Subject: Military Ambition
Dear Brother Grady,
Thanks! As soon as I get some inspiration to write about some more stuff, you will be among the first to know.
Ok, Here goes! But first, a duck joke:
A duck goes into a bar and says to the bartender, "Got any bananas?" The bartender says that they have no bananas. And the duck goes away.
The next day the duck goes into the same bar and again asks the bartender, "Got any bananas?" to which the bartender impatiently explains that this is a bar and they don't have bananas. And the duck goes away.
This happens each day for a week, and at the end of the week the bartender is so upset that he says to the duck, "If you come in here again asking for bananas, I'm going to nail your nasty little webbed feet to the floor?" And the duck goes away.
The next day the duck comes back and says, "Got any nails?", and the bartender says, "No." The duck then says, "Got any bananas?"
You have very kindly complimented me on my achievements that I brag about in my website. And I thank you for that. It was what I had hoped for.
Actually, I would not have made it so far if I had been
able to qualify for medical school, but that is another story.
I started off with ten fingers and ten toes and a momma who was a Southern lady without having to be trained and a dad who was trying to stay out of the tobacco patch by getting a PhD in psychology. My dad had earned a basketball scholarship at the start of World War II, and his coach marched the whole team down to the Navy recruiting office and signed them up for a program that let them finish college and then go to officer training school. My dad got out of college and training just in time to be on a Landing Ship Tank (LST) during D-Day and then sail to China to prepare to invade Japan. When I was growing up, he never spoke to me of his experiences except to say that enlisted sailors were treated like slaves (when he feared that I would join the Navy) and to say that the reason he did not stay in the Navy was that the senior officers were "a bunch of old ladies!"
Many years later, when his mother died, and again when he was dying, he was more forthcoming about the war, but once before that he did confide in me his only military ambition.
I ran away from college and ran to Vietnam as the absolute stupidest if not the last of a series of truly stupid moves. When I got back and the Army let me go. I went back to school, and you have very kindly noted my later accomplishments in your prior message. But along the way, I had just about developed a private practive in real estate law in the Myrtle Beach area, when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, and Uncle Sam decided that all the money spent on my Army Reserve training should be paid back in full, by me, by going to Saudi Arabia for long enough to loose everything but my family and my bills. But that, again, is another story.
We, the small legal unit that I was with, were not immediately sent off to fight the good fight. First, we had to prove that we knew enough Army-type stuff not to get ourselves killed stepping off the plane. And while we took some classes and lots of tests and got lots of shots, we were housed on Fort Jackson in World War II barracks with running water and refrigerators added. Our families could not visit except for a certain period each evening, and "don't ask, don't tell" referred to the beer we kept in the refrigerator.
Finally, on the night before I was to depart, I went to
the nearest pay phone and called my folks and then called my wife. My mom was sweet and wonderful as always, and then my dad wanted to get on the phone. He told me that he loved me and wished me well. Then he confided to me his one military ambition. During World War II, he had always wanted to be at higher headquarters. I assured him that I was not about to get into the thick of it the way I did in Vietnam. After all, this time I was an officer and a lawyer.
Making the story of a long flight and a desert trip as short as possible, we arrived in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and were assigned to the Army Headquarters for the entire theater of operations. Then we were told that we were not really needed and should stay in sight but out of the way until someone thought up something for us to do or we were shipped out to front line units to help with legal matters there. So the only thing was to try to find a job or to grab a job as it came
open in order to avoid real Army time and discomfort. Weeks went by, and slowly jobs were invented for more and more of the lawyers. The clerks in our outfit had been put to work immediately because they had real, usable skills. Rumors
abounded but each new division that come into the theater of operations was dragging along a full compliment of its own lawyers and did not want any of us. (Thank goodness!)
We were supposed to be a prosecution team, putting wayward soldiers in prison after proper courts-martial. But General Swartzkoff had forbidden alcohol. So, no beer, no crime! Nevertheless, after a while, a few rascals decided to try to shoot themselves or parade around without any clothes on in order to try to get home, so a few of us were able to grab the jobs as prosecutors. But not me! I was beginning to panic. Only one other officer, a lieutenant colonel, and I (a major)
were left twiddling our thumbs in blind fear of going to some new unit that might arrive without its lawyers.
Then the call came. The lieutenant colonel and I were summoned to the colonel's office (our head lawyer at Army Headquarters and our boss' boss' boss). We were told that we had orders so secret that we could not tell our buddies or our loved ones at home what we were to do. In fact, we were not to know until we reported to General Swartzkoff's office.
As I went down into the subterrainian offices at Allied Forces Headquarters, I could not believe that I actually would meet the Allied Commanding General Swartzkoff, himself. And I was right! The highest ranking lawyer at Allied Forces Headquarters, another colonel, met us. To the great relief of both the lieutenant colonel and me, this colonel said that we would be working at his staff headquarters at desks befitting our rank (and wishes to be out of the action!). I was to be working at
the highest headquarters in the theater of operations. I suddenly realized that I had fulfilled my father's only military ambition! I had made it to higher headquarters.
May brotherly love prevail...