Tag Archives: Army

Don’t Give Me No Plastic Saddle! Let Me Feel That Leather When I Ride

Hi readers.  Thanks for coming by for a read.

Some few, some happy few, some band of brothers of you mightn’t have thought about this song in a while.  Which seems a shame.

But that’s not what I wanted to write about this morning.  I actually wanted to tell you about the time I spent half a day poking around the town lots along the highway in Canyon City, Colorado looking for evidence of a long-burned out diner.  Ian Tyson recorded the song in the 1960s and when I found myself in southwestern Colorado I couldn’t resist.

But I didn’t find the ruins of that diner and Jeanne, midway through writing this, advised me I wrote about searching for those ruins on here sometime before.

So there I was, riding a plastic saddle of a blog entry as a consequence of having a mind that functions too much it its own image when it comes to thinking up anecdotes to reflect on.

Hells bells.  I could tell you about the young man who lives next door to Jeanne and his difficulties finding a job, but nevermind that.  He’s a fine young man with a lot of experience as an automotive mechanic, but he has some brain disorder causing him to need an extremely expensive medication so he can think in straight lines.  When he doesn’t get it his thoughts go everywhere.

$300-$400 per month the damned stuff costs and he doesn’t have medical insurance.  So he quit taking it January and by March Mazda was deciding they didn’t need him anymore going to get the same wrench fifteen times and forgetting what he was after.

So from then until now he’s been looking for another job without measurable success, though he does a little security work filling in, and  the night it snowed he drove a bobcat around clearing a parking lot.

But for any job of a regular nature nobody’s calling him back.  Even though he worked eleven years for Mazda never a hitch.

So, when he’s not filling in applications for jobs he turns on this giant TV screen and loads up a game the likes of which I’ve never seen nor imagined.  I is an authentic appearing urban environment with a lot of authentic appearing men in combat gear stalking one another around shooting one another and otherwise dealing misery.  I’m guessing it’s a lot more seductive than working down at AutoZone selling auto parts.

Brent’s the man’s name and he’s taken to visiting me some, killing time.  He told me about two documentary movies about Afghanistan he’s seen recently:

Restrepo 2010 R 93 minutes.  Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington embed themselves with the Second Platoon in Afghanistan, chronicling the men’s work, fear and brotherhood

Korengal 2014 R 84 minutes.  This follow-up to the Oscar-nominated documentary “Restrepo” delves into the experience of war and how it impacts those on the front lines.

I don’t have much interest in the US military adventures anywhere but he sparked my interest and I watched them.  Glad I did because it revealed something I hadn’t thought seriously about.

Those honest-to-goodness US soldiers stationed in the hottest combat zone in Afghanistan being followed constantly with cameras and recorders throughout their tour loved war!  During firefights they whooped and cheered when they thought they killed someone.  And between firefights they pined for someone to shoot at.

When they’d almost served out their tour the cameraman asked them, “What are you going to miss most about Afghanistan?”

A surprising number answered, “Shooting people.”

Under questioning it was clear none of those troops thought they were doing anything patriotic.  They’d been filtered from the US population to find people who’d hooha their way out into the killing fields and love every minute of it.

So when the young guy neighbor said he regretted he couldn’t join because of his daughters and his medical condition it went a long way to explain that game he loves playing on his television.  A plastic saddle.

One of the GIs gave an interesting reply though, on one of those documentaries.

“I’m going to have to go home and live with what I’ve done.  I think God hates me.  God didn’t intend people to do what we do here.

“I hate it when people say ‘you did what you had to do.  I didn’t have to do anything.  I didn’t have to kill anyone.  I didn’t have to join the Army.  I chose all that and now I have to live with it.”

With vets offing themselves at a rate of one per hour the guy might be a worthy object for study by the people who worry about such matters.  It ain’t a plastic saddle he’s riding back to the Home of the Brave.

Old Jules

 

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Oooeee baby! Won’t you let me take you on a sea cruise

 

Considered 'not too bad' compared to the worst.

USNS Sultan – Considered ‘not too bad’ compared to the worst.

USNS Breckinridge - one to be avoided.  Take an extension if you have to so's to get a different troopship.  No shuttleboard on this one.

USNS Breckinridge – one to be avoided. Take an extension if you have to so’s to get a different troopship. No shuttleboard on this one.

 Hi readers.  Thanks for coming by for a read.

 Back in the day GIs made it their business to find out about the troopship scheduling, which ship they would be going aboard, and how to jimmy the travel schedule to avoid the worst ones.  The two above were my homes for roughly 60 days enroute to Korea and coming home.

Vietnam or Korea – Flip a Coin

 Neither of these was a picnic, considering each carried between 1500 and 2500 seasick GIs.  Sometimes those lower decks were enough to make a person vomit just from the odor.  Or huddled on deck with several hundred other guys, top of a swell a guy at the rail hurls and as the ship falls with the wave his puke hangs above his head an hour  or so before a thousand horrified eyes.

And 500 more GIs try to reach the rail in time for the next swell.

Below decks every corner held dice games, every stairwell a 24/7 penny-per-point gin game, or rummy 500 game.  And occasional poker.  No shuffleboard, no whiskey, no female companionship.  But there were some nice stops at Honolulu, Sasebo, Yokuska.

