-automatic pistol and, of course, P.T. (physical training), there was always that.

Unlike Fort Ord in California, we were allowed to go to the PX (Post Exchange) on our off duty hours and drink their 3-2 beer. When we left Fort Ord we had also left behind the meningitis scare. The 3-2 beer was half the potency of regular beer but it tasted good just the same. After tree months anything that even vaguely resembled beer (sort of like Coors Light today) tasted good.

One afternoon, while I was enjoying yet another weak-ass beer at the PX, who should walk in but my old buddy Phil. We caught up on what was happening in our corner of the camp and Phil told me he had run into Dennis Portlance and Larry Ferguson. They were both here at Fort Gordon for more specialized training. These two guys were friends of ours from high school and Dennis and I had taken a short but eye-opening detour to Alaska and the university in Fairbanks. More about that in a later post.

We all decided to get a week-end pass and go see the sights of downtown Augusta, Georgia. Which, shortly after our arrival downtown, we decided to re-name Disgusta, Georgia. Man, what a let down. We walked around for a very short period of time and then, rather dejected, we decided to get a hotel room and just sit and talk the night away.

In our wanderings we came upon the, you guessed it, The Augusta Hotel. What else, right? Now, if memory serves me right, Augusta was a dry city. In-other-words, no booze to be purchased or served. Another let down. I called room service just out of curiosity and asked if he, the night clerk, knew where we might obtain a couple bottles of adult beverages. He told us that he could get whatever we wanted. It was a courtesy of the hotel. Things were looking up.

Phil was a scotch drinker so I assume that was his beverage of choice. Dennis I remember being partial to Crown Royal from our time in Alaska. Larry wasn’t much of a drinker but I know he got something and I got a bottle of Southern Comfort. Big mistake, as I was to find out later.

The desk clerk delivered the bottles and we paid the price plus a pretty good tip as I recall. Then the clerk asked if we wanted anything else. Just some ice if you’ve got it. Down the hall, he motioned. Still he stood there. Again we asked what he wanted. We thought it was a bigger tip. We were wrong.

He asked, “What about the girls?”

“What about what girls?” we asked.

He said, “Well, if you’re going to have a party, don’t you want some girls here?”

“Nah, I said, we’re just a bunch of high school buddies looking to get a little  drunk going. That’s all.” “Besides, we don’t know any girls around here.”

The clerk kind of rolled his eyes and said, “Suit yourselves.” Then walked away.

For the next couple of hours he kept calling our room asking, “Do you want I should send the girls up yet?”

As disappointed as we were in Augusta, Georgia circa 1966 as a whole, I can imagine how “special” their hookers might have been back then. There was a lot of traffic going through training at that time so, I would imagine there was a lot of traffic going through, well, you fill in the blanks.

The night at the Augusta Hotel passed slow enough for all four of us to get thoroughly hammered. That sweet concoction that is Southern Comfort was anything but a comfort. My stomach was churning and my head spinning at an alarming rate. If I had one of those beanie caps on with the propeller on top, I could have flown non-stop to L.A. in record time.

I don’t know when it happened but I received a call from the porcelain god and he beckoned me to join him in the bathroom. I did as I was instructed, assumed the position and promptly emptied the contents of my stomach  into the waiting commode (aka. the porcelain god). The trouble is, I passed out with my head still in the darn thing. It was a darned good thing that Phil wasn’t as drunk as I was because he heard this blub-blub-blub coming from the bathroom and staggered into investigate. There was his old high school buddy, Me, drowning in the toilet.

There’s a letter every parent would be proud as peaches to get, huh? Dear Mr. and Mrs. Binkley, We are sorry to inform you that your son, Edward, drown in his own puke at the Augusta Hotel in downtown Augusta, Georgia the night of, etc., etc., etc. Thank-you Phil, I mean it.

I’m sorry to say that the four of us didn’t see each other again for some time after that. I don’t think any of us, especially me, was ready for a re-match at the Augusta any time soon. Dennis and Phil, eventually ended up across the pond in Vietnam. Larry and I were luckier. We did our tours stateside. The important thing is, we all survived our tours and eventually got back together. Well, not all at once but we’re working on that. At least we are all now in touch. Thank God for e-mail.

