Novel – Drafted – Chapter 11

Novel – Drafted – Chapter 11

CHAPTER ELEVEN

Colonel Clark stood over an eight-by-ten quarter-inch thick plywood board held up by three wooden sawhorses. The layout in front of him had been decorated with a jungle, tall grass, small hills, a river, and a village with tiny bamboo huts. But instead of scale model trains, the battlefield diorama featured tiny toy tanks; machine gun pillbox emplacements, concertina wire, and blackened craters where pretend aircraft had dropped pretend bombs from the sky.

There were two distinct uniformed armies on the board–Americans and North Vietnamese regulars. The Colonel was busy poking over enemy soldiers with a long stick and muttering, “Bang. I got you, so fall over, because you’re dead. Ha, I got another one.” He ducked, and then quickly popped up, blowing a raspberry at a line of soldiers. “You missed me, you evil little Commies.” Clark then grabbed a toy tank and ran over several soldiers, while chanting, “Squish, squish, squish.”

His aide-de-camp, Carlos, stood nearby, wondering why this lunatic hadn’t been locked up somewhere by now. The Colonel, in his early fifties, stood about five-foot-five, with dyed black hair, sported a noticeable bald spot, bit of paunch, and a retro handlebar mustache from the era of flappers and bathtub gin. It amazed Carlos that he had survived working for this man for nearly two years without the two of them killing each other.

The Colonel looked up after another decisive victory. “Why, Carlos? Why can’t I earn one crummy star after twenty years of dedicated service? It’s because I’m locked away in this lousy boot camp, isn’t it? An Infantry Colonel is supposed to lead men in battle–not deal with new recruits tripping over their own dicks.” He sighed. “I need to be where the real action is–Vietnam. What can I do to escape this hell hole?”

Carlos shuddered at the thought of this maniac being in charge of a battalion in Vietnam. He wouldn’t last more than a week before his own men shot him. “I don’t know, sir. Do you have any ideas?”

“Damn right I do. I found out that somebody is stealing ammunition from the base ammo dump and then selling it to gangs in New York City. Did you hear anything about that?”

“No, sir, but I understand you can make a lot of serious money that way.”

“That reminds me, Carlos, aren’t you from New York…and how in the devil did you afford that new Cadillac on what the government pays you?”

“I’m very thrifty, sir.”

“Oh well, never mind. I have a brilliant plan to catch the thieves, which will make me a hero and guarantee my promotion. Meet me here at twenty-four hundred hours in camouflage uniform and black face. We’re going undercover.”

Carlos forced a smile. “I can’t wait.”

#

Sarge had us up bright and early, issued weapons at the armory, loaded on a truck, and headed out to the firing range faster than you could say, dead soldier. Today we got to fire the M-16–the weapon of choice for U.S. soldiers in Vietnam. I had hunted rabbits before with a twenty-gauge shotgun, but the M-16 was a frickin’ machine gun. Visions of “Baby Face” Nelson blasting his way out of a robbed bank rippled through my head.

I smiled enviously at one of my platoon mates who had fallen asleep curled up inside the truck’s spare tire (mounted inside the canvas cover on the back wall of the cab). I had a hard time grabbing a catnap, unlike most of the others, who seemed to nod off at every opportunity.

Arriving at the range, we lined up to receive our instructions. Today, instead of a traditional fixed bull’s eye target, each rifleman would face human-shaped cardboard targets that would pop up on a random basis, either obscured by vegetation or out in the open, anywhere within a twenty-foot wide individual shooting lane. The targets, spaced out from 50 to 300 yards, were of an enemy soldier standing or kneeling and pointing a rifle at you.

Before starting with the targets, the instructor had us set the assault rifle to a single shot with the switch on the right side of the mid-stock area then squeezed off a few rounds to get a feel for the M-16. The weapon fired like a dream with very little kick. The instructor had us then switch to fully automatic. I pulled the M-16 tight to my shoulder, held my breath, and squeezed the trigger. My barrel started to rise as a steady stream of bullets kicked up dust in a straight line a hundred yards out. What a rush!

Test drive over, we dropped into a prone position. “Lock and load,” commanded the instructor. I dropped out the empty cartridge and shoved home the second clip I’d been given. “Firers, watch your lanes.”

