My Title of Liberty

     "In Memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children." - Alma 46:12    

 

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.

I finished up the remaining time working as a messenger. The other messenger had been doing the job for 40 years. He was about to retire. They would replace us with taxi drivers. I was the next to last Western Union bicycle messenger in Salem, Oregon.

When I left for my Basic Training, Sandy and I were engaged. I gave her my camera so she could take photos.

Down to Basics
In My Fatigues

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.

Graduation Photo
Dress Greens

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.

On at least two occasions I walked the 15 miles from Ft. Belvoir to Washington D.C. I passed the Pentagon, the Washington Monument, the reflecting pool, visited the Smithsonian museum, and went to the U.S.O. Lounge in Union Station. I stayed overnight there, reading books, eating cookies, drinking coffee, and sleeping on the couches. On Sundays I walked to "I" Street to go to services at the Salvation Army, and enjoyed a free lunch afterward. I then went back to the U.S.O. lounge where I caught a free bus back to the base.

In February of 1970, I began my A.I.T. (Advanced Individual Training). It was interesting. I learned to take a printing press apart and put it back together (with no pieces left over) so it would still work. At one point, my instructor, thinking to teach a lesson, threw a rag at me expecting me to grab it. It hit my stomach and dropped to the floor. It was supposed to have illustrated why you don't clean a roller or cylinder while the press is turned on or running.

On March 7, 1970, I witnessed a total solar eclipse from Ft. Belvoir, when it was high in the sky.

I graduated from my course in May. I flew home on a short leave to spend some time with my family. At the end of that time, my family drove me to California where their car had trouble, so I caught a bus to San Francisco, and another bus to Oakland Army Base where I was processed for Overseas duty. I still didn't know, until I got my orders, where I would be going. My destination turned out to be Okinawa, which still belonged to the U.S.A. at that time.

My plane landed in Hawaii for refueling, then flew on to Okinawa. Hawaii looked the color of dry grass from the air (not what I expected). I noticed several islands further on as we crossed the Western Pacific. When we landed in Okinawa it was much more humid outside than in the airplane, and gave me a case of bronchitis that has come back in a mild way several times.

Sp 5 Sawyer at Ease

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.

I took the opportunity to take a tour of the southern part of the island of Okinawa. I liked the people, learned a little Japanese, and probably would not have had the opportunity except for being in the Army.

Because of politics in the States, I was given the choice of taking an early out, or signing up for another three years. I wouldn't have minded finishing my original commitment, but didn't want to stay longer, so I opted out.

I was flown back to Oakland Army Base via Anchorage, Alaska. I remember flying over Japan at night, with the lights from the houses, and the moon reflecting off the rivers, and later seeing Mt. McKinley in the distance. I was processed out of the Army in February of 1972. I was handed eleven hundred dollars in fifty dollar bills. When I got home, I treated my family to McDonald's with one of them, breaking three cash registers in the process. I do regret that I did not save at least some of the money I earned while I was in the Army.

I made some good purchases with some of the money. I bought some new clothes and a new multi-speed bicycle. Shortly thereafter, however, I had ridden down the hill leading north to Liberty St. It was raining lightly and my brakes were wet. Downtown, a bus started to pass me, then began to pull over to the curb. Apparently, the driver did not see me. Since I couldn't stop my bike with my brakes, I threw my weight over the curb, pulling the bicycle after me. I landed on the sidewalk in one piece, but tore my new jacket and the plastic wrappings to my new handlebars.