a calmer sea…

fleet II

Originally uploaded by jayfherron

I had written to a mother last night giving her advice about her teen who is about to take off on a new step in life and become a Marine. I told her as soon as the bus arrives in Paris Island the drill instructors will be coming through that narrow door and yelling like theres no tomorrow…my advice was for the teen to be prepared and remember that what they are yelling is to get off that bus and get their feet in the yellow footprints (those which are painted on the pavement) and the rest will go from there.
I remember my first morning in boot camp…the first few hours. We must have gotten there at two in the morning and was handed a blanket and led to a barrack with a bunch of others all ready sleeping and we found an empty and joined them in slumber.
I think my eyes got to sleep about two minutes after I lay down. The thing I will never forget was what seemed to be two minutes after that the overhead lights came on and there was a face in mine saying we were’nt at mothers house anymore-except this guy had his face in mine and was screaming at the top of his lungs…all around us were guys with garbage can lids-metal lids…they were banging them and screaming and yelling for us to get our feet on the ground-the deck they called it!
It began. My very first thought was-who ever this guy is I’m going to do what he says…
I think if you rebel from it in the very beginning you will never make to the end-you might,but at the bottom of the list. I made it because I wanted to be there….it was the most organized order of things and it fit me. No style-everyone wore the same thing-it was equal….is that why they call them uniforms?
Now theres one thing you have to understand-I’m not a war monger. But I believe you need to defend your house.Of course-in my day we were all raised watching Vic Morrow on ‘Combat’ and in us was implanted the thoughts that being combat soldiers was the greatest thing and yet being confused by watching Peter Jennings crouched in a rice paddy somewhere in Viet Nam telling us about the war over there. Not the same war Vic Morrow was fighting.
Being in Washington DC during that era was confusing too….you understood things were wrong (in Viet Nam) because of the protests which were right there at home and not just on the TV set. And the closer you are to it the faster the talk reaches you.
But this was America and the American flag and the heritage we were brought up with-and,admittedly…things were looking better in the military than were at home and in high school.
I enlisted when I was 17….I had to wait until I was 18 before I entered active duty-but officially I was in. Enlisted means I went in. In those days guys like me were sweating the draft card age and the number. I had my draft card no longer than around 10 days-I gave up in boot camp. No one that I know of really was wanting to go to Viet Nam. I can honestly say-I did’nt want to either,but I feel I wanted to do my duty…..why expect everyone else to do something and not yourself?
The Navy had their guy. I wont say boot camp was the greatest tme in the world (but in a crazy way-Ilike it)-but since I made a silent pact with the guy that woke me up the first day…to do everything he says,I made it. Swimming was a challenge-I still cant swim,but there was a time that that looked to hinder me. We got around that.

I loved the ship.
The ship-the USS Vulcan-was the coolest place in the world. A huge workshop-one end to the other. It was like a floating woodworking shop from high school but on a giant scale…there was a foundry-and metal welding shop and cabinet shops and pipe shops…this ship could build anything.
My brother made it pathetic but it was easy enough to endure because of teenage resilience I suppose. I had my own places to have adventure in on board that ship and places enough I could keep away from him-some of the times.
They told me I could finish my education-they told me I could become an officer. My brother told me it was bullshit.

I did nothing wrong while I served our country.
I was not a trouble maker-I was sober and up right and finding the new challenge for the rest of my life as wonderful.There was a future.
If our ship had been attacked and I was handed a station to fire a gun-no matter what…I would have done it.
Yesterday I explained how I had to tell my story to a retired gunny seargent….I dont know if one can understand how belittled I feel-how ashamed I feel about the little time I did serve….7 months there about,two in the can….most literally,bent over a urinal in barracks D. How belittleing it is to tell your value to a person who doesnt see it the same as you…they see it as should be wounds from on the battle field-and not the kind of wounds I was telling them about,and dont see like I do.
Any person alive could have had the same thing happen.
Theres no one unlike me who would not attempt to try to get home for a surprise to their family on a holiday…we have the holiday spirit driven into from the day we can think and realize this is a special time….a special time.
That was my crime-thats what I did wrong while in service to my country. A stupid move…I admit,because of the risk of time. But the buses to carry us to dowtown Washngton DC were regular and it was possible to do it and make the turn around in enough time to get there and get back to the ship. It was done all the time.
I never put into account it would snow-never thought…just wanted to run home and say ‘happy new year’ and run back….my first holiday away from home,I just wanted to do that.
That was my crime-that is why I ended up in barracks D.
It snowed. It snowed so bad that everything was shut down to a dead stop.
Somebody said to me yesterday that I’m making too much noise about this-in their wisdom they suggested it could backfire on me and perhaps I will not win the claim I have against the VA for the damages….I cant lose what I’ve never had-and man oh man how people cant understand….theres nothing they will ever give me that will ever erase this memory from my mind-nothing!!!
What will I win if I win??
I want to be validated…I want to be a valid veteran! I want somebody to say I was wronged…I wish we could go back and look,because you would see!

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