I peered down the sightline. A soldier’s torso sprang up about 75 yards away on the right in some tall grass. I squeezed the trigger and smiled with satisfaction as the target dropped. Not everybody got lucky, so after twenty seconds the missed targets went back down on their own. The instructor told us the most important thing was to take out the target, so we should fire as many times as necessary. Armed and ready, we waited for the next command. “Firers, watch your lanes.”

This time, a full-length soldier popped up about fifty yards away, half-hidden behind a tree on the left. One quick burst and down he went. Tex hollered from the next lane over, “Way to go Eli. Show no mercy.” I nodded as he took out his target.

I impatiently waited for the next cue, because I knew what was coming next. “Firers, watch your lanes.” Up popped a new target, but this time, instead of a North Vietnamese soldier, each target had Sergeant Wolinski’s face pasted on it. A thunderous explosion of bullets shredded Wolinski’s picture in all twenty firing lanes. When the dust cleared, not a single target remained standing.

Sarge raced over to my position and bellowed, “Goddamn it, Jones.”

I looked up at him. “But Sarge, we just set a firing-range record. You said you’d do anything to improve the platoon’s shooting.” Wolinski clenched his fists, and from the color of his face, his blood pressure must have hit 200 over 80. None of the platoon members dared laugh, but I’ll bet the guys were all grinning on the inside.

We finished the training and vastly improved our overall scores. But instead of getting praised, Sarge forced us to run back to the barracks. Once again, I was picked to jog around the formation. Wolinski rode beside us in the truck all the way home, offering a steady stream of curses, mostly directed at me.

#

When Carlos arrived, Colonel Clark sat behind his desk, a glass of whiskey in his hand, staring out the window. The only light in the room came from a small lamp on the desk. Carlos could tell the Colonel had been there for a while from the half-empty fifth of Jack Daniels sitting next to the lamp.

“Ah, there you are, Carlos,” Clark remarked with more than a hint of slurring in his normal speech pattern. “Why do you have black all over your face? Are you appearing in a minstrel?”

“No, sir, I’m here to help you on a mission, remember?”

“Of course, I always have a firm grip on what’s happening. I’m the division commander.” Clark leaned too far back in his swivel desk chair, which shot out from under him, causing the good Colonel to crash hard to the floor. He quickly pulled himself back up to a standing position. Using the desk for support, he tried to look composed. “So, tell me again, why are we here so late?”

“You told me that we planned to go undercover tonight and discover who is stealing from the ammo dump.”

“That’s right, you fool. Why do you think I sent for you? Let’s going get.”

Carlos raised one eyebrow. “Are you sure you want to do this tonight? Maybe we should wait until you’re feeling better.”

“Nonsense, I haven’t felt this relaxed since I got a “happy ending” massage at a bath house in Kyoto…and I’ve waited too many years already. Come on, Carlos, you wimp. Let’s go catch a thief.” With that pronouncement, Clark marched straight into the closet and closed the door behind him.

Carlos muttered under his breath, “They don’t pay me enough.” He sighed and then knocked on the closet door.

A muffled voice came from inside the closet. “Yes, what is it?”

“You are in the closet, sir.”

“I know. Any moron can see that I am in the closet. I thought it might be cold and I wanted my coat.”

“Your coat is out here, sir, lying on the couch.”

“Fine, excellent, let’s go then,” said the muffled voice.

Nothing happened. There were a few moments of silence, and then Clark stage-whispered, “Carlos?”

“I’m still here, sir.”

“I seem to be stuck. Would you mind helping me?”

“Not at all, sir.” Carlos opened the door and there stood Clark entangled amongst the hangers, outerwear, and uniforms; his face buried in a wool overcoat. The Colonel quickly leaped backward–sucking in as much air as possible.

“Thank you, Carlos. You may have saved my life.”

“No problem. Shall we go?”

The colonel nodded. Avoiding direct eye contact with Carlos, he turned and stormed out of the office, with his aide-de-camp a few steps behind.

****

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50 States – 50 Countries – California (Part 1)

50 States – 50 Countries – California (Part 1)

The “Golden State” is big. Not Texas or Alaska big, but it takes up almost half of the “Left Coast.” Home to movie stars, Hollywood, several national parks, a wide variety of climates, a lot of liberal Democrats, Beach Boys, surfing, Spanish Mission, wineries, and a mix of many cultures and races. So many places, animals and people to see, I decided to break this post up into multiple parts.  Enjoy!

