Monday came with the quickness of a discharged round fired from a well cleaned rifle. I hadn’t inhaled a sober breath all weekend. My roommates, although empathetic towards my situation, shared the opinion that my days in the Army were over. I would have to report to the Commander after morning formation first thing Monday. My Squad Leader, Platoon Sergeant and Platoon Leader would be there with me. The Commander, Cpt. Lombardo, would ask my chain of command for disciplinary suggestions. My roommates, Corporal Joe and C.J., spent the weekend advising me of what to expect on Monday as I continued to numb myself with alcohol.
I was not confused about where I stood with my squad leader, Sgt. Moreno. He ordered me not to report to P.T.. I was to make sure my bags were packed and wait in the B.A.S. until he retrieved me for my disciplinary hearing.
According to Corporal Joe, my Platoon Sergeant Spineless Puddin was going to give the suggestion of “max him”. “Max him” meant he wasn’t going to defend me. He was going to ask for the maximum punishment for me. Spineless didn’t like any attention brought to the Medic platoon. Any unwanted attention put him under the microscope of the First Sergeant. Our First Sergeant was a cranky old Vietnam Vet with over thirty years of service in the Army. The word on the street was First Sergeant had no interest in retirement. Having served in Vietnam, Panama and Operations Desert Shield/Storm, our First Sergeant’s nickname was “Killer Pete”. The name stood for itself.
Killer Pete didn’t like Spineless and we all knew it; he wasn’t shy about his feelings. Killer Petes’ nickname for Spineless was “Chubs”. Even with less than a year to retire, Spineless was expected to meet the weight requirement for his height and age. Being borderline overweight, Spineless was right at the ceiling for weight at his age. “Failure to meet standards” meant immediate discharge from service for everyone. Failure to meet standards for Spineless meant no pension. Killer Pete wanted Spineless discharged before he could retire. He brought him donuts almost every morning with a note that read “Eat Up Chubs”. Regardless of his feelings for Spineless, Killer Pete would follow the suggestions of the Medic Platoon chain of command. In the infantry way of life, the chain of command is just that important. The First Sergeant would advise the Commander accordingly.
Our Platoon Leader, 2LT. Christian, was new to our platoon. Having just graduated from O.C.S. (Officer Candidate School) he was as green as a F.N.G.. C.J. informed me during our rotation at N.T.C. the Lieutenant spent most of his time lost in the desert. Apparently, Sgt. Gleason and C.J. we’re ordered by the First Sergeant not to let 2LT. Christian out of the B.A.S.. Out ranking all three men, the Lieutenant would defiantly leave the B.A.S. during morning sick call and ultimately get lost in the desert every day. The Commander, after shutting down maneuvers to find our lost Lieutenant, would yell at the First Sergeant and the First Sergeant would yell at Sgt. Gleason and C.J.. My roommates didn’t think the Commander would even let 2LT. Christian speak during my hearing let alone weigh in on suggestions for discipline.
Medics, in reality, were treated as an entirely separate entity from the rest of Battalion. Training and living arrangements, both in the field and in Garrison, were separate from infantrymen. Infantrymen kept us protected at all times. We were treated as royalty surrounded by knights and warriors. Once reaching the pinnacle of “Doc” status however, that Medic was treated like the American Flag itself.
Corporal Joe was the Doc of Echo Company. The Medics under Corporal Joe were referred to as “Doc Joes’ Medics”. Sgt. Gleason was considered the Battalions’ Doc. Lt. Bromund, the P.A., was not responsible for leading troops yet held “Doc for Life” status. He was a legend to infantrymen throughout the Battalion. Bravo, Charlie and Delta Company all had their Docs as well. With four Medics per Company and only one Medic called Doc, the majority of Medics were living in the shadows of the Docs. Sgt. Walker, Alpha Companys’ Doc, was now gone. Sgt. Moreno, according to Corporal Joe, didn’t want his subordinate to become Alpha Companys Doc. He was afraid it would render him useless. The problem with Sgt. Morenos’ fear was Medics don’t choose that title. That title is only earned through the trust of infantrymen. Corporal Joe pointed out the note that came with the case of beer. “Looks to me like Alpha Company has a new Doc!” C.J. countered with, “Looks to me like they are going to need a new Doc come Tuesday.” They both laughed for hours about that.
Sgt. Moreno summoned me to report in a professional manner. He ordered me to the position of Parade Rest. He inspected my uniform in front of the platoon, pointing out my multiple discrepancies, or “gigs”, publicly. Uneven bootlaces, a faded uniform and a worn out cargo pocket were unacceptable, he informed me. He marched me in front of the loosely gathered Battalion on the parade field outside of the B.A.S. and into the H.H.C. building.
At the position of attention, in front of the C.Q. desk, I watched Spineless, Lt. Christian and Sgt. Moreno enter the First Sergeants office. The door shut behind them momentarily then reopened. The First Sergeant then exited the room and stood directly in front of me. Careful to not make eye contact with him, I noticed Killer Pete inspecting my uniform. I was close enough to smell the coffee on his breath as he gruffly commanded the C.Q. N.C.O. to retrieve Lt. Bromund and Sgt. Gleason from the Aid Station immediately. Caught off guard, the C.Q. stumbled over words asking for clarification. Killer Pete shot a look at the C.Q. that would have struck him dead on the spot if looks could kill. He immediately acknowledged, “Yes First Sergeant!”, and scurried out of the building. Killer Pete then turned around, head back into his office and slammed the door behind him.
All I could think about was how much I wanted a drink. My body was craving alcohol so badly that I was beginning to sweat. I decided to get drunk as soon as this bullshit was over. If I had even a few minutes between seeing the Commander and going to jail I would spend them drinking any alcohol I could get my hands on. Also, if awarded the opportunity, I would leave my fist mark on Sgt. Moreno mouth. Fuck it, If i was going down in flames anyway I might as well burn the whole fucking thing down.
Neither Lt. Bromund or Sgt. Gleason made eye contact with me as they entered Killer Petes’ office. When the solid oak door shut behind them I couldn’t hear anything being said inside. As the door opened a few minutes later and they exited the room I couldn’t see their faces. They entered the Commanders’ office, one after the other, again shutting the door behind them.
As I waited to be summoned, my thoughts turned towards my parents. I hadn’t spoke to them in almost a year. I was so preoccupied with training and going to the field that I didn’t think of calling home. Like a sudden downpour of rain I remembered the phone call I made informing them I failed out of college and was enlisting in the Army. I remembered the phone call to my mama explaining how I was being deployed to combat while I listened to her cry. I remembered all the times my father looked at me disappointed and the feelings of emptiness that followed those looks. I thought of my combat buddies, of my pal Bob in Holland and of Sgt. Walker. Suddenly, I believed that no matter how hard I would try to live my life in a successful way I would always find myself humbled by defeat.
I desperately needed a drink.
The Commanders’ door finally opened and I heard the words, “Specialist (TwistedMedic) report to the Commander!”