Going to Pasadena City College and taking over 18 units, somehow the paperwork got all screwed up and I got a draft notice. Viet Nam here I come.
I decided not to fight it. After all this country saved my life. If I had stayed in Germany I would have probably died or at best been a bicycle repair man. Never saw my Dad so forlorn than when he took me to the “induction” center in downtown LA early in the morning. We both knew this was a turning point. Either I die or I survive. Spent the rest of the day following lines, the red line, the blue line, etc. Until I came to a person who supposedly was a “doctor.” He looked at my butt and said, “Hey, your right leg is an inch shorter than your left leg.” Yes, that’s because I broke my ankle when I was younger and that leg never grew again.
So am I outtahere? No, we’ll still take you. They put us all on buses and by the time we got to Fort Ord it was early in the morning. On the trip up there we all got familiar with each other, talked, did whatever. But once we arrived we were greeted by drill sergeants who were screaming at us. Next thing we know they cut off all our hair and dressed us in the same green. We have no clue who we were talking to on the bus.
Basic training camp was an eye opener. We were so indoctrinated we could barely keep our eyes open. They kept us awake most of the time and if you fell asleep they’d bang you on the head, shoulders or whatever was convenient and wake us back up. We’d have to do “forced” marches, full packs and rifles, like to the rifle range. Usually early in the morning when Fort Ord is downright freezing and miserable. The fat guys couldn’t keep up. Many times they would fall, crawl around the ground and cry. Once back at the barracks and no supervision we would beat the shit out of these guys for being such idiots and sooner than later, they were no longer amongst us. The drill sergeants were just returned from Viet Nam. They did their best to toughen us up because they knew what we were going to be confronted with. Many times they would tell us they were there to get us ready for what we had no clue as to what and where we were going. “You will die and because of our experience we are here to help you avert that death.”
Once I got to Advanced Infantry Training I was made a squad leader, because I was drafted out of college and given my own room. The first thing they told me was, “The last guy in this room died of spinal meningitis and we hope you do better.” Holly Shit! Getting leave, being in AIT, all my friends told me, “We sure are glad you’re not like you were the last time you came back.” You mean they totally manipulated and controlled me? Aaahm yes.
At the end of AIT we had to take weeks of written tests. As I went through all this I could see a pattern. I got this licked. No I don’t like camping. No I don’t like outdoors. No I don’t do any of that. After the weeks of tests the results were put up on a bulletin board. Out of 500, mostly friends of mine from high school, PHS, Pasadena High School. I got the highest score in infantry. Viet Nam here I come. The only thing that saved me was I could type 70+ words a minute. So out of the 500 only me and one other person were not sent to Viet Nam. I never again heard from any of my high school friends who went to Viet Nam.
I was put into the JAG at Fort Ord, but lasted about a few weeks because it was obvious that I was not a candidate for that assignment. So they sent me to Fort Knox, Kentucky. Seriously hot there. Not hot as in California hot, but seriously humid. You’d sweat your ass off, wake up in the morning drenched in sweat but the temp was mild. The California boy was never used to such. I ended up being a company clerk. Did my duties, cut orders, made memorandums, etc. I got to know the Sargent Major to the point he would bring in some “moonshine.” This stuff was like nothing I had ever been in contact with. One thimble full was like a serious acid trip. Hard to even be coherent, many times seemed worse. After a while he asked me, “I see you are from Germany; want to go back?” OK fine, what’s up? “Just bring me a cuckoo clock.” OK, fine, so I cut myself some orders and sent myself to Germany.
Arrived in Frankfurt. The place was an old panzer division and the exterior walls were totally shot up. All the outside walls were littered with bullet holes. After a few days they transferred me to Burblinggen. A short distance from where I was born and lived in Goppingham. I ended up being part of the Personal Service Company and my buddies in the other building were the finance clerks. If you know anything about this, the clerks run the show. You don’t want to mess with clerks. We’ll not only eliminate all your pay and your accrued vacation time, but we’ll send you to places you never dreamed of. Most of my assignment was pretty non-eventful. When not working we would go to places like Amsterdam, to check out the hookers in the windows staring at us, wondering WTF are these idiots doing here? One time we were so “I need a hamburger” that we went all the way to the north of Europe to a place that advertised US hamburgers. To our disappointment, it ended up being a toasted muffin, slice of sausage and cheese. Kind of like an egg McMuffin.
One morning as we stood in formation waiting for the National Anthem, one of our compatriots, put on a record of Jimi Hendricks’ star spangle banner. We all went nuts. Next thing we heard was a loud screech of the record needle traversing the record that was just removed from this morning’s wake up call.
A few of us kept the two units supplied with drugs. There were the Alkys and the Druggies, two separate parts of the units. Even though we drank beer we were still considered the druggies. Not really drugs, but hash, keef, acid and such. So we would go to Stuttgart and score hash or whatever. Many times it would be right out of the oven. The dealers had just compressed it in their ovens and we purchased it. So going back to the train station in the taxies, we would have to hold the slabs of hash out the window long enough to cool them down so we could transport them. Many times in the train, going back to the barracks we couldn’t resist so the compartment we sat in was like a smoke house. Eventually the conductor would come by and start screaming at us as WTF you idiots? You can’t be doing this on the train. We always assigned one person amongst us to act as the arbitrator. He would always, as you see in the movies, speak English with a German accent. Obviously the conductor had no clue what he was saying and it wouldn’t take long for the conductor to be totally disgusted with us, slam the door and walk off.
In Germany at that time most of the British Rock bands would warm up in Germany prior to coming to the US. We would go see them. Had some seriously great times and saw some of the best rock bands of the time, live. But the crazy part was where these concerts were happening the entrance was all glass. As in the doors, around the doors, the whole front entrance. Every time, about a quarter ways through the concert the Germans would have such a mob outside and push against each other that they would break the glass and rush in. We thought, these people were crazy. But it was always the same. And we’d enjoy the concert, stoned, whatever, and if on acid wander back to the barracks late at night, trying to figure out which direction we should go.
My job was to send people to Viet Nam. I was given “levies’ from the Pentagon with lists of people who needed to be sent to Viet Nam from the European and Mediterranean theater. It was my job to cut the orders to send these people to Viet Nam. That was the scam. The US was only told about the drafted going directly to Viet Nam, but many draftees were sent to Europe and Mediterranean theaters and after six months I’d send them to Viet Nam. Keep the numbers down was the mantra at the time. So after a while, me and a few other decided this is not right. At that time there were Regular Army and us, the drafted. So we decided their guys volunteered, we were drafted so why not send them? I started to take us people off the Levees and replace them with Regular Army. Not a smart thing to do, but being young and dumb I thought it best. I was scheduled to be discharged in early 1971. I was caught at the end of 1970. I was told, You will never get out of the Army, you will spend the rest of your life in the brig.
Crazy shit went through my head. I was finally told by the AG to get out of his sight, he never wanted to hear nor see me again. I spent the rest of the time living in the woods in Germany and only going back to the barracks at night. Finally my friends were able to cut me orders to send me to New Jersey, stateside. I ended up getting an honorable discharge.
I will never forget the JAG telling me, “You seriously fucked up, you’re playing God. You sent people to their death.”
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