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State Capitol Building in Sacremento…

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Governor’s Mansion, Sacremento…

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San Diego…

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Coronado Hotel in San Diego. The site of the movie “Some Like it Hot.”

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Balboa Park in San Diego…

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Bodega Bay, film site for “The Birds.”

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Napa Valley home to many wineries…

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California wildlife…

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Wild Turkeys

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Roosevelt Elk

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Rare white pelicans

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Sea Lions

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Queen Mary, Long Beach

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Great Heron, Long Beach

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Sierra Mountains…

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Capistrano Mission…

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Many Victorian homes and hotels…

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Lava Beds National Monument…

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Hollywood Bowl, site of many famous concerts, including the Beatles in 1964 and 1965.

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Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, site of many Hollywood premieres…

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SAMSUNG

More of our photographs later!!

Book Series – Drafted – Chapter Ten

Book Series – Drafted – Chapter Ten

Tex strolled into Company ‘C’ headquarters. “Hey, Professor, how’s it hanging?”

“Straight as an arrow, a little to the left, thanks for asking.”

“Whoa, too much information. Did you obtain what I asked about?” Tex slipped him a $100 bill.

The Professor nodded. “You bet. I dug up all kinds of dirt on Eli’s draft board. He’s not the first questionable draftee by any means. Look at this article in Life Magazine.”

Tex flipped through the marked pages and the rest of the information. “This is great. I want you to put all this stuff into an envelope and mail it to my daddy. In a couple of days, I’ll call him and make something happen.

“Eli is lucky to have a friend like you.”

“I’m just making this world a better place for my buddies.”

 #

Sarah started her day the same as she always did since becoming an Army nurse. Up at the crack of dawn, a quick shower, then after donning her crisp, white nurse’s uniform, she drove her assigned jeep to the base hospital, arriving at oh-seven-hundred hours.

Just inside the entrance, she grimaced at the hand-colored picture of the stern-faced base commander, General Herbert Wolf, with his pencil-thin mustache, hanging next to a photograph of the commander-in-chief, President Lyndon Baines Johnson. Sarah hurried along the black and white square floor tiles, past the functional plain gray walls, until she reached the elevator, which she took to the sixth-floor nurse’s station.

She signed in, picked up her chart and began her morning rounds, starting with sickbay. Military procedure called for all soldiers, even if dying, to rise up when revelry sounded at oh-six-hundred hours, make their hospital bed, and then sit in the hard wooden chair beside it until the doctor or nurse showed up. It didn’t make any sense, but it didn’t have to…this was the Army.

Sarah picked up a tray with a bottle of aspirin and several small paper cups filled with pink Cool-Aid and entered the “upper respiratory infection” ward. She got her usual amount of whistles and woo woos. “Okay, boys, you all behave now.” She turned away so they couldn’t see her smile, secretly pleased that her package still delivered.

The soldiers each wore a blue hospital pajama bottom and a white T-shirt with his last name stenciled in black letters on the front. Sarah handed each one, in turn, an aspirin and a cup of pink panther piss–the affectionate name given by the patients to the administered Cool-aid drink.

“What’s the chance of getting some penicillin or anti-biotic, darling?” One soldier asked.

“Slim to none,” said Sarah, “but you boys will be just fine.” She drew out the word “fine” at the end, which gave away her birth state of Georgia, although she hadn’t lived there for more than ten years now. It didn’t make much sense to Sarah to keep forty men locked up in one big room with no ventilation, coughing on each other like crazy, and spreading germs, but she accepted it as hospital policy, along with not distributing any penicillin.

The doctor arrived at the upper respiratory infection ward right after Sarah finished handing out the cool-aid and aspirin. He started his examinations with the first soldier on the right side of the room. The man held up his T-shirt, while the physician listened to his breathing with a stethoscope. If the Doc heard a raspy sound, “One more day of bed rest.” If the lungs sounded clear, “back to duty.”

The fifth soldier being examined leaned close and whispered, “Doc, please let me out of here or give me some penicillin. I am going to die in this crappy room unless I can escape from all these sick people and sleep.” He slipped a twenty-dollar bill into the doctor’s pocket.

The doctor smiled and announced, “Nurse, release this soldier with a three-day pass.” The other patients moaned in envy as the happy man ran out the door shouting, “I’m free! I’m free!

