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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Veteran Service

Today is Veteran's Day.  I'm not a Veteran.
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My Grandfather, my Father and my Father-in- Law served in World War I, World War II and the Korean War respectively, and all three were disabled American Veterans.   I'm so proud of them and thankful for their service.
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My turn was Vietnam.  A decent amount of guys who graduated ahead of me at Lynn English did tours there.  In those days, the draft was in place, and you had a number placed on yorur birthday based upon a drawing.
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I was at UMass, Amherst, and had gone through the first two years of a very unpopular Army ROTC program where I had attained the rank of Corporal by the end of my sophomore year.  I actually enjoyed it.  We learned about military strategy in wars from the ancient Greeks to World War II.  We learned how to march and conducted drills in the athletic field.
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It was tough in the dorms, because we had to wear full military dress uniforms and had to keep our hair short, which was a problem in the early 70's.  We were open targets to anti-war hippy types.  That never bothered me though.  I think I intimidated the Hippy's a lot more than they did me.
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Those of you who know me can probably picture that.
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Aaron Boykin and I were the only kids in the James House dorm who dressed up in uniforms twice a week to go to ROTC Class.  Aaron was a black kid from Springfield, MA in the 70's with a full 70's afro that went way past the ROTC dress code.  He played lead guitar in a rock band, and most of the time, really looked the part.
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The morning before each ROTC class, Aaron would grease down his afro so that his hair would fit under his military dress cap.  Since we never took those hats off in class, he got over every week.
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The morning came when Aaron didn't have the time to go through the greased down hair routine.  He lived across the hall from me, and we got dressed in our uniforms and headed for the half mile walk to the ROTC building.  The whole way, Aaron kept trying to stuff his Afro hair into his Cap.  When he stuffed it in one way, it stuck out the opposite site.   It was freaking hilarious.
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By the time we got to the ROTC building, we were running a little late, and the Captain in charge of the program was standing outside the door.  I forget this guy's name, but he was bit of a Psycho, had a bad temper, and there were a lot of wild stories circulating around about what a crazy bastard he was.   Plus he had a huge scar on the side of his head.
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Right away, the Captain started in on us.  "Gentlemen, you are running late... don't you know what time class starts?"
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Aaron and I tried to shuffle by quickly , but then the Captain zeroed in.  "You... Corporal Nestor... fix Boykin's hat."
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I positioned myself behind Aaron's head so that the Captain couldn't see my face. Aaron had his back to the angry Captain.  So there we were face to face positioned so that the Captain couldn't see either of our expressions.  Every time I tugged one way, that freaking cap popped up the other way.
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Boykin and I were killing ourselves with suppressed laughter.  I was summoning every ounce of my then developing Mountain of a Man power to keep from breaking out into an unrestrained howl.  Finally the Captain ended our predicament by bellowing for us to "Get the Hell into class".
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After that Sophomore year, my draft number came up at 354.  There was no way that I would be drafted.  I folded up my uniform, took it to the ROTC building and handed to the officer there, telling him what my number was.  We both understood that Reserve Officer Training Corps had ended at UMASS for me and I would not be signing a contract in my Junior year.
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Vietnam ended anyway a short time later, and I never would have gone.
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So I never served.   Which I regret today.
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But there is a deep resevoir of gratitude that I hold for those who did.  It is incomprehensible how different our life would be today, if those in our direct families hadn't made such sacrifices for us.
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For starters... we don't talk German, Japanese or Russian.  English is still the official language here.... although that is probably the topic for a different post.

Thank you American Veterans.  For preserving our way of life in the greatest country in the world.

Pisc said...
Good story, good thought. Thanks.



1 comment:

  1. Good story, good thought. Thanks.

    ReplyDelete

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