Sunday, November 11, 2012

VETERANS' WEEKEND WALKTHROUGH

My assignments in the military took me to all branches of service and their respective bases/posts.  I would never have met these guys, had I not served and my life would have been much the poorer for it.  Some of the names have been changed to protect the innocent or even the moderately guilty.

Jack, USAF, Washington--a Mormon gone completely rogue.  Spoke three languages and read at least three books a day.  Before the invention of the microchip, was a human spreadsheet, able to put complex data in an order where you could run scenarios with it.  Once loaned to NASA to tell them how they were storing their data incorrectly.  He served four years.  He did so many evil things to the Soviets that, had he stayed in, the cold war probably would have been over by 1970.  After the Soviet Union dissolved, he worked in the Ukraine to improve their schools.  He died about six years ago and there is still a hole where he used to be.

Jim, U.S. Army, Special Forces, North Carolina--Small, wiry man.  facile mind.  World Class poker player.  Was literally my running buddy.  We used to do training runs on a beautiful beach during our lunch hours.  A wonderful, funny man with a steely demeanor if and when anything happened he thought wrong or unfair.  He was also a closet gay.  This consummate soldier was killed in an ambush in Vietnam.  I do not know the details but I am confident he was a hard target.  I visited him on the wall my last trip to D.C.

Bob, USN, Iowa, -- Perhaps the highest IQ of anybody I have ever known.  Spoke and wrote in at least three languages, an expert in port topography and Chinese Geography.  The guy was a ranked bridge player with a bucket full of master points at a very young age.  I played in some events with him.  It was like drawing Ben Hogan in a two man best ball.  He was a bit of a hermit and didn't let many people in.  He's the only guy I knew whose bland job title was, itself, classified.

Francis a/k/a "Frankie" Sgt, USMC, Little Egypt, Illinois--One of those guys who does everything right.  He had perfect military bearing and played his rank role just right.  Off duty he was as personable as anyone you could ever ask for.  Everyone wanted to go out with Frankie when he went out, not necessarily because he was a great guy--which he was, but because he was a "chick magnet".  His rejects were more interesting than what most guys could scare up on their own.  Frank did 20 and retired but died soon after from multiple ailments related to Agent Orange.

Craig, Chicago, USCG--I met him pulling him out of a cold harbor.  Teased him about having to rescue the rescuer but we all know it happens sometime.  He hated college and was desperately in love with a girl who lived, like, a block from a Coast Guard station.  He concluded he should drop out of college, join the Coast Guard and surely they would send him to where his lady love was.  Sure enough, it happened just like that.  Only problem was the girl promptly got engaged to someone else.  Craig fell in love the Coast Guard and made a career out of it.  Ultimately, the Coast Guard sent him to six years of college (which he loved the second time around).  He's retired and still a civilian instructor at a station about a mile from where he grew upHis two sons are serving, one in the Coast Guard and the other in the Marine Corps.  In his spare time, he plays cards and gripes about the Government.

The point of this self-indulgent walk down memory lane is that military experience is enriching far beyond discipline and testing oneself.  The world and its people become your classroom, if you will just let it unfold for you.   
 

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