Okay, let’s see. I graduated from basic training on November 11, 1966 and was flown via Standard Airlines (military charter) to Augusta, Georgia. I started training, went to the PX, ran into Phil , had the unfortunate drunk at the hotel. Oh yes, Christmas. We had Christmas leave that lasted through New Years. I think we had to report back on the 3rd or 4th of January, 1967.

It was about three days before Christmas and everyone was getting ready to go home for the holidays. For some, it would be the last. For others, it would be the last normal Christmas they would ever spend anywhere.

I was going home to Chicago to spend my last civilian (sort of civilian) Christmas with my dad and step-mom. I traveled by Greyhound bus from Augusta to Chicago. A twenty-eight (28) hour trip made better only by the fact that the driver insisted I ride in the front right hand seat (more leg room) and that a pretty girl sit next to me (a bonus any way you look at it). I think it had something to do with my being in uniform and going home for the holidays. Maybe the bus driver was ex-military or his son was in the service or something along those lines.

Christmas was fun and it was good to see my dad and Mickey (his wife) again. I didn’t know when or if I would see them in the future because at that point, I had no idea what the future held in store for me. As-a-matter-of-fact, I didn’t think too much about my future because I didn’t think I still had one. Things didn’t look good over in Vietnam and we were hearing about the body-counts both ours and their and it was anything but encouraging. This wasn’t something I wanted to think about while on leave but, one night, my dad had watched something on the news that got him fired up.

We were sitting at the dinner table discussing whatever and dad mentioned this thing he saw on TV. He was talking about the troops over there (in Nam) and calling them young punks over and over again. My step-mom tried to defuse the situation by saying, “Oh Walt, you don’t mean that.”

“The hell I don’t.” he would say, “Why those young punks over there, why they think………..” Then I cut him off.

“Dad, just shut up. You don’t know what the hell you’re talking about.” I said, “By-the-way, it’s the young punks over there that are protecting you old fat asses over here.”

It was out before I knew it. The color drained from my dads face as he got up out of his chair very slowly. He pushed his chair back and slowly walked from his end of the table to mine. I couldn’t move. It was like my ass was set in cement. Dad drew his left hand back and back-handed me across the mouth sending me flying off the chair, across the short expanse to the cast iron wall heater where my head met said heater and made a sound like that of a gong.

Hurt? Oh hell yes. Did I deserve it? Yes. Did I ever do it again? No way. Discussing is one thing but to disrespect your parents is something else entirely. After discussing it further, my dad apologized to me for what he said about the young troops. He did not, however, apologize for knocking me into next week. For that, no apology was necessary.

The rest of my leave was pretty uneventful. Except for one thing. I went to a Polish wedding with a friend of my step-mothers who was older than I but we were closer in age so….. Anyway, I didn’t have anything dressy to wear so I had to wear my dress green uniform. I think we danced some slow dances. I wasn’t much of a dancer back then. They announced that they were going to have a twist contest. It was 1966 and Chubby Checker with his Twist was still pretty hot then. This gal I was with talked me into entering so we did and, low and behold, we won. Who would have guessed that the only service man in the joint would win the contest? Go figure, huh?

After the holidays and the long bus ride back to Fort Gordon, we completed our training. The barracks we were assigned to were the old World War II wooden two-story style that had coal-burning furnaces in a small room that was part of the structure. There were dozens and dozens of these barracks and each had a coal-burning furnace. It was so cold there that standing fire watch (feeding the flame, in-other-words) was the best way to keep warm. It was, however, hard to stay awake. A lot of the guys would go in there, sleep and never stoke the fire at all. Then, when the next guy went to stand his fire watch, he would have to build the flame back up to normal again.

It was a dirty job and there were, like I said, dozens and dozens of these things going at once. The whole base was covered in soot and smoke. Everything smelled like coal dust. But, it could have been worse.

The guys in Signal training had to sleep in tents with little pot-bellied stoves in each tent. Four guys to a tent. Give me the old barracks anytime.

When we were about to graduate, we were all given our orders for our permanent duty stations. I couldn’t look. I just knew mine said Vietnam or some tropical paradise like that.

When I opened my orders they read Metz, France. “Metz, France, where’s that?”, I asked.

