The time between Jump School graduation and flying back to Germany seemed to drag on like a painful root canal procedure. I was acutely aware of how slowly time was moving. I had less than a week until my flight and I was extremely irritable. I couldn’t sleep. Where ever I went I noticed I was constantly checking my perimeter. Apparently, from the reactions I was getting from the men in my platoon, I wasn’t very open to socializing.
I had the ring, the round trip airline tickets and spending money safely stored in a hole in my mattress. My roomates, Cpl. Joe and C.J., were begining to share their aggravation over my double locking the door to our room every night. Their aggravation was met by my indifference.
I was beginning to sink into the mire of my experience and had absolutely no idea that the figurative ground I was standing on wasn’t solid.
I was able to report for duty, perform P.T. and complete my daily objectives without any difficulty. I was so fluent in my daily life that i could flow from task to task like water in a moving river. We were in a structured routine. The structure was my security blanket. I knew what was expected of me every day and I could perform my tasks without much effort. It was the down time and off duty hours that were beginning to torture me.
I was focused mainly on world events. Most soldiers are aware of whats going on in the world due to being questioned randomly by superiors in the chain of command. Once a year we would have to report to a board of our superiors in our dress uniform. While standing at the position of attention we would be asked random questions about military history, etiquette, our job responsibilities, weapons and current events. The questioning would take place while our uniforms, barracks common areas and personal hygiene were being inspected with a fine tooth comb.
To me the world had changed. I was beginning to see the differences between workers and decision makers. Workers, in my experience, were expendable. My friends and I were workers. Decision makers, by default, used the workers to become wealthy and advance their station in life. I was beginning to deeply resent decision makers and where they seemed to all come from: colleges.
In the middle of the week sometime I received a phone call at the C.Q. desk after hours. Expecting to hear either my mom or dad on the other end of the line I was completely caught off guard by the reality. It was Bob, my friend from Germany. I was so overwhelmed with emotion that I couldn’t really speak coherently. He had to tell me to shut up in order for me to snap back to the conversation. He was telling me that he was getting out of the Army. He intended to return to Europe and marry one of the two females he was seeing while we were living there. He was offering me an open ended invitation to relocate to Holland with him.
I couldn’t get my bearings in the conversation, even with him constantly asking me, “Hey! Shit head! Are you hearing me?” I was trying to explain how I was going to Germany to propose to Annetta in a few days, however all I could mumble was, “I don’t know man, I just don’t know.”
He asked me about my tour through Ft. Benning so far and whether or not I liked being a grunt. I did manage to explain to him that I was awarded the E.F.M.B. and how I had just earned my Jump Wings. He couldn’t refrain himself from excitedly repeating, “I knew it! I always knew it!” He explained to me, quite clearly and in a matter of fact way, that he knew I would excel as a Medic in the Infantry. He asked me if they were calling me “Doc” yet and if I planned to go to Ranger School. I never got to answer those questions. I was being forced off the phone for exceeding my time allotment due to the waiting list.
We ended the conversation with him giving me the address to his mamas’ house in New Jersey. He said good bye and explained if I ever needed to find him I could find him by reaching his mama. I promised to check in on him from time to time.
I didn’t know that would be the last time I would ever speak to Spc. Daniel “Bob” Manion. Had I known, I would have told him how much he meant to me and that I missed him. He was murdered while walking alone through the streets of Amsterdam Holland a few years later.
I flew to Germany on a Thursday morning and arrived in Frankfurt the following day. Annetta had a man from her platoon pick me up at the airport. When I got to her barracks she was hosting a party. The room was packed with the unfamiliar faces of new replacement soldiers. She greeted me with a hug and floated around the room like a well polished socialite versed in the art of party planning. I watched her, from a corner of the over crowded room, as she weaved in and out of the groups of soldiers all fighting for her attention. I knew in that very moment that I had made a mistake.
I left the ring on top of her pillow with a note explaining how I had misread the situation. I thanked her for distracting me from the reality of loss in my final few months before leaving Germany. I told her I wanted to give her the ring as a token of my gratitude and explained I was leaving to go back to Ft. Benning.
I never heard from Annetta again.