I was the last guy to get drafted into the United States Army. Well, I can’t say for sure if I was the exact last one, but the draft ended the next day. After that it became a volunteer army. I can say one thing for sure though… I was less than thrilled.
Now that I think about it, I can say two things for sure. The first, of course, was that I was less than thrilled. The second was that I was a college student two weeks away from graduation.
I was in a pre-med program with a major in Biology and minors in both Physics and Chemistry. In my last year of college I worked the night shift in the medical surgical unit of a mental hospital and went to school during the day. I didn’t get much sleep. It’s tough working a full time job at night and going to school full time during the day. I was doing it though and I only had 14 more days to go. Then I won “THE” lottery. I was drafted.
How could this be? I had an exemption from the draft as a student. I was almost done with school. Obviously there was a mistake. Soooo I made a phone call to the draft board.
“I just got my draft notice. I think there is a mistake.”
“What’s your name?”
I told the voice on the phone my name.
“You need to be at the induction center tomorrow morning at oh nine hundred hours. If you are not at the induction center tomorrow morning at oh nine hundred hours we will send the Military Police to pick you up.”
“Wow! I mean, like can’t we talk about this?”
“Do you still live on Willow Road?”
“Hon, just show up at the induction center.”
I showed up at the induction center along with maybe fifty other unhappy guys. I was pretty sure there would be someone there that I could talk to to streighten out this mess. Nope. They just put us all on a bus and shipped us out to Fort Knox. I was allready beginning to see how this was going to go.
We arrived at Fort Knox about 3:00 AM. They gave us some of the worst coffee I’ve ever had, said welcome to the Army and led us to our barracks. After a restfull three hours of sleep I met drill sergeant Butcher. I think it was about 4 weeks later when I shot him in the head. You can read all about that here: http://cavemanhomecompanion.com/?p=570
The first thing that Drill Sergeant Butcher told us was that basic training was going to last for 10 weeks. I’m here to tell you that the first week totally sucked. Up early in the morning, getting yelled at and exercising all day long and then cleaning all of the mud off of your boots and clothes at night… exhausting. One week down, 9 to go. Happy me.
Up at dawn. Us drowsy troops lined up out there in formation just trying not to fall over. Drill Sergeant Butcher…crisp…perfectly pressed…looking like he just stepped off of the cover of a military version of GQ screams:
“Somehow you maggots made it through zero week. Now drop down and give me 20.”
I managed to finish basic training. The Army then decided that I would be best suited to be armed with a typewriter rather than a gun. So, they sent me to typing school and shipped me off to work for Military Intelligence in the Pentagon. My new home was the South Post of Fort Myer in Virginia.
This was a pretty cool place to live. There was the North Post that was fairly new. Then you had the Arlington Cemetery and tucked away behind that was the South Post. The barracks I lived in were from the old Fort Whipple and were built during the Civil War sometime before 1863.
How cool was this! I suddenly found myself working for Military Intelligence in the Pentagon and living in some barracks built during the Civil War! Let me try to explain this better: You had the modern North Post. Behind that was the Arlington Cemetery. Way behind that was the old Civil War remains known as the South Post.
I remember the first day that I was there and I put a quarter in the Coke machine and a Budweiser came out. I knew right then that I was home.
Obviously, I wasn’t happy being in the Army. But I had a nice place tucked way behind the cemetery and a good job as a typist for Military Intelligence in the Pentagon. (Actually, I didn’t do much typing because they didn’t have a typewriter for me when I got there. I ordered one, but for some reason it was never delivered, go figure.)
I worked in the Pentagon 5 days a week waiting for my typewriter, drinking Buds from the Coke machine on the weekends. All in all life wasn’t that bad. Then I got a call from one of my hippy college friends. It seems that they were going to have a huge protest march against the Viet Nam war on Washington. They wanted to know how I could help? Well…lets see…I could let you guys stay here in the barracks with me?
There wasn’t much security in the South Post. As a matter of fact I’m not sure many people even knew it was there, or even cared. Besides, it would be nice to see some of my old friends. So, invited them over for the weekend.
It was way cool! They all piled out of an an old VW Beatle, we drank beer from the Coke machine, talked about old times most of the night and had a great time. In the morning I took them over to the mess hall for breakfast.
That’s when things went sour. The mess sergeant asked who Jim was. He said, “I beg your pardon, I’m Admiral Coullard.”
There hadn’t been an admiral on the South Post since before the Civil War. In as much as we didn’t have any oceans nearby and Jim kinda looked like an admiral, but they were on the lookout for protesters, the mess sergeant wasn’t buying into it. He called the MPs.
My friends were escorted off base. I was escorted to the base commander. He told me that if I ever let a bunch of hippies spend the night with me in the barracks again I would be in big trouble. I promised to do better, they drove me back to the barracks and I put a quarter in the Coke machine.
My hippy friends went on to end the war.