The company first sergeant assured me that his was a prime assignment. The French were less than happy about having us as guests in their country any longer and we were in the process of getting out with as little fan-fare as possible. Therefore, any troop serving embassy duty, which I was slated for, would not be staying on a military reservation. We would, in fact, be staying in hotels. We would not be ‘allowed’ to wear uniforms. We would have to wear civilian suits and ties. We could not carry exposed weapons. We would have to carry concealed weapons in a shoulder holster. And the final straw. We would not be expected to eat military food. We would get an allowance so we could eat in restaurants. Damn it all to hell. What do they expect from us anyway? Anyone would think this was a vacation, not a deployment.

“UH, YEAH ! !”

Metz, France was right on the northern edge of France and adjoined the southern part of Germany. Maybe during the Second World War, not such a good place for an American soldier to be but, now, some twenty-two years later. It was an ideal place for an American soldier to be. Especially if he didn’t look like a soldier.

Well, this was not to be. Unfortunately, I got pneumonia. It was a couple of days before we were to ship out to our debarkation points and we were standing one of our last, if not the last formation. I remember it was very cold and we were standing at attention behind the barracks before going into the mess hall for breakfast. It was still dark and, did I mention, very cold. I remember the first sergeant coming down the steps from his office with some papers and having us go to at ease and then …………….. nothing.

I woke up several hours later in the base hospital. There was this beautiful nurse, a lieutenant, standing beside my bed. I saw her name tag and it read Lt. Green. I asked her first name and she said Misses. So much for that. Besides, she was an officer but, brother, was she ever cute.

She told me that I had passed out in morning formation and was brought straight here.  I told her I didn’t remember much. She said that was all right, there were plenty of guys who saw the whole thing. That made me feel much better.

She told me that I had pneumonia and that I would be a guest at their establishment for the next ten days. I said, “No, no, I can’t be here that long. You see I’m leaving for France tomorrow. I’ve gotta get out of here.”

“I’m afraid not.” she said, “If they haven’t already, they’re going to have to give your orders to someone else.They normally don’t hang on to them very long.”

I’m thinking to myself, “Well, could this day get any better or what?”

They did, in fact, give my orders to a red-headed Irishman named Pat Dimegard. I found out later that he punched his commanding officer and ended up in the stockade. What a waist of some really good orders.

After getting released from the hospital and returned to duty, the first sergeant gave me my new orders, along with an apology for having to give my other orders away. These orders were not for Vietnam either. I, along with a lot of other guys, were going to Sandia Base, Albuquerque, New Mexico. This was a Defense Atomic Support Agency base (whatever that means) and we were all to get Top Secret clearances. Maybe. Those that didn’t would be moving on.

We all went back to that same strip outside of August and boarded yet another Standard Airlines military charter. This one, however, was not a four engine jet like before. This was an old four engine prop job. Not turbo-prop, just gasoline, internal combustion engines of the World War II variety. Very exciting, yes?

Knowing a bit about aircraft, I knew enough to pick a seat over the wing. It’s a pivot point and gives the best ride. I looked at the right-wing just below my window and noticed a trail of oil from the cowling on the inside engine. Being the old gas engines, you had to expect some of that so I was not really concerned.

The cockpit crew consisted of  the pilot in the left seat, the co-pilot in the right seat and the flight engineer in the center behind the engine throttle console on a drop-down seat in the middle. When the pilot advances the throttles on take-off, it is the flight engineers job to place his hand over that of the pilots to insure the throttles are full forward and stay that way incase the pilot needs to remove his hand for any reason. A fail-safe, if you will.

If the cockpit doors could be left open today, you would still see the co-pilot (since many modern commercial aircraft only have two pilots now) place his left hand over the pilots for the very same reason.

Anyway, we were getting ready for departure. Oh, let me mention this about the flight crew. The pilot was a middle-aged man with graying hair. The co-pilot was a younger man probably in his late twenties or so. But the flight engineer. His hair was pure white.

Now there’s a couple of ways to look at that. Maybe the white hair indicates a long, illustrious career in aviation that gives him the experience and knowledge to give everyone on board that confident feeling that everything will be just fine.

OR, seein’s how it’s just twenty some odd years after the second world war, perhaps this gentleman has had one too many flights over the flack riddled skies of Germany. Perhaps that pure white hair indicates he ws scared out of his wits and is now a basket-case worthy of closer observation by a profession staff with white coats.