Doc finished up and hurried out the door, nurturing the hope of another round of golf before night fell or the fall weather turned nasty. Sarah gathered up all the empty cups in a plastic bag and tossed them down a trash chute outside the ward entrance, and walked back to the nurse’s station to write up the morning report. She thought Free car, free housing, surrounded by single men, and they still pay me every month. Nope, not a bad life at all.

Mary, one of the other nurses on duty, asked Sarah. “So, how did the inoculations go with the new soldiers the other day?”

“Well, the usual number of macho guys fainted and we played Florence Nightingale. One rather cute, funny young man did catch my eye and…”

Mary interrupted. “Be careful now, you know the rules about dating trainees, and your father would go ballistic.”

“I’m over twenty-one, so it’s none of his business…and I’ve done nothing with Eli…yet.”

“You are so bad! Is that his name, Eli?”

“Yep, first one I ever met. Wonder what he’s doing now.”

#

Eli, along with the rest of Bravo Company, shuffled out of the barracks and into the cold morning for reveille. “Watch where you walking,” growled Sam, as Horowitz stepped on his foot for the third time.

“Where in the hell’s the flag,” muttered Steve, squinting toward the center of the field as he raised his hand in the salute.

Wolinski, as usual, had his face in mine. “Did you shave this morning, Private Jones? And take off those damn sunglasses!”

“You still need to send me to the eye doctor.”

“You always come up with an excuse. Ask the Professor.”

Wolinski walked up to Horowitz. “You are a slob. Your uniform is a mess and your shirt isn’t tucked in properly. What did you do, rub dirt on those boots? I want to see my face reflected in those toes.”

“Yes, Drill Sergeant.” Harry meekly replied.

Wolinski looked disgusted. “And grow yourself a pair of balls.”

This particular morning, the needle got stuck again, and the same reveille passage kept playing over and over. We eventually got tired of waiting, gave up, and wandered off to breakfast.

#

Wolinski pretty much stayed in a foul mood 24 hours a day. After his latest tirade, he had Bravo platoon assigned to kitchen police for five straight days with no sign of a reprieve. I hated KP. It consisted of the worse jobs in the mess hall, like peeling hundreds of potatoes until your fingers bled or facing a sink overflowing with endless greasy pots and pans that never came clean.

“I’ll bet Sarge is upset because our platoon has the worst marks in the whole battalion on the firing range,” said Sam.

I agreed. “I’m putting together a plan about how we can improve our shooting and convince Sarge to give us a break.”

“What is it?”

“You’ll find out real soon…”

#

We were sitting around the barracks killing a half-hour before our next training class. Steve snored away on his bunk while the platoon radio played a song called “Cherry Cherry” by a new singer-songwriter named Neil Diamond. Sam sat on his footlocker reading a letter from home while I plotted how to sneak past Sarge to see Sarah again.

Suddenly the door slammed open and in stormed Wolinski. The Professor followed three-feet behind with a yellow number-two pencil in one hand and a clipboard in the other. Private Horowitz, the first soldier in the first bunk on the north end of the building, announced “Platoon, attention.”

“Louder, you idiot,” commanded Wolinski.

“Attention?” Horowitz tried again.

“What did you say, Horowitz?” Tex asked, and then spotting Sarge, he yelled, “PLATOON, ATTENTION!” Steve sat straight up in his top bunk, fell hard to the floor, and then hobbled up next to me–still in his stocking feet.

“Prepare for inspection,” announced the Professor. “Open up your lockers and then wait at the foot of your bunk.” His job was to follow Sarge around the room and mark down each discovered infraction on his clipboard.

Sarge began with Horowitz. He sat aside the upper tray in his footlocker and then started tearing things out of the bottom and throwing them in a random pattern around the room. “Unauthorized,” noted Sarge, heaving a pair of blue bunny slippers into the air, which luckily Tex saw coming and ducked in time.

Sarge moved next to Horowitz’s wall locker, where he spied a full-length poster hung inside the door. “No pin-ups allowed,” Sarge said, ripping it down. But before tossing it, he took a closer look at the blow-up photo of an elderly woman with a round face, short hair, and dark business suit. “Who the hell is this, your mother?”

“It’s Golda Meir, Sarge,” said Harry.

“Who?”

“She’ll soon be the new premier of Israel and my hero. You know, Golda’s of Russian descent.”

Sarge crumpled up the poster and threw it to the floor. “No political or commie posters either. Write that down.” The Professor scribbled on his paper, Golda Meir, and then drew a line through it.