If there’s any motivation to cut down on the number of wars this country gets itself into, one way to do it would be to start hauling the GIs around in troopships again.  Cut down on the frivolous volunteerism.

Old Jules

 

Thank you for your service – Cold War Conscription era sleeze

Hi readers.  Someone posted a sign telling us veterans thank you for your service in one of the places I go, and in the Dollar Tree they asked again if I’d like to contribute to help the dependents of US active service military.  Fact is the romance and drama of thanking GIs for their service has been happening so long it’s probably okay to give it a break.

I got transferred once and hadn’t gotten paid yet, no money until payday.  Red Cross loaned me the money to last until the end of the month or my pay records caught up.  At loan-shark interest rates.  I was getting paid $68 per month at that time.

Maybe if they paid the all volunteer military less money they would be able to take care of their dependents without begging by proxy at the cash registers of the stores in the US.  Paying the bejesus out of them evidently hasn’t done the trick.

Seems to me it’s a sickness resulting from the supporting wars where you’re own kids aren’t being forced to go off to serve.  The out-of-balance “let’s you and him fight” paid for with a “Thank you” and nobody in my family had anything to do with the war and I support it so long as they don’t.  I’ll shower you with thankyous and give a buck down at the Dollar Tree for your kids.

All American Boy – Bobby Bare

Working for the Yankee Dollar

Hank Locklin, My Little Geisha Girl

Fraulein – Bobby Helms – 1957

Kitty Wells – I’ll Always Be Your Fraulein

COWBOY COPAS: “FILIPINO BABY”, 1945

Jean Shepard & Ferlin Husky – A Dear John Letter

Jean Shepard & Ferlin Husky – Forgive Me, John

Kenny Rogers & The First Edition – Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love To Town

Ballad of the Green Berets – [HD] – – – SSGT Barry SADLER

Johnny Burnette…..God, Country, And My Baby

Merle Travis – Re-Enlistment Blues

Elvis Presley – G.I.Blues

I’m thinking of writing a CW song about GIs sitting around waiting rooms in VA hospitals wearing their VETERAN caps and wondering whether they made the secret lists.

Old Jules

 

Lying Consistently or Telling the Truth

When I got out of the US Army in 1964 I was a confused young man.  I had no idea what I wanted to do with the rest of my life, but initially I felt some urgency to get started doing it.  My first thought was to buy a farm in the vicinity of Portales, New Mexico, where I’d spent most of my youth and done a lot of farm labor.  That area was in the process of the subtle change from hardscrabble family farms to agribusiness farms, though I didn’t recognize it.

Although my granddad had a small farm a few miles from town, and although the main revenue for the population was farm-related, most non-farmers didn’t hold  farmers in high regard.  Including my granddad, with reasons he considered adequate.

The result was that my granddad, my mom and my step-dad took active measures, once I found a 160 acre irrigated farm I could swing for, to make certain with the local bank that I didn’t get financing to buy it.  They each pronounced separately to me that I was destined for ‘better things’ than farming, which I bitterly resented.

Someone mentioned to me the Peace Corps was a place where young people at loose ends were volunteering to go off and set the world right.  Relatively new at the time, I’d never heard of it, but I applied.

Then, as I’d done numerous times before, I hitch-hiked out of that town.  The World Fair was going on in New York, and I headed that direction, and spent the summer in Greenwich Village simulating being a beatnik.

I might talk more about all this in future posts, but I’ve digressed from my original intentions for this one.

I began my Peace Corps training in Hilo, Hawaii.  India X Peace Corps Project, intended to send bright young Americans off to Gujarat, India, to teach the locals how to raise chickens.  Sometime I’ll probably wax poetic about all that, but I’m trying to limit my digressions.

Training was intended to be a time of intense learning, but it was also clear, we were cautioned from the beginning, it also served as a filter to remove the great percentage of the trainees  through observation, psychological testing, peer ratings, and voluntary withdrawals.  A sort of basic training with the emphasis on washing out all trainees with potential shortcomings.  About 2/3 of India X washed out of training before the end, including me.

But I’m having a lot of trouble getting to the point of this post because of all the background material.  Enough!

One of the methods of screening trainees was the Minnesota Multi-Phase Personality Test.  Most of the trainees were well-enough educated to be familiar with it.  The MMPP was reputed to be ‘unbeatable’, and we were each acutely aware of our personal shortcomings.  Most of us agreed if the Peace Corps had any idea what was going on in our heads they’d faint, revive themselves, and deselect us without further ado.

During the week prior to the test we’d gather at night to discuss the best strategy for foiling the Peace Corps cadre and the MMPP.  The two obvious approaches were, a] Tell the truth and suffer the consequences, and hope to be forgiven, or, b] Lie consistently.

By reputation, the MMPP wasn’t capable of being lied to consistently without catching you out.

Most of us viewed ourselves as the cream of US youth.  The Peace Corps told us that’s what we were from the first day of acceptance for training.  We’d been picked from hundreds, maybe thousands of applicants.

So we’d already fooled them that much.

Our consensus as a group was to lie consistently.  Some of us succeeded.

This is getting lengthy, so I’ll use it as a launchpad, most likely, for some future posts.

John Prine– Let’s Talk Dirty in Hawaiian
http://youtu.be/r_vTY67Wd9I