Either way, the door on this aircraft is closed. The engines are started and we are beginning to taxi out for take-off. “Our Father who art in heaven ……… etc.”

I’m watching the flight crew, especially the white-haired guy, as the throttles go forward and we start to pick up speed. As the nose wheel rotates into the take-off attitude, I notice, out of the corner of my eye, the oil streak on the inboard engine is moving. There is a steady stream of oil moving back to and over the trailing edge of the main wing. Each engine has several gallons of oil so, at that rate we could stay in the air for hours and hours. No problem. I relax.

We seem to be flying pretty low. Probably between 7 and 9,000 feet. Just low enough not to have to pressurize the cabin. There’s a better view from this altitude anyway. Normally the cabin pressure is right around 8,000 feet anyway so we are just about right on.

I looked out to see the progress of the stream of oil and notice it has acquired a friend. There is a second stream of oil coming from the other side of the cowling now. I’m not so worried about running out of oil now as I am of fire. I decide to get the flight engineers attention and tell him of my concerns.

The flight attendant got the engineer and he took a look and declared it normal. Uh, huh. Normal?!?!

Well, that was all I could do so I just continued to watch the flow of oil as we continued our flight. I watched the oil as it flowed past the window and over the edge of the wing. More and more oil when, I noticed something else. Oh why can’t I just sleep like everyone else??

Where the wing root joins the fuselage there is a faring that wraps around that joint to make it more aerodynamic. It tapers from the fuselage to the top of the wing and is fastened there by rivets. That’s the way it’s supposed to be.

You see, before being drafted into the army, I worked for Douglas Aircraft as, yup, a riveter on DC-9’s. I worked in fuselage joining were different sections of the aircraft are joined together to form the whole airframe.

Anyway, I noticed some rivets missing in the faring that I didn’t remember being missing before but then, I really didn’t count them. I just didn’t recall any vacancies. No open holes, you know?

As the flight progressed and, fortunately, we were only going to somewhere in Texas where we would be transferring to another plane before continuing on to Albuquerque, we continued to lose more rivets. Structurally we were fine (I think) but losing rivets anywhere is not a good thing. It’s not the ones that you see that will kill you. It’s the ones you don’t know about.

After much oil loss and several rivets popping, we landed somewhere in Texas with a thump and a screech of tires. I was thinking about telling the flight crew about the missing rivets and second oil leak but to what avail?

“Oh that? It’s normal. Nothing to worry about I’m sure.” I could just hear it plain as day.

We got on yet another Standard Airliner to complete our journey. This one was a Convair 880. A very streamlined four engine pure jet of which not many were made. The most unusual thing about the 880 were the tanks on the top of each wing just behind each engine. They resembled military drop tanks but were carried on top of the wing and not under them which has always been the military way. It was a beautiful plane and very comfortable to travel in. This time I sat in an aisle seat and closed my eyes. I figured whatever was to happen would happen whether I saw it first or not. It was a very pleasant trip.

If you see a veteran give him a smile and shake his hand. Say thank-you for a job well done. It was you know?

Have a very nice day!

Ed B.

– In The Beginning – There Was The Draft – #1

My youngest daughter, who is now on the backside of twenty-three, wants me to add a few stories about my time in the army. There are some I find humorous and that could be because they happened to me. You, on-the-other-hand, might find them boring. For my daughter’s sake, I’ll take that chance.

When my friend, Phil, and I decided to volunteer for the draft in 1966, the Vietnam war was just getting into high gear. The U. S. of A. was drafting, not only, into the U.S. Army but into the Marine Corp. as well. A fact that, at the time, we were unaware. We had no idea that we may, without our consent, be drafted into the marines.

Let me back up a couple of days to an incident that happened just prior to my induction date. I was out celebrating my soon to come stint in the army with another friend of mine from work. A mister Dale Dunbar. Quite a character in his own right and tough as nails to boot. He kept an old car sitting in the street outside of his parents house just to beat on. That’s right, to beat on. He would take out his frustrations on the car with his fists, his feet or whatever was handy at the time. This guy was, like I said, tough as nails but one of the nicest guys you would ever want to know. When he was happy, that is.

