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Slice 343 of 365

It is Veteran’s day. I feel like I should write about it, but if I do it will turn out to be some diatribe on the fall of the U.S., and why Vets should be appalled at what they’re fighting for.

Instead, I’ll tell you about my short Army experience.

I joined the Army, mostly to get away from my father, when I was 17. I graduated high school June 21, 1983 and left for basic training September 17th. I had STYX tickets for over the summer, but Tommy Shaw broke his hand, and the concert was rescheduled for after I was to leave. Julie Forte called my house in tears, and my father thought something was really wrong when he answered the phone. At the time it was.

I was going into the Army band. I passed the audition playing tuba, but of course, you still had to go through basic training to be combat ready. I was going to be a lean mean fighting machine (Somebody, please tell me they know the reference or I shall feel quite old).

My recruitment officer picked me up, and drove me to Newark, to recruitment processing. Here, we had our last bit of paperwork and, yes, a room full of young guys had to drop their drawers, and spread ’em, as our last civilian act. We flew out from there, I went to Fort Jackson in South Carolina.

We arrived well after midnight. We had to be processed and assigned temporary bunks because this was just a holding area. We were still awakened at 6:00 A.M., and rushed around all day getting equipment. The next day we were assigned to our Drill Instructors.

I don’t remember his name, but I do remember being terrified and wondering what the hell I had done. Was my father really that bad? After a few days it became more routine, but it still wasn’t normal. I was a good little soldier. I cleaned, I listened, I shot 39 out of 40. It wasn’t really my kind of thing, but I was going for music so I tried to just run with it.

Until one day at bayonet training, where they wanted us to yell, “Kill, kill, kill!” during the drill. That was the end for me. I knew at that point I had made a mistake. What to do about it? At the time, the Army had a thing called the Trainee Discharge Program, TDP. You didn’t need a very convincing reason to want out. If you didn’t want to be there, they didn’t want you.

When I got home I told everybody I didn’t make it through basic training because I had weak ankles, but the truth was that running away, was worse than what I ran from.

So, for all you Vets who have chosen to fight for a nation whose citizens want to fight over the color of Starbucks cups, you have my deepest sympathies. You deserve better.


By the way, I declare that the A, now stands for ass.

Until tomorrow…