“Clean up this mess,” Sarge commanded Horowitz.

“Yes, Drill Sergeant,” Horowitz replied.

Turning to Tex, Sarge said, “This area isn’t too bad, Private Riley.”

“Thank you, Sarge. I hired a soldier to come in and tidy up twice a week.”

Sarge frowned. “Well, your area might be in order, but you are in terrible shape. Stand up straight. Suck in that gut.” Sarge slapped Tex in the stomach with the back of his hand–reacting when he hit something hard. “What the hell have you got under there?”

Sarge pulled Tex’s shirt out and discovered a brown money belt, stuffed full of $100 bills. “My God, there must be $5,000 here. What’s with all the cash?”

“I don’t normally carry that much, but I just got a care package from home.”

“Most soldiers receive brownies. I don’t like you, Riley. You’re some goddamn Army reserve puke who bought his way out of serving. Just because you’re rich doesn’t make you a better man. Professor, mark him down for guard duty.”

The Professor started writing on his chart, but when the Sarge turned away to leave, Tex slipped the clerk one of those Franklin bills. The Professor smiled, slipped it discretely into his pocket, and began vigorously erasing Tex’s name.

Sarge arrived at my bunk. “Eli, other than your footlocker display, this area is a disgrace. Your bed looks slept in.”

“Oh no, Sergeant, I stood beside it all night.”

“Try again.” Sarge grabbed the edge of the mattress and shoved my blankets, sheets, and pillow onto the floor. He tried to pick up my toothbrush from its proper spot, but it didn’t move. Sarge gave it another yank and the whole display came out in his hand. “Tell me you didn’t glue your toothbrush to the towel.”

“Okay, I didn’t glue my toiletries to the towel. That would be as stupid as laying it out in a display.”

Sarge sneered. “Professor, mark down this smart ass for guard duty for the next three nights.”

The Professor shrugged…what can I do?

By the time Sarge tore up every display on the first and second floor, the barracks looked like a small tornado had hit it. “You have one hour to clean up this mess and dispose of any unauthorized items. Following the cleanup, I want you in full combat gear and ready for a ten-mile run. You are all lazy sons-of-bitches and I have been too soft on you pond scum. That is going to change.” He turned and stormed out.

Sam said, “Damn if this is easy, what’s his version of hard?”

Tex said, “That man’s got a burr under his saddle for sure. Come on, guys, let’s get to work.”

*********************************************************************************

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Book Series — DRAFTED — Chapter 9

Book Series — DRAFTED — Chapter 9

CHAPTER NINE

The next day we got up at our normal oh-six-hundred hours, packed up everything we owned in our duffel bag (the Army had found a place for me to store my guitar, golf clubs, and tennis racquet until after basic training). We waited in formation while an officer read the new platoon assignments. They assigned Steve, Tex and me to Sergeant Wolinski, along with several new guys.

Soon as they called out the last soldier assign to our platoon, Wolinski went to work.

“You are the sorriest bunch of recruits to ever stand before me. They had to drag the bottom of the barrel to come with this bunch of misfits. How in the hell am I supposed to whip you pussies into shape? I’m no goddamn miracle worker. If you maintain any hope of graduating, then for the next seven weeks, remember, I am your god, mother, and priest all rolled into one. You don’t walk, talk, think or take a shit unless I tell you to. IS THAT CLEAR?”

“YES, DRILL SERGEANT!”

“Wonder where he wants us to take our shit?” I whispered to Tex, who only smiled, but in his row, a five-foot-three, rotund, Jewish-looking soldier, wearing an ill-fitting uniform and black round horn-rimmed glasses, broke out laughing.

Wolinski roared over and stood in front of the still chuckling, overweight recruit, “I told you attention. Lock those knees and stand up straight.”

“I am at attention, sir, my uniform is at ease.”

“Sir,” Sarge exploded. “Do I look like a fuckin wimpy officer to you? Now sound off like you’ve got a pair.”

“Yes, drill sergeant,” said the draftee in the same meek voice.

“What’s your name, dick-wad?

“Horowitz, sir. Private Harry Horowitz.”

“Well, Horowitz, it is going to give me great pleasure to grind your pansy, chubby-cheeked little body into the ground. Now drop down and give me fifty.”

“I don’t carry that much cash on me. Would you take a check?”

