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 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.