EVOLUTION OF A THOUGHT
So I'm 16 years old and attending mass with my parents. Being bored, I used to press my knuckles into my closed eyes while kneeling creating patterns beneath my eyelids almost like a kaleidoscope of sorts.
In walks the older brother of one of my high school friends. Tim had newly returned from Viet Nam and he came on crutches missing a leg. I remember feeling such a sense of anger but not knowing where it came from. I just decided then and there that I wanted to do something meaningful and go and fight against those that did this to him.
I ran away to New York City. Twenty five dollars by bus, and came out in a Times Square filled with hookers and drug dealers. I was a long way from Maine! I had it in my head to join the Army and go fight for the cause whatever that might be.
After a weekend with a friend from summer camp I returned home to frightened and upset parents.
Jump forward 5 years. I'm in Cheyenne, Wyoming seeing an old girlfriend who dumps me so I get work at the Little America Truckstop and decide to enlist in the Air Force, as my draft lottery number was low and I didn't dare to go to Canada. I thought it would be a more educational experience than the Army.
I'm off to Denver to process and then to Texas for basic training. I remember the strange trip by bus before getting to the base. Everyone was different. Different hair, different clothes, etc. When we arrived we went through a long building, received our clothing, got shots, got our heads shaved, and came out the other end all looking alike except for the color of our skin. All equal, with no superficial characteristics to tell one from the other.
I eventually end up stationed at a base in upstate New York. I'm a fish out of water in my VW bus working as an aircfaft mechanic on B52's.
I had one friend on base. He had been stationed in Thailand and married a Thai women whom he was trying to get to the states. Turned out his old friend was now living with her and she just saw him as a ticket to the USA. He was devastated and trying to get back there to sort things out.
All my friends were civilians in a small upstate town called Barneveld. Many bottles of Boon's Farm consumed at the local bar in the center of town.
The day came when they were having a nuclear war drill on the base and everyone was called to duty. I stayed in my barracks having decided this was enough of this insanity. The commander called me and I told him I couldn't do this any more and he started screaming at me to get my ass in gear but I said I was sorry, no can do. Then he started speaking softly, obviously thinking I was on the verge of a breakdown, and asked me to come to his office.
I walking into the office and he sat all the way down an aisle ahead of me with people on both sides typing away. I sat and he proceed to tell me how it was God's plan that America should save the world from Communism. He pounded his fists on the desk to emphasize his point. I left his office ranting about that he was insane and out the door I went jumping into my VW bus and heading across base. Shortly I was pulled over by the Mps and they told me they had orders to escort me to the hospital for a urine test. The commander had just returned from a drug seminar and was sure I was high.
I get to the hospital and an orderly goes with me into the men's room to see that I pee in my cup. As I'm standing there he leans over and says, "Hey man, want me to pee for ya?" I told him I was fine but thanks.
After a couple of visits to the shrink and the local priest I was discharged with a diagnosis of "passive-dependent character disorder, unadaptable for military service".
I received an honorable discharge under general conditions and upon going in to get my final papers the fellow giving them to me said congratulations and put a hit of mescalin into the envelope with my papers.
I've always felt mixed feelings and some guilt about being called a "veteran." I knew so many who came back damaged both in mind, spirit, and body. I know I never would have survived combat. I'd be either a basket case or come home in a basket. When I think back to how I felt that day in church I understand how young men felt back when World War II was starting and boys felt that it was the thing to do as all their friends were going. It was a different purpose then but war is war no matter what the philosophy that justifys it.
A foggy morning in Portland, Maine. . .
3 months ago