Wolinski went nose-to-nose with Horowitz. “No, you stupid shit…do fifty push-ups and count ’em out.”

“Fifty pushups, sir,” Horowitz said, his voice shaking, “I can’t do five.”

Sarge exploded. “NO THINKING! I told you maggots not to think. I give an order, you obey without question. I say jump, you say how high. IS THAT CLEAR? …AND QUIT CALLING ME, SIR. I WORK FOR A LIVING!”

“YES, DRILL SERGEANT!” We all shouted.

“Now, Horowitz, are you going to start doing pushups, or do I have to beat you to death with this rod.”

Harry took a deep breath and bellowed as loud as he could, “YES, DRILL SERGEANT!”

Horowitz dropped to the ground and strained to push his body off the ground, but his big stomach and short arms made it impossible. He started his quivering mound of flesh rocking back and forth, resembling a turtle on its back, struggling to right itself. It was the funniest damn thing I’d ever seen. Every time he pitched forward, Horowitz let out a whoosh and shouted, “One,” followed by “Drill Sergeant.” Even Wolinski had to turn away.

We eventually lost the front two rows to gales of laughter, which got worst when Harry looked up, his glasses perched precariously on the end of his nose. Sarge seized the opportunity to harass the rest of us. “You jokers think he is so damn funny, drop down and join him.”

“YES, DRILL SERGEANT!” We shouted in unison.

When we started knocking them out, I couldn’t resist asking the guy next to me, “Hey buddy, is that a pushup or did you lose your girl?”

With the whole platoon soon laughing so hard that tears ran down our faces, Sarge went ballistic. “Jones, you are a goddamn smartass. Pick up your duffel bag and put it over your head and hold it there until I tell you to drop it. The rest of you worthless piles of dung…ON YOUR FEET! Forget riding on a bus to your new quarters, we’re going to run. Sling those bags. RIGHT FACE! No, Horowitz, the other way. Jones, start running clockwise around the formation with your bag held high above your head–and don’t you dare drop it. DOUBLE-TIME, MARCH” The platoon moaned but moved out on command.

Sweat rolled down my forehead, and stung my eyes, as I jogged around the formation. I reached exhaustion after the first mile, but wouldn’t quit. Whenever Wolinski looked my way, I managed to give him a smile–no satisfaction from me, you bastard.

Some of the platoon members weren’t going to make it. Their heavy duffel bag kept swinging into their bodies and knocking them down. Wolinski finally called the platoon to a halt. Most fell to the ground, gasping for air. I dropped my bag, bent forward, and took long deep breaths, trying not to heave. My arms shook. No way I could have lasted much longer.

“You pukes had better take this training seriously. What you learn here just might save your sorry ass in Vietnam. Now form up ranks. Eli, back in line.”

We did as requested–without laughter this time–and arrived without further incident at our new barracks. A thin, pasty-white gentleman entered soon after, wearing Harry Potter-type glasses and carrying an official-looking clipboard. He announced, “Bravo platoon, I’m the Professor, company clerk, and the person to see if you want anything. When I call out your name, come forward and pick up a set of name tags for your lockers–Pat Riley?”

“Here, y’all,” said Tex in his southwestern drawl.

“Steve Butler?”

“Here.”

“Harry Horowitz?”

“I’m Horowitz,” the pushup champ said, sticking his head out from behind his bunk.

“Stand up when the Professor calls your name.” I joked.

“I am standing up.” Harry protested.

“And you must be Eli.” The Professor handed me my tags.

“Why did you guys laugh at me?” Harry asked as he joined the gang gathered at the foot of Steve’s bunk.

“Sorry, Harry,” said Tex. “Your pushups were too much to watch.”

“I guess I did appear pretty silly.”

“So, what’s your story, Harry?” asked the Professor. “Did your mother want you to join the Army to become a man too?”

“Heavens, no, I’m in the New York National Guard. After basic, I’m headed home to work in my father’s jewelry store.”

I smacked myself in the head. “Why didn’t I get in the National Guard?”

“Because somebody better connected took all the open spots,” said one of the new guys, a handsome Afro-American, standing nearly six-foot-two, very muscular, and weighing about two-ten.

“Greetings, fellow draftee,” I said. “Who might you be?”

“Samuel Goodwyn, if it’s any of your goddamn business.”

“Take it easy, my friend. Tex and Harry here may have beaten the system, but Steve and I are in the same stinking, sinking boat as you.”