Anyway, when Dale found out I was going into the service, one of us suggested that we go out and have a farewell drink (or ten). Which we did in grand fashion. You see, Dale didn’t like the service. He wasn’t what you would call a team player and didn’t take orders well. Hell, he didn’t take suggestions well either.

Again, I digress. One day Dale and I were playing hooky from work and we got to talking about the service. Dale was emphatic about not wanting anything at all to do with military life and had heard from somewhere that if you got an Exhibition of Speed ticket, you would become exempt from the draft. This, even at my tender age of eighteen, I found a little bit of a stretch. The fact remained that Dale believed it and that was all that mattered.

As we were driving around in his 1958 Chevy Bel Air 2-door hardtop with a 348 V-8, three deuces and a three speed, we happened to pull up beside a Long Beach cop car with two of Long Beaches finest inside. Dale looked at me and said, “Watch this.”

As the light changed to green Dale revved that 348 to God only knows what and popped the clutch. My heart sank into my stomach and we were off. I looked back to where the cop car had been sitting and saw nothing but an ever-growing cloud of dense white smoke from the rear tires of Dales car. This was the true definition of Exhibition of Speed. It isn’t exactly speeding because you are not exactly exceeding the speed limit, yet. You are, however, exhibiting speed by burning rubber from a standing start.

Anyway, as we were pulling away from the light and depositing more smoke down the road, along with a fairly large patch of rubber as well, the cop car slowly emerged from the cloud of smoke with its red lights flashing and siren blaring. It was in hot pursuit, of us.

Dale turned onto a residential street because he didn’t want to make the chase too easy for the cops. He made a right turn then a left then another right and then pulled into some strangers garage who just happened to leave his door up and we waited for the cops to catch up so Dale could get his ticket and become exempt from the draft.

We could hear the cop car getting closer and I just knew we were going to jail. Dale got out and leaned against the trunk of his car. As the cops car rounded the corner, Dale started waving. They just ignored him and continued on by with lights and siren still blaring as they faded into the distance. Dale was not amused. To say he was pissed would have been an understatement of the highest magnitude. He started yelling and jumping up and down like a mad man right there in front of that strangers house and with his car still in the strangers garage.

When Dale was like that you were better off not laughing but, I couldn’t help it. I started to laugh. I think it was more of a nervous laugh if anything seeing how we weren’t arrested for evading. But, it was funny and finally Dale came around and laughed a little as well. He was still pissed though and I’m sure that car out front of his house got a real work-out that evening.

Anyhow, back to the night in question. Dale and I went out drinking and as teenagers, we all know that can never lead to any good. Tonight was to be no different. After consuming our fair share of alcohol, we decided to go to Oscars Drive-In on the traffic circle for a cup of coffee and something to eat. You know, so we could become wide awake drunks?

On the way, I happened across a little sports car with three sailors in it. As we were going around the traffic circle I, apparently ran them off the road or crowded them or something. Anyway it was my fault and I thought I should apologize. Dale didn’t think that was a good idea but, being me, I did it anyway.

There was a teen dance club right next to Oscars called the Cinnamon Cinder and I saw the sports car pull on to the street next to it so I followed. I pulled in behind the little car as the driver got out. There was another sailor in the passenger’s seat and one in the rumble seat or whatever you call that space back there.

I exited my vehicle from the driver’s side and went to meet the other guy halfway. Dale waited in the car.

Paul Newman said it best in -Cool Hand Luke- when he said, “What we have here is a failure to communicate.”

Apparently the driver of the sports car was not in an apologetic nor a communicative mood. As soon as I was within range, he let me have it. He knocked what was left of my consciousness into next week. The front seat passenger, not wanting to be left out, thought that he might as well get in on the fun so he grabbed something out of the back seat, proceeded out into the road and started smacking me on the back of the head with it.

Just for the record, this was all related to me a couple of days later by Dale. That night, everything was a bit fuzzy, if you know what I mean.

Back to my dilemma. Dale saw I was not going down. Just why, neither of us knew. It would have been better for me if I had gone down. It was like I was rooted in cement and couldn’t fall.

After Dale got done laughing, he decided to help. I guess the scene was pretty funny from his point of view. There was one guy in front punching me in the face knocking my head backwards and the other guy in back with a club or something knocking it back forward. Afterward, Dale said it looked like something out of a cartoon.

