About Face




Writing became a reality when I joined the Army in 1974.  It was either start writing or start smoking the mini-packs of cigarettes stuck in the field rations.  Talk about product placement.  During a twenty mile hike over the fire breaks a Drill Sergeant calls for a stop and barks:

“Smoke ’em if you got ’em, give me forty push-ups if you don’t.  Or take literary notes for future reference.  Do it now!” 

It was an easy choice. 

I’d read Norman Mailer’s WWII book.  Parts of James Jones’ trilogy.  I’d read Joseph Heller’s Catch Twenty-Two and Kurt Vonnegut’s Dresden book.  My favorite was Good-bye To All That.

I was ready to serve and ready to remember what it felt like.  Thirty threes years after a period considered by some the most trying period in the American Military, I have to agree about the trying part. 

Three events before and during my first six months in uniform gave me vision.  In no particular order:

1.  The Army Chief of Staff dies at his desk.

2.  The President of the United States resigns.

3.  Saigon falls to North Vietnam. 

All national tragedies but more important are the new names added to the chain of command.  The first names were hard enough to remember.  Ford instead of Nixon.  Instead of Chief of Staff of the United States Army General Creighton Abrams it is General Frederick C. Weyand who served in that capacity over the same time I was in the Army.  I was 09/74- 09/76.  The General was 10/74-09/76.

General Abrams, General Weyand, and I all served during the transition from the draft to the all-volunteer Army.  Live by the sword, die by the sword isn’t anything new, but I was stationed in Philadelphia out of Fort Dix.  I trained as a field medic with orders for Germany.  Instead I was appointed to the All-Army Wrestling Team Camp in New Jersey until I lost my big matches. 

No sword for me, just cracked ribs, a pulled shoulder, 

No sword for me, just cracked ribs,  a pulled shoulder, and lots of cheesesteaks.

4 thoughts on “About Face

  1. Michael says:

    I am drawn into your prose and I sense there is something more. Something not being told. Its there. I will have to come back to listen for it.

    • David Gillaspie says:

      There’s always something not being told, isn’t there? That’s why writers keep writing, keep searching for that something. I just finished the Pat Conroy book South of Broad and my feeling ends up that he told too much. After finishing it I felt like I never want to read another book from him, which might be the point. He knows I will, I know I will, and he’ll write the hell out of another story that creeps me out.


  2. David Gillaspie says:

    I’d love to see a guy take a gunman down then put him through a series of pinning combinations while scrubbing the floor with him, all caught on tape.

    No cheesesteak outside Philadelphia has ever tasted the better. Either they don’t travel well, or my memory of them is too grand. It’s probably the absense of cook-sweat on the grill.

    I’ll tell you, Will was very patient in explaining the three act structure. I took notes, then we did forty push-ups. He’s still got it going even though he’s waxed up in London.

  3. OldMack says:

    Philly Cheese steak diet beats C-Rats. Be glad you didn’t get hooked on those free smokes; I’m still trying to kick the habit—and failing. Too bad they didn’t award Purple Hearts for cracked ribs and pulled shoulders, but since you were wrestling “in the line of duty,” they should compensate you for them.

    Local hero throws a hammer lock on gunman sticking up a convenience store and held him until the cops showed up. All caught on store cameras and being replayed often. Hero in wife beater and shorts looks like an All Star wrestler.

    Good photo of you and Willy on the “About” page.

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