Thursday, November 11, 2010
It's a day for those who served
I still remember opening a letter and finding out I'd been drafted. I'd finished college and the draft board in my hometown of Fairfield IL didn't waste any time.
I wasn't looking forward to the experience, but looking back, there was something life-changing about it.
I thought I was in pretty good physical shape, but when I reported for boot camp at Fort Leonard Wood (Missouri), I found out pretty quickly I wasn't. Getting up at 5 a.m. and running five miles in combat boots wasn't what I expected. The drill seargeants took us from the run directly to the cafeteria. Do you think I was able to eat?
I learned to fire a rifle, shine my boots and follow orders. I also learned when to keep my mouth shut. They announced: "Smith report for KP." I was David Smith and there was a Charlie Smith in our compnay. We approached the drill seargent and foolishly asked, "Which Smith?" His answer: "There are two Smiths? Then both of you!" The other guy and I should have flipped a coin, but what did we know?
I did advanced training as a radio operator in Fort Huachuca AZ. Learning Morse Code will drive you crazy. The good news is that I was able to play bridge. Occasionally, they wouldn't give me a "pass" to go play. The Company commander called me in and asked why a colonel had called him and asked why I couldn't play bridge. When I told him I played with the colonel's wife, the CO told me I could go any time I wanted!
I spent 13 months overseas -- Korea. Was I a radio operator? No, they saw I'd been to college and asked if I could type. When I said yes, they made me the company clerk. Remember Radar in the movie Mash? Nobody messes with the company clerk and I enjoyed my time in Korea.
I took a one-month leave and traveled. I spent 10 days in Taiwan playing in the Far East Bridge Championship. I also visited Japan, Okinawa, Hong Kong and Macau.
I'm not sure why, but people you meet in the service make a big impact on you. I suppose it is because you had to go through things together. I was walking along with Mark Yamagami, Juan Vazquez and Doug Strang. A car came around the curve. It had a general's license plate, but we didn't see it in time to salute. The First Seargeant called us in - it had been reported. He asked us if we wanted to work for him or take our chances with an Article 15. What do you think we chose? I think we dug some ditches or something, but nothing on our record. Fun and games in the military. I wonder where Mark and Juan and Doug are now.
My time in service was during the Viet Nam war. Soldiers weren't always given the respect you see now. I remember hearing about some soldiers being spit on by anti-war demonstrators. Why didn't they spit on the politicians who got us in that mess? Common soldiers, like me, were just doing what they had to do.
When I came home, nobody spit on me, but there were no parades, either. Just my Dad picking me up at the airport and me moving on with my life. I used the GI Bill to get my master's degree. I used a VA Loan to buy one of the houses I've owned.
Today is Veterans Day. I hope you don't mind my reminiscing. You can read what wikipedia says about Veterans Day here. If you see someone who's a vet, go up and shake his or her hand. There's a reason they call it (military) service.