Army stories I will never tell

I retired from the Army quite awhile ago. It was a great twenty one plus years and I have a lot of fond memories of my time in uniform. There are a lot of great stories that will eventually bubble up to the surface of my memory. There are others, however, that will never see the light of day;

  • There was the night I spent in a phone booth at the train station in Buchloe, Germany. Nope, not telling that one.
  • Then there was the time when I fell off a fence I was climbing over and cracked a rib or two. That story will never be told.
  • There was the girl I met at the American Hotel in Augsburg, Germany in 1975. I can state unequivocally that THAT story will never be told.
  • I swiped a canvas door off of an Army Jeep one morning. The statute of limitations may still be in force so that event will not be recorded.
  • There was that assault charge. Uh. No, nyet, nein. No story there.
  • There was the time that I was on radio watch one night and swore loudly into an open mike for the entire world to hear. The aftermath is the story that I will not tell.
  • I SHOULD tell the story about a buddy that got picked up by the German police for an incident at a house of dubious distinction. Maybe I will someday but, today is not that day.
  • There was a time when I bought a plane ticket home and the ticket agent did not tell me about the fifteen hour layover in Houston. I did manage to stay out of trouble then. It was not easy and was only successful because I had no money.
  • I stayed up all night once and drove a tour bus the next morning. Nobody died and I did not wreck the bus but I’m still not telling that story.
  • On a dare, I stuck my face into a plate of two burning caps of CS gas and took a deep breath. The suffering on my part was legendary and maybe I will tell that tale one of these days. That was sooo dumb.
  • I spent a whole day looking for a non-existent part for an Army truck, all the while, my boss and buddies were laughing their tails off (wait, I think I did tell that story).
  • Finally, the evening I and my roommate spent serenading my future bride outside her window. Not telling that story either. She tells it better than me anyway.

Yup, those were great years but there are just some things best left alone.

The joys of coffee?

                  It is Saturday morning and I am ensconced in front of my computer with a cup of coffee. (I’m not sure that one can actually be “ensconced” in front of a computer – maybe in front of a roaring fire but not a computer. Oh well, it’s there and I am not going to change it). My trusty cell phone (which, like my computer, does not lie) informs me that it is twelve degrees (that’s 12°) outside. I have made a decision that I will remain here with my coffee as long as I can get away with it.  It will not be long as the matriarch of the house is up and about. She will no doubt spot my immobility and dig out the proverbial “honey do” list. No, but for the time I do have to me, I will endeavor to enjoy it with my coffee.

                  Coffee has a special place in my heart. It kept me warm and awake on many a cold, dark night in the Army. The Army that I remember made their “field coffee” in ten gallon pots over an open fire stove (called an M-2 burner in those days). Most of the time, the grounds were dumped directly into the water. One was left to sift the grounds out with one’s teeth or take the risk of internal havoc and swallow it. Enterprising cooks of the day would fill Army-issue wool socks (new ones, I think!) with grounds and set them in the water.  That procedure had nothing to do with making life a little easier for the soldier. They just did not want to have to clean all those grounds out of the pot and so create what we would now call a hazardous waste. Regardless of how they made their field coffee, it was never very good. It may eventually be found that entire legions of soldiers were permanently scarred, physically and mentally, by this evil mixture. The truth is that the value of that coffee came when we filled our canteen cups with the more than likely toxic concoction. The canteen cup was metal so conducted heat pretty well. Soldiers back then filled the cup to the brim and, most of the time, never took a drink. The only function of coffee for many soldiers back then was heat for his/her hands. The ones (including me) who took the risk of actually drinking did so out of lack of sleep more than anything else.

                 So, as I sit here with my coffee and remember those cold nights, I do so with some degree of nostalgia and one burning question that I will never know the answer to. Did our cook “really” use new socks or am I bald for reasons other than heredity?