“If we were in a boat together, you’d probably make me row.”

“Not in a thousand years,” I said.

“Me neither,” frowned Steve, “Who rained on your parade?”

“An unproportionate number of black men are dying in Vietnam…and right before I start my junior year at the University of Alabama, they draft my sorry ass into the Army. Can’t say I’m real happy about it.”

“Wait a minute,” I said, “are you the two-time, all-American, pro-scouted, a thousand yards a season, Sam Goodwyn?”

“You know me?”

“Are you kidding? Everybody in America knows you.”

“Yeah, well, the Army doesn’t give a rat’s ass about football,” said Sam. Nobody disagreed.

Our discussion broke up when Sarge ordered us outside to draw our weapons so we could practice close order drill. Off we went at a trot. “Listen up pond scum. When I sing out a line, you repeat it each time your left foot hits the ground. Ready? I don’t know, but I’ve been told.”

“I don’t know, but I’ve been told.” The platoon responded.

“Eskimo pussy’s mighty cold.”

“Eskimo pussy’s mighty cold.”

“Sound off.”

“Sound off.”

“Bring it on down–now you say…”

We nailed it on the first try, “One, two, three, four…one-two…three-four!”

Holy cow, Bravo Platoon, Charlie Company, running and singing at the same time. Next, we’d try simultaneously rubbing our stomachs and patting our heads. Our talent knew no bounds.

We sang another verse. “G.I beans and G.I gravy, gee I wished I’d join the Navy.” This time, a few guys harmonized. Sarge said we were “sounding good.”

We arrived six blocks later at the armory, a brick building with bars on all the windows. Inside we formed a line against the wall across from a metal mesh cage. They kept the rifles stored in double-deck gun racks behind a locked metal door. The sergeant had each trainee go into the cage one at a time and return with a bolt-action rifle with a wooden stock and a simple v-notch sight.

Once we all had a weapon, Wolinski stood in front of the platoon and demonstrated our new toy. “This is the M-1 carbine. It is an accurate weapon when used properly and will kill you dead anywhere within 100 to 250 yards. In combat, this baby is your favorite mistress–you will sleep with it, eat with it, and keep it by your side at all times.”

“Hey, Sarge,” said Steve. “This isn’t the gun they show on TV.”

“No oatmeal for brains, it isn’t. That weapon is an M-16–a fine killing machine that rarely jams. But first you need to learn how to break the M-1 down, reassemble it, and qualify with the weapon on the firing range, then you’ll train on the M-16. But in the meantime, understand this, the M-1 is a rifle, not a gun.”

“What’s the difference, Sarge?” Tex asked.

“I’m going to teach you a poem, so you’ll never forget. This is my rifle.” Sarge held it aloft. “This is my gun.” He grabbed his crotch. “This is for shooting.” He pumped the rifle up and down twice. “This is for fun.” Sarge squeezed his crotch twice. “All right you guys try it.”

Sarge was right. I would never forget the difference between a gun and a rifle, or he might force us to do the stupid poem and hand motions a second time.

Wolinski continued the training. “Okay, men, let’s learn some basic rifle commands. When I say dress right, extend your right arm, and turn your head right–everybody except the last man in line, who keeps his head forward. At the same time, all, except the first man, start shuffling right until your fingertips touch your buddy’s shoulder. When I say “ready front,” drop your arm and face forward. Got it?”

From the confused looks on the faces around me, I could see disaster coming, but Sarge pressed on. “Platoon, attention. Dress right, dress!”

You could only describe what followed as a first-class clusterfuck. Rifles dropped, soldiers crashed into each other, and when some guys stuck out their left hand instead of their right, they poked the eyes of guys that turned the correct way. Horowitz managed to launch his rifle in a nice arc that terminated with a thud into the back of Tex’s helmet, thereby knocking the tall recruit to the ground.

“STOP!” Wolinski screamed. The veins on his neck popped out like a weightlifter hoisting 600 pounds. We all froze in our ridiculous individual poses. Sarge pushed his way through to Harry and shook him like a terrier shakes a rat until Horowitz began to cry. “You are the dumbest fuck I have ever met.”

“Take it easy Sarge,” I said. “He made a mistake.”

Without warning, he turned and smacked me across the face with the back of his hand. “Shut up, Jones.”

The slap stung and made my jaw ache. I fought a powerful urge to hit him back–instead, settling for the most hateful stare I could muster.