When the third guy decided to get out (his one and only mistake), Dale had FINALLY seen enough and came to my rescue. He grabbed the third guy mid stride, spun him around on to the hood of my car and hit him in the face. Just once and he went down like a rock. Then Dale took notice of the other two and made short work of them as well.

Dale helped me back to the car and, of course, I insisted on driving. I looked at Dale and the first thing I remember saying is, “Where did all that blood come from?” Dale said, “Don’t worry, it’s the other guys.” Then he said, “But all that blood on you, that’s yours.”

I looked down at my once clean light green sweater and matching green khaki pants and saw that they were in fact covered with blood and it was getting worse. I noticed that I was coughing up blood and there seemed to be something wrong with my front tooth.

Dale said, “We have to get you to a hospital.” “No way, I said, I’m hungry, Let’s go to Norms and get something to eat.” Dale looked at me like I had just lost what was left of my mind but then shrugged and said, “Okay, let’s go.”

It was after one in the morning, I was bleeding like a stuck pig and covered in my own blood, Dale was covered in someone elses blood and we were going to a very public restaurant in downtown Long Beach, California. What could go wrong there???

As we pulled into the parking lot at Norms, Dale noticed about three or four squad cars parked unmanned but ready for action. He said, “Maybe this ain’t such a good idea. Maybe we should go somewhere else.”

“No, I said, I want a Denver omelet and I want it here.” Again,Dale just shrugged and we went in.

To coin a phrase from the old Mad Magazine and Alfred E. Newman, to be exact. “What Me Worry?”

As we walked into the restaurant we headed straight to the rear where, low-and-behold, sat six or eight of Long Beaches finest at a very large circular booth. Not one of them looked up at us.

The wait staff, the cooks, dish washers, buss boys and the manager all gathered around us wondering what the hell had happened.

The manager or someone (not the cops) asked if there was an accident. “Are you two all right? Can we get you anything?” they all inquired.

The waitresses got wet towels and started cleaning me up some while Dale went into the bathroom to wash his arms and hands which were covered with someones blood.  We already knew where the blood on me came from.

The manager went to the table where the cops were sitting. They were already getting up and heading for the front of the restaurant to pay up and get out.

“Aren’t you going to do something for these guys? Take a report or something?” As far as I know they just paid up and left. They couldn’t get out of there fast enough. They didn’t want anything to do with us or any explanation of any sort. Out of sight, out of mind.

The manager, again, asked if we wanted or needed anything. I answered in the affirmative. I wanted a Denver omelet and a cup of coffee. The manager looked puzzled, then looked at the cook who smiled and said, “Coming right up.”

Dale and I finished our meals, which were on the house by-the-way, and then headed home. That was the last meal I had for some time that wasn’t a bit uncomfortable to eat. That front tooth thing was not just my imagination. It was all too real, as I was about to find out.

When we left the restaurant, I drove Dale home to his parents place in North Long Beach. I was living with my mom at the time and she lived in East Long Beach. So, being battered, bloodied and bruised and in no shape to be driving anywhere, I decided to drop in on Phil at his parents house which was less than a mile or so away.

When I got there I was met with gasps, ooh’s and aah’s and a million questions. Phil’s dad, who was FBI or something like that had the most questions. Phil’s mom and grandma wanted to feed me and Phil’s two sisters were just curious. Phil thought it was hilarious and all I wanted to do was sleep and forget the whole thing ever happened. Oh, and the other thing I didn’t want to do was tell my mom.

Well, the telling my mom part didn’t go well because Phil’s dad got to her first and told her I didn’t want to talk to her. This was only sort of true. I didn’t want to talk to her at that particular moment in time not ever like Phil’s dad made it sound. Mom and I finally did talk and resolved everything. She didn’t much care for Phil’s dad after that.

Now, back to our induction into the army thing. I really got off track that time, huh? We, Phil and I, were about to become G.I.’s. That’s Government Issue for you uninitiated types. It matters not which branch of the service you served in, Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force or the Coast Guard, when you are once sworn in you become G.I. – Government Issue.

I can’t remember just who dropped us off at the induction center in downtown L.A. or if we were transported there by a government vehicle. I guess it doesn’t matter. We arrived just the same.

All we had were the basic necessities. A change of underwear, socks and our toiletries in, what was called and AWOL bag. One small zippered bag with two plastic handles made of canvas. That would be all we would need until we reached out basic training unit. There we would be issued everything else we needed for the next two years.

