U. S. Army
1969 - 1972
In June 1969, I got my draft notice. I considered what I
should do; I didn't want to have to kill anyone, even more than I didn't
want to be killed. I thought about going to Canada, as so many others had
done. I prayed about it, and while reading a passage in Ezekiel, the Lord
told me to "join the Army." It was certain. I could not interpret the
words any way I wanted. I knew what I had to do. I went down to the Army
recruiter's office and checked out my options. I signed up for a delayed
enlistment as a Reproduction Equipment Repairman.
When I left for my Basic Training, Sandy and I were engaged. I gave her my camera so she could take photos.
In August 1969, I was inducted into the Army and started Basic Training at Ft. Lewis, Washington. I weighed 200 pounds, and in spite of my flat feet, they took me anyway, probably because I had volunteered. At first, my pay was very low, but they really provided everything we needed. I was unable to pass the physical requirements in Boot Camp and was put into a Special Training Company to "beef me up." I quickly developed sprained knees. The doctors gave me a bottle of aspirin and told me to go back to whatever I had been doing, which was jumping trenches, low crawl, running, etc. After a couple of weeks the Special Training leaders wrote passing scores (which I did not actually achieve) and sent me on to a regular Basic company. The first thing my new First Sergeant said to me was, "What's wrong with your legs?" I told him the whole story, he took me out to a training area and put me through the series of events, and then phoned the Special Training company to tell him what he thought of them. When he was through with them, he turned to me and said that it probably wouldn't matter as I would be an Engineer, and besides, the rules said they couldn't send me back to the Special Training company once they had passed me.
One special memory I have of Basic Training is of lying on my back in the mud under barbed wire after a long march, and looking up at the tracer rounds passing about six feet overhead. For that moment, I was at peace, even though a little earlier, my drill sergeant had nearly impaled himself on my bayonet when he jumped down into the trench to avoid rounds that he said were getting too low.
In November, I was flown to Ft. Belvoir, Virginia, as a PFC for my job
training. I remember flying over one of the Great Lakes (they really
are), and the frost on the ground as the bus drove into the base. Because
of the delay caused by the Special Training in BASIC, the 14-week course
I had signed up for had already started, and I had to wait for the next
one to start. For that period, I pulled K.P. (Kitchen Police), Guard
Duty, and C.Q. (Charge of Quarters). I did guard duty at an ammo dump
where they kept goats (because a spark from a lawn mower might set off
the explosives). On Christmas Eve 1969, I was pulling guard duty at the
Officer's Yacht Club in a fur-lined parka. There was snow on the ground,
stars shining brightly in the sky, and ice cracking in the Potomac river
when the boats rocked in the water. K.P. was my least favorite job --
peeling potatoes, or cleaning grease traps.
I was housed at Sukiran Army Base, between Naha to the south
and Kadena to the north. My company was in the Psyops (Psychological
Operations) Group. We printed maps and leaflets. Some of the leaflets had
foreign currency printed on one side, so that they could be picked up and
carried in a wallet without suspicion. I learned that people actually
spent them in amounts that hurt the national economy. The other side
had instructions for surrendering. I don't know how often they were used
for the intended purpose. My job was to keep the presses running.
Bushings would wear out more often than anything. When we didn't have the
spare parts, we would stuff feeler gauges into the gaps and break them
off. Near the end of my tour, I was promoted to the rank of E-5 and was
given the responsibility for the parts storage and replacement.