You often hear the phrase that "Life isn't fair" and I'm living proof that it is true. But every once in a while life gives you a gift that helps ease things somewhat. Again, I'm living proof.
I was an indifferent student. Not a poor one – I maintained a B average – but I just didn't care for school so college wasn't in my future. I'd never been more that fifty miles from the town I was born in so one of the things I wanted to do was travel. Travel meant money and money meant a good job that paid well and while there may have been plenty of jobs in our town none of them paid well enough for me to do what I wanted to do. The day after graduation, diploma in hand, I was waiting at the front door to the Army recruiting office when the recruiter unlocked the door. I filled out a bunch of forms and when asked what I would like to do I put down Airborne, Infantry, Armor and lastly Artillery. Three days later I was on a bus headed for Fort Knox, Kentucky and Basic Training.
After Basic the Army consulted my list of choices, decided that I didn't really want any of those things, so next on my travel itinerary was a trip to Fort Lee, Virginia where I learned the basics of keeping the Army supplied. I learned how to build crates, pack supplies, and drive the forklifts that loaded the stuff on the trucks and rail cars that would move it to where it was needed. At the end of the course I was given a list of places where my MOS (Military Occupation Specialty) was needed and asked to mark my preferences in the order I would like to go. I chose Britain (two places), Germany (three places), France (one place), Spain (one place), Italy (two places) and Hawaii. Naturally the Army being the Army looked at my choices and decided that I really didn't mean it when I made those choices and they shipped me off to Korea.
I spent the next sixteen months as a Supply Handler at the 55th Quartermaster Depot in Pusan, Korea. That included a six week TDY (temporary duty assignment) to Yokohama, Japan and a three week TDY to Seoul.
Next on my world tour was a twelve month assignment to Fort Lewis, Washington which is where I would be stationed when my enlistment ran out. Two months before the end of my enlistment I was not surprised when the first sergeant called me into his office and tried to sweet talk me into considering the Army as a career. I told him honestly that I didn't really think I wanted to do that and he asked me why. I gave him chapter and verse on how I ended up in Supply instead of the choices I'd made when I enlisted and in Korea when I had selected the other side of the world when they gave me a list to choose from. I told him that the Army just didn't seem to give a shit where I was concerned.
"Besides, I can't see packing and moving boxes for the next twenty years."
"I guess I can see how you are looking at it, but you have to realize that the Army needs to put people where they are needed. They needed people in Supply and they figured that you could do the job so that is where they put you. Same with duty assignments. They put you where they think you will be the best fit. There is more to Supply than packing stuff and loading trucks. Someone has to manage the warehouses. Someone has to schedule the movement of material, keep track of inventory and order what is needed and see to it that it gets to where it is needed in a timely manner. Someone has to supervise the people. The list goes on and on. You made corporal in two years and most, if they make corporal at all, don't get the rank until near the end of their enlistment so higher obviously thinks you have the goods. If you reenlist now I can guarantee a slot in the next Supply Management training class and you should be a shoo in for E-5 by the end of the course."
The man could have sold sand to an Arab and after another half hour of talk Uncle Sam had me for another three years. The first shirt tried hard to get me to take six, but I was just a tad leery. He made some promises, but I had already seen that once you sign on the dotted line the Army does what it feels like. I'd just wait and see what happened before committing to a twenty year career.
Sergeant Ebers was straight with me. I received orders for the eight month Supply Management course at Fort Lee and after a thirty day leave I reported in. The course didn't prove to be hard and I breezed through it and finished in the top five of a class of thirty-two. Next on my world tour was a twelve month assignment to Fort Hood, Texas and six months into my stay there I was promoted to E-5 (buck sergeant). Next I was posted to Stuttgart-Mohrigen in Germany for a year and on leaves I was able to visit England, France and Spain. Then it was back to the US for a tour at Fort Leonard Wood. Again, two months from the end of my enlistment I was in the office of the first shirt where he did his best to convince me that my future was with the Green Machine, but he was fighting a losing battle because that time I wasn't buying it.
I'd had six years to discover one of the Army's basic truths and that was that the majority of officers major and under (with the exception of ninety percent of West Pointers) were incompetent, screaming assholes or both This might not be true of line officers, but it damned sure was true of the idiots in the Quartermaster Corp. I firmly believe that Supply was the dumping ground for officers that couldn't cut it in other branches.
I'd seen dozens of my fellow grunts go up on chicken shit Article 15 hearings and Summary Courts Martial's usually because some brain dead officer fucked up and laid the blame off on the closest enlisted man. I watched guys whose only crime was being in the wrong place at the wrong time while serving under an incompetent clown get sent of to the stockade for anywhere from ninety days to a year. Over a year and you got an all expenses paid trip to Leavenworth. I could see that it was only a matter of time until it happened to me. I told the top "thanks, but no thanks."
I did my last two months, being called in to the first sergeant's office once a week for the sales pitch (he even promised me E-6 within six months) which I resisted, and then I took my discharge and headed home.
I spent the first two weeks getting reacquainted with people I knew and looking for an apartment. Once I was settled in I went looking for a job. Surprisingly I was hired by the first company I applied to. XYZ Industries just happened to need a man in their shipping and receiving department and one look at my Army experience got me the job.
I had gone to school with two of the guys who worked in shipping so I wasn't an 'outsider' when I started. At the end of my first day Sam and Dave asked me if I wanted to stop after work with them to have a drink or two at the Landing Strip and shoot some pool. I had nothing better to do so I went. There were another three or four there who I had gone to school with so it was a mini-reunion of sorts. After that I stopped at The Strip once or twice a week.
One night Abe Costico asked me if I was doing anything on Wednesday nights and when I told him no he told me that the mixed league he bowled in needed substitute bowlers. Wednesday evening I went over to Starlight Lanes and signed up. I subbed for about two months and then one of the guys on the Wilson Jewelers team got transferred out of state and I was asked to take his place.
The team consisted of Joe and Mary Moore, Phil and Sandy Barnes and me. I'd gone to school with Joe and Mary although her name had been Ostermann back then. Phil and Sandy had moved to town after I'd departed on my world tour.
I was amazed at the change in Mary. Back when we had been in school she had been stand-offish and even a bit timid. Now she was loud and outgoing and had a bit of the raunchy in her. She was always on me about my love life, which sorry to say, was non-existent. I was dating some, but hadn't gotten to the point with any of my dates where 'intimate behavior' was going to occur. Mary kept laughing and telling me that if I wanted to bring my average up (158 if anyone cares) I needed to get laid more often. I'd look at Joe and he would just shrug as if to say "Hey, it's Mary; it's the way she is. What can I say?"
One night when I stopped at The Strip after work with Sam and Dave I saw Joe there shooting eight ball with Arnie Miller. When Joe lost Sam was the next one to take on Arnie and Joe came and sat with me. While we worked on our beers curiosity got the better of me and I asked Joe about the change in Mary. How had she gone one-eighty from the way she used to be?
"I married her."
"You are that much of a magician?"
"No, but marrying me got her away from her family. Her father was an abusive drunk and her mother was just a plain drunk with no spine and she didn't keep daddy from abusing the kids. I got her out of that house and she blossomed."
Bowling ended and I signed up for a summer men's house league and in the fall I went back to the mixed league as a member of the Wilson team. Three weeks after the fall season began Joe and Mary showed up with a very beautiful young girl and I was introduced to Mary's younger sister Kathy.
"I'm trying to get her to take up bowling" Mary said, "And I brought her down here tonight to watch."
.... There is more of this story ...