The thing that struck me as strange was that no one came looking for the Apple. The Apple always did his own thing, never drew too much attention to himself and he obviously didn’t care what anyone thought about him. Sullivan never spoke to me again, nor was there any attention about this “occurrence” in the day room. It was as if it never happened. However, when I saw Sullivan there on the floor I couldn’t help but smile. Life is like that sometimes. I spoke out of pocket to the kid from Washington and I got my ass whooped. Sullivan set me up and he got his ass whooped. You bet your ass, today as an adult, I am a firm believer in karma.
We learned Tuesday morning before P.T. that the final test on Friday, the mass casualty triage test, would not count towards our graduation. We would have to participate in it, however the experience itself would be the lesson. We would spend the week brushing up on the past 9 weeks to prepare for the final test. After P.T. we were informed that the Airborne/R.I.P. list would have to be turned in today and qualifying volunteers would be accepted at our 0900 formation. I was still unsure. This fight had left a horrible taste in my mouth. I felt stupid and naïve to have believed we were all brothers and sisters. If I volunteered for the next level of training what kind of betrayals would I face there? If I volunteered, my “going home leave” would be pushed back indefinitely, and I really missed my mamas cooking. I hoped my decision would come to me during chow, my shower or G.I. (we referred to cleaning the barracks, latrine and area tidiness as G.I.. The Army loves acronyms so much we sometimes have multiple uses for one acronym).
As we gathered for formation I still had no idea. Non volunteers were getting 3 weeks leave before going on to their next duty assignment. Some soldiers were already talking about what they would be doing while on leave. No one knew how many volunteers were needed and some soldiers didn’t give a shit. The Army had me wrapped around its finger at this point but I was still hesitant. I began to question myself even harder that an ass whoopin could change my mind so fast. Maybe I didn’t have what it took. What happens if I volunteer and don’t make the cut? If I don’t volunteer where would I go? The questions went on and on. I never thought to ask anyone their opinion or advice. I had been cutting my own path through life since I was 12 years old. My parents were my providers, my mother was my Parole Officer and now the United States Army had taken both those roles. However, mamas cooking was way better than Army chow. I was leaning towards going home.
After we came to the position of attention and our Platoon Sergeant took our head count from the squad leaders, he did an about face and reported the numbers to our Cadre Sergeant. The Cadre Sergeants lined up in front of Bravo Company in order of rank, and our First Sergeant stood in front of them. The First Sergeant turned Bravo Company over to our C.O. and we were given the command At Ease, so we stood easy. The C.O. went on to explain that volunteers were needed, 30 of them. In Bravo Company we had 50 soldiers who were eligible to volunteer, and any volunteer should now snap to the position of attention, step out of formation and go into the Company Head Quarters for further instruction. One by one I saw soldiers volunteer. I knew a lot of them. At this point I realized just how many men and women come from families who consider military service a tradition. Some soldiers follow long lines of lineage of family soldiering. It was at this moment that I understood the meaning behind the Cadence we sang: “The silent professionals”. I had made up my mind in that moment to snap to attention and step out of formation. The C.O. interrupted my thought by saying we had 29 volunteers and needed one more. As I snapped to the position of attention, I saw number 30 enter the Company Headquarters building. Volunteer number 30 was The Apple.
We were brought back to the position of attention. Our C.O. gave us the command to “Present Arms”, and the remaining soldiers standing in formation delivered a crisp hand salute to our volunteers. We were then marched to our class to begin our final week of Combat Medic School.
I never saw The Apple again…