from the Vulcan to Barracks D

A persons life can change overnight. Good for bad,bad for worse. Mine did. Overnight.

By the time the Vulcan returned from our cruise it was nearing the holidays and the ship was divided into three groups-those who went home Thanksgiving,and those who did Christmas and mine-we got the new years weekend. I never much cared for Christmas anyway so it did’nt make that much difference-but it was the first holiday away from home and that was kind of hard. My grandparents lived in DC…so I missed seeing my grandmother during the holidays for the first time. You can understand. We used to go down to Woodward and Lothrops and look at the animated Christmas windows-filled the whole block,the store-and each window was a mechanical scene of Santa’s workshop and another of the elves and another of something else…and this was the first time not doing that. So I was homesick in that way.

On our pier was this spot where a greyhound bus stopped which was a regular liberty bus to Washington and back-of course,the Viet Nam war was going strong and I suppose Nixon or somebody wanted the people to see uniformed men in the city-so this bus was a regular round trip scheduled well enough that there was a card you could keep up with if you could go up there to DC at night during liberty and get back for roll call and a days work-albeit,hungover…but it was done. It had its risks,but an obersvant person could see if I guy was late returning he would get a days restriction on board ship and not much more,so the risk was’nt too costly and many guys took that restriction smoking cigeretes and reading-lots to do when you can’t do anything,so it did’nt look too bad to chance being late.

So I figured it out on that card I could catch this bus at 8 p.m. and get to the city and go to my familys house and surprise them and turn around and get back to the ship on time and be there to say ‘hey’ and turn around and get on the bus that morning and get back up to DC and spend my weekend…after all,my job in the galley gave me every night off-so my plan seemed like it would work. That would give me that Friday night to get there and back, and then the next three days to spend at home-and then the late bus back. Good plan.

So thats what I did. Got off work at 7 o’clock pm and got ready and there was the bus-got on and soon after right on schedule we left for DC. It was raining-windy , and really really cold. Along the route where the highway turned into interstate was the old truck stop Speed and Briscoe-and the bus always made a regular snack stop there -by the time we reached there it was snowing…by the time we reached DC it was nearly 4 am-we were the last bus in,and none were going to be running for a very long time. We experienced the worst blizzard- it was record…I was never going to get back to the ship.

I was still in boot mode-having been assigned to the Vulcan arount the second week of October 1969…so I was scared. We had been told if we ever got in to a problem while traveling to report to the military liason offices at our points of travel-there was one in the bus station,and there I went-thinking I was going to get yelled at like in boot camp.But the guys there-soldiers , or airmen-I can’t recall , were just regular guys about it and looked up the telephone number to contact the Vulcan and told them the situation and since I had a pass for the week end the no problem was given and the liason said to enjoy my new years.

Well…there was no where to go. The bus station bar was open-I guess because there was nothing else to do , I went in and sat and met this older man-Eddie Lachman from Holland -Duecthland and he introduced himself as a newspaper correspondent that worked in the White House . I believe he was – he was very nice , and he drove a VW beetle and he drove me all the way to my parents house in that little car…I got there just before daylight.

Its not hard to validate that this storm was as I say-it was dubbed a blizzard and any weather record shows it was. Everything was at a stand still. I was so grateful for Eddie Lachman driving me home and once inside I fell into bed. I think my brother called and talked to our father that Saturday…but I’m not really sure about that. But the next morning my brother and his wife showed up and he had been sent by the ship to arrest me for being AWOL and there were drug charges made against me.

I remember we drove away from my parents house and up the street from there was a cul-de-sac and we turned in there and my brother handcuffed me…and we drove away-going the back way to Norfolk. I remember by the time we got back to the ship it was dark -I think about 6 o’clock pm and when we drove up to the pier Frank stopped and took off the hand cuffs-and up the gangplank we went.

Where the enlisted men board a ship is near the center and the is a special deck where one enters the ship-its the quarter masters deck…a very specially kept area. Its a busy area-lots of foot traffic-guys going by. Its the main street of the ship. Off toone side is a section of rooms called the master-at arms shack,more less the police department on ship. I was taken there. It was like a doorway that led into an office and there was a second doorway that led into the other office…they took me in there-there was a chair readied and set in the center of that door way-and I was made to sit there. And a long time went by when eventually they brought a group of guys and lined them up and one by one they walked by the door way direct from the quarter masters deck and they looked in at me-one by one. There was only one guy that I recognized in that group – a guy named Billie that worked in the galley and was a really nosey guy-always coming into some ones conversation and wanting to know what every one was talking about….like the day we sailed from Cuba to Jamacia and some of the guys were talking about marijuana…but in a conversation of peers and of discussion , not of any talk to get some of it…and Billie had popped into that conversation not knowing-nor did it make a difference-and heard some of what we were saying.

So the group of guys go by and are sent on thier way , and I am to remain in my seat . I had to pee miserably , but was’nt permitted to go any where…just sit.

An hour or so later my brother and another guy come in and my brother grabs me out of the chair and into a second chair by the desk in the front office and the other sailor-one of the master at arms-had this paper and it was then I was told I was suspected of bring drugs onto the ship-or some kind of major thing like that-it had to do with marijuana and I was indentified by witnesses…aka Billie the nosey one. They told me I had two choices-one , to sign and admit the charges and face possabile court marshall-and probable prison or I could deny it and there fore the naval intelligence office would investigate…and if I lied-it could be real bad for me. All I could think about was the time I marched around the US Capital during the poor peoples march…and , that piece of paper someone put on my tongue that had LSD on it and that the FBI would be able to find that out ( how??) and if they could than the NIA could…and I was so scared then by my brother yelling and this other guy yelling and not knowing what to do…I admitted it. I had done nothing wrong…but I admitted I did.

So I think I was told to sit in that chair again-I do remember the whole time I was there a TV set was on and I could hear Andy of Mayberry and Our Miss Brooks on the set , but could not see the screen. And God…did I have to pee.

Eventually a they took me down the gangplank to a waiting van and the master at arms guy put some handcuffs on me and sat me inside and drove me to barracks D at the Naval Station in Norfolk. Barracks D is where I learned your life can change overnight.

One Response to “from the Vulcan to Barracks D”

  1. Mark L Montoy Says:

    i had a situation where I had to fight like five sailors from R div USS Dixie for 6 or 7 days they wanted to sodimize me with a grease gun I had to get off the ship but on the way out they stabbed knives into my sea bag I finished school and went to the USS Vulcan Norfolk VA they heard about what happened on USS Dixie trumped up a lot of false charges and told the captain I wanted out there could be nothing farther from the truth they wanted to give me a medical discharge but I didn’t want that so I got an OTH
    I though my mind was playing tricks on me when I seen a person in the ships laundry tied to a structural beam who looked very sick
    I heard captain ROE had a heart attack and died he was the one responsible for my not fulfilling my first tour

    I don’t think there is much hope are military we did swore an oath but that doesn’t seem to matter
    and the measure of a man is his ability to keep his word

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