Phil and I and the other inductees got our introduction to the military by standing in our very first of many lines just after entering the front door. There is a saying in the service, “Hurry up and wait.” Just about everything you do in the service is at the double time. In other words, you’re running. It’s double time here and wait in this line. Then its double time there and wait in that line. Then double time back to the first place to wait in yet another line. “Hurry up and wait. Hurry up and wait.” It’s the Army way of life.

After being poked and prodded through one line after another by everyone and his brother, we finally got to the dental part of the exam. The dentist took one look at my loose front tooth and the multiple cuts on the inside of my mouth, not to mention the ring of knots on the crown of my head and said, “We’ll have to declare you unfit at this time. We’ll have you come back when everything is healed.”

I looked at Phil, shrugged my shoulders and started to walk away when he reached out and grabbed hold of my shoulder. He looked at the dentist and said something to the effect, “Hey, we’re going in on the buddy plan. If I go, he goes.” Compelling argument, no? The doc must have thought so because he stamped my papers “Fit for Duty” and away we went. Phil smiled. I still found smiling a bit difficult.

When we got to the swearing-in part, they had us form two separate lines leading down a narrow hallway. There was a blue line on the left and a yellow line on the right. Phil was in the blue line and I was right beside him in the yellow line. We talked as the line moved forward and we noticed that there was a folding divider screen thing blocking the hall. The blue line was heading through a door on the left and the yellow through a door on the right.

As we got closer to the doors Phil said to jump over to his line. I didn’t see the point. We would both come out the other side after being sworn in so what’s the difference. After much conversation, I found someone who would let me crowd into the blue line. Phil was happy.

The closer we got to the doors the more we could hear grumbling coming from the other side of the divider. We couldn’t quite make out what was being said but we could tell that some of the guys on that side were not happy campers at all.

We went through the door four or six at a time, I think, raised our right hands and were proclaimed to be government property or, in the army, whatever.

The new recruits, of which I was now one, all slapped each other on the backs as we all exited back into the narrow hallway and resumed our positions on the blue line. It was then we found out what all the bitching and moaning was about. The guys in the yellow line, which is where I would have been if not for Phil’s insistence, were all drafted into the Marine Corp.

As Maxwell Smart would have said, “They missed me by.. that .. much!”

There was little time to relax after the induction center. We were loaded on board three or four chartered buses and headed north to the Beautiful Monterey Bay Peninsula. Which we would never see, by-the-way. There was a meningitis outbreak at Fort Ord and this restricted us to the training area only. There was to be no passes for us. And, we didn’t know it then but no liberty after basic training as well. There was a crunch on and they needed bodies quickly. Maybe that was a poor choice of words but, you get the picture.

It was a long but fairly leisurely bus ride but not many of us got any sleep. We were too busy thinking about the next eight weeks. What would it be like, the training and all? Would we make it or be washed out? Would we be tough enough? This was for real. We weren’t playing soldier and shouting bang-bang. This was going to be for all the marbles.

We arrived somewhere around 3 o-clock in the morning and then the fun began. We were introduced to our first D.I. (drill instructor) after exiting the buses to shouts and profanity like you can only imagine. They called us everything but human beings. Phil and I were R.O.T.C. (Reserve Officers Training Corp) from high school so this didn’t come as a complete shock to us. Others were not so fortunate and paid a heavy price. Push-ups at 3 a.m. on the wet tarmac in your civilian clothes is never fun but they learned. Some the hard way but, they learned. The D.I.’s mean what they say and you never, ever laugh at them.

We had formations, shots, tests, more formations, more shots, more tests, we had gear issued and carried it forever, we were assigned temporary quarters and shown how to make a bed the military way (we were not allowed to sleep in them however), more formations and, I think, more shots, another formation, there may have been some food somewhere in that mix but don’t quote me on it and then we were allowed a couple hours of sleep before we were assigned to our training units up on the rock.

I know, I know, that was one hell of a run-on sentence but that was the way it felt back then. One never-ending sequence of events that went on and on forever. And that, my friends, was just the beginning!

I’ll tell you more later. But, until then, thank a soldier for his service. That goes a long way, trust me.

Have a great day!