On “man bags”

I was at the bank the other day and the subject of man bags came up. Leslie the teller made the outrageous prediction that they are here to stay. She went on further to claim that their universal use was inevitable. It was a preposterous claim and I said so. Nichole (the other teller) joined Leslie in agreement on this position. I assured them that, at no time would I ever be observed carrying anything resembling what is commonly called a European man bag. In fact, I opined, man bags in America will go down as a complete and utter flop. I added that I would structure my Last Will and Testament to insure that my offspring and, indeed, all of my future male descendants would adhere to my prohibition against such an article. Leslie and Nichole uniformly dismissed my arguments.  In fear of having zeros deducted from my account, I left.

Since then, I have given considerable thought to my anti man-bag policy. I remain adamant in my opposition and here’s why. Think for a minute what the purpose of a man bag is. It is supposed to carry all the stuff that a guy would need through the course of a day. Let me state that those bags whose designed purpose is to carry a laptop and/ or equipment to do one’s job does not meet the qualifications of a man bag.  A man bag has a strap that allows the “gentleman” to carry said bag as a woman would a purse. In fact, these abominable creations look very much like a woman’s purse.  They probably are women’s purses that have been re-marketed for men. Bah!

So, I ask this question. Besides a laptop computer, what could a man possible have to carry that requires such an article? On my daily rounds, I carry a cell phone, wallet, keys, and enough money for coffee and a donut. All that stuff will fit neatly in my pockets so please tell me, where and how would I have use of a man bag? Is it possible that the new generation of men will be expected to carry things of which I am unaware? In my wildest imaginations, I cannot think of needing anything beyond what I have already stated.  I do not know any man personally who carries and uses make-up for example. It’s possible that there is somebody out there but I don’t know them nor do I wish to.

No, my dear Leslie and Nichole, man-bags are not inevitable as you claim. Time will show that I am right.

Phony Veterans

                  (Sorry, folks, I am on a rant today) On this date in 1972, I left my home in Amarillo, Texas and was placed into the tender mercies of the United States Army. My first “home” with the Army was in Delta Company, 2nd Battalion, 5th Infantry (BCT) at Fort Polk, Louisiana. Thus began a twenty-one+ year adventure that would take me across the Atlantic Ocean eight times (not including leave) and to homes in six states. I would not trade my time in uniform for anything. I am as fond of the Army now as I was then, even though I have been retired eighteen plus years. Even now, I can remember every unit I ever served with and every job I held.

                It is because of this fondness that I take an extremely dim view of anybody who makes claims to be a veteran who is not or, worse yet, a veteran who makes claims to daring-do that are not true. If you ever have a few minutes to do some simple research, conduct an internet search on “phony veterans.” There are entire websites devoted to exposing these imposters. You would be surprised at the claims. For example:

  • Right here in Johnson County, Indiana, a man (who will remain nameless) made claims to being an airborne ranger and a Green Beret. He told stories of being directly involved in action in Cambodia. A little research revealed that he had been an Air Force draftsman in Saigon.
  • In the past year, I met at least two people who made claims to be snipers, including one who told me that he was a civilian sniper under contract with a federal agency that he was not allowed to name. I am no lawyer, but I’m pretty sure that is a violation of the Geneva Convention.
  • Recently, I ran into a man who had a US Army hat on. I asked when he was in and he used dates that would include the Viet Nam era.  He was, of course, a Green Beret.  I asked him what his unit was and he had a tough time recalling. He asked when I was in and whether I had gone to Nam. I had not, I said, been to Nam though I was in at the time. He ended the conversation by telling me in no uncertain terms that he had been in Nam and had the wounds to prove it.
  • I lost count of the number of “Navy Seals, Rangers, and Green Berets” that I have come across over the years.

Phony veterans disgust me as they do any honest veteran. I have made it a policy to avoid these guys and not bother with them but I am rethinking that position. Any vet can ask a few probing questions and easily expose these bums.

Words fail to explain how I feel about these scumbags and that’s where I will leave it.