When Tex recovered, the platoon managed to move an arms-length apart, execute a right should arm, a left face, becoming ready to move out. For the next several hours, we practiced left face, right face, about face, to the rear march, right and left shoulder arms and parade rest until Wolinski looked satisfied.

By the time we finished our evening chores of buffing the floors and cleaning the latrines, we were ready to hit the sack. Somebody had a transistor radio tuned to WABC in New York City and the singsong voice of deejay, Cousin Brucie. He introduced “Sunshine Superman” by Donovan and the rocking bass line soon had everybody in the barracks humming along.

Lying in our bunks, I said to Steve, “Sarge has always been mean, but today we witnessed his cruel side.”

“Harry is still upset, and I can’t believe he backhanded you.”

“The man is crazy.”

“Isn’t what he did illegal or something?” Steve asked.

“I don’t know, but he’d better not try it again–even if he does catch me sneaking out of the barracks.”

Steve shook his head. “Oh, no…what are you planning now?”

“I want to see Sarah again.”

“Is she the nurse you met when we got our shots?”

“Yeah, I’m going to ask her to play doctor.”

“You’ll never sneak past Wolinski.”

I grinned at Steve. “Wanna bet?”

***************************************************************************

Want to read the whole story?

2nd-edition-2016

 

50 States – 50 Countries – Korea

50 States – 50 Countries – Korea

With North Korea in the news, I thought I would share my photos of South Korea during my time there in 1970-71. I spent most of my time in the mountains & valleys just short of the DMZ where small villages, open markets, mud huts, and rice paddies dotted the countryside.

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Harvesting rice…

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Rice paddies…

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Rice on the way to market…

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Open Market…Kimchi (pickled cabbage) is very popular. They bury the extra in large jars in the summer then dig it up to eat in the winter after it had fermented for several months. Avoid public transportation in the winter because everybody eats the stuff…very powerful! They also make a potent rice wine called makkoli.

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Have baby will travel…

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Home and chicken coop all in one. Charcoal bricks under the floor heated the huts in winter.

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That’s me in the hills just south of the Hantan River…

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Hantan River…

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A converted train track in the 70’s, today it is used for a commuter train that runs south to Seoul, the capital. This is crossing the Hantan headed toward Panmunjom, located in North Hwanghae Province. Originally it was a village just north of the de facto border between North and South Korea, where the 1953 Korean Armistice Agreement that paused the Korean War was signed.

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One the outposts where soldiers stand guard looking toward the DMZ and North Korea.

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Even 40 years ago a commuter train ran to Seoul from the far north. Looks empty here but the train made 30 stops after we got on at the end stop and the car filled with adults, children, vendors selling food, and livestock (mostly chickens).

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Yes, it gets cold in South Korea and it snows. Lakes, ponds, and rice paddies all freeze over, providing lots of places to ice skate.

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Seoul Train Station

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Ancient Seoul was once a walled city…and is filled with Buddhist temples…

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Seoul Korea 1970-71

Kids loved having their picture taken and practicing their English.

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Traditional papa-san outfit…only seven family names in Korea, the most popular is Kim followed by Lee and Park.

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Anybody remember pay phones?

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Big celebration in this Seoul park as everybody comes out for a book/pamphlet burning of propaganda from North Korea. You can see the pile on the far right before they set it on fire.

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Richard Allan Jones is an author, actor, musician, and world traveler. You can find his novels, “Drafted” and “Identity Check” on amazon.com.

2nd-edition-2016

50 States – 50 Countries — Oregon

50 States – 50 Countries — Oregon

A new series of photographs we’ve taken from around the globe in our 50 years of traveling…The cover photo is Crater Lake National Park.

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There are many covered bridges in the state…especially around Cottage Grove…

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Miles of rugged coastline including the famous “Haystack” rock…

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The famous Astoria Column built high on a hill overlooking the town and the Columbia River delta …

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The mighty Columbia River was a major route for explorers, passengers, and freight…

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Multnomah Falls is the largest of the many waterfalls east of Portland along the Columbia River…

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Sea otters can be seen eating and frolicking along the shore…

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You might recognize “Mikey’s” home used in the movie “The Goonies,” located in Astoria…

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Oregon is also known for its wide selection of fine wines…

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Don’t miss the expansive Rose Garden in the hills above Portland…

Happy Trails!