Red

I filled her cup to the rim on purpose. I wanted to watch her drink the fluid awkwardly. She was built so perfectly that I needed to watch her struggle just to confirm that she was human. Sensing the challenge I presented to her, she giggled as she tipped the glass to pour some out. She adapted and overcame. I liked her.

We stood street side for almost an hour, discussing my history with E & J Brandy. She seemed fascinated with my stories of the older black soldiers who mentored me while in the Army. Her eyes were as large as saucers as she gazed in wonder now knowing that Columbus’ reality wasn’t reality everywhere. I could almost see the ice melt away from her own experiences, what ever those might be. Our conversation was ended by the young guy who called me white boy when I bought the bottle.

“The fuck you still doin here white boy? This ain’t your part of town! Get the fuck on ‘fore I make you regret you came here!” His words alerted the part of my brain holding survival skills. I sliced the pie. He stood at the bottom of the hill looking up at me. A group of men watched his movement from the entrance to the business twenty meters away. They could be at my location within twenty seconds after crossing the parking lot and climbing the hill. They weren’t moving yet. The racist one stood motionless as well, obviously expecting me to flee.

As automatic as the breath that entered my lungs, I responded while exhaling. Confident that I had the upper hand, I viewed the racist as a peacock showing his feathers. I didn’t expect to be mobbed by a dozen black guys on a busy street in Columbus, Georgia. Police cruisers drove by the gas station every ten minutes looking for anything out of the ordinary. Almost every police officer I saw during my time spent in Georgia was Caucasian.

I decided to show my own feathers, “Climb up this hill, you black fuck, and I will make sure you never climb anything for the rest of your goddamned life!” I placed the bottle of bourbon down on the ground beside me.

When I entered the place of business, passing through the group of men, I walked how I had been trained. Head held upward with my hands freely swinging at my sides. My fingers were held into loosely made fists and I made no eye contact with anyone. I didn’t size up any potential opponents because, quite honestly, I didn’t feel threatened. Once inside, my eyes were solely on her. In reality, by sheer numbers alone, I was no match for them. One on one however, I knew his climb up the hill would give me an advantage. If he climbed up alone I would explode on him then run. If he waited for the group before climbing, challenging me as a unit, I was done. Either way, I was beginning to feel the bourbon. I had no fear. Furthermore, I welcomed whatever was about to happen with an almost sexual anticipation. I wanted him to climb the hill.

The challenge was dissolved by the beauty screaming her own threat, “Nigga you betta get yo dumb ass on ‘fore I tell Auntie Mo what the fuck you been doin all day! Don’t no one want to get yo ass outa jail again! Stupid mothafucka!”

He turned away with a half smile mumbling something about her being a “Hoe with jungle fever”. He never turned back in acknowledgement of me at all. It was over. Once I no longer felt there was a threat, I reached back for my bottle. She was going on and on about how “black people don’t know how to act”, in a rhetorical type of dialog. It wasn’t meant to be a discussion.

I didn’t want to push any more buttons by standing near the gas station so I began to physically move on. I wasn’t going to engage in her frustration towards her race. I wanted to not think at all. Intuitively, I believe she understood that. Her whole persona switched from irate street hustler back to sweet southern belle in the blink of an eye. Once I grabbed the bottle of Erk & Jerk and proceeded to move along, she invited me to her hotel room.

Apparently, she was a stripper who lived in the hotels of Victory Drive. Never staying in the same hotel room for more than a week, she moved around from the east end of the Drive to the west end every week. She explained, in great detail, her “situation” as I escorted her home.

Her name was Lawanda Jackson, however everyone knew her as “Red”. Her husband was a gangster who, at the moment, was incarcerated for manslaughter. Having no local relatives who could support her financially, she lived and worked on the Drive. She would dance naked for men in the clubs, almost nightly, until the establiment closed. After closing, Red would walk up and down the Drive renting her body for money. She showed me the rusty razorblade that she kept in the elastic of her panty line, almost as a warning. As we reached her hotel she held it a little to close to my face.

In disgust I took two steps backwards. I was in no mood to listen to anyone who needed to threaten me. I told her I wasn’t a trick or a John and wasn’t going to pay her for sex. I had alcohol to share if she wanted to invite me inside but could just as easily drink alone as I walked. I did tell her I found her extremely attractive, however. I couldn’t help but to do so. I had no doubt she would cut any human threat that came at her but wondered how she looked naked. I explained all that to her expecting to be dismissed for a paying customer she could easily find. She stared at me as she returned the razor to its holster.

She then informed me that she had an eight ball (1/8 of an ounce) of cocaine in her room and would trade some “product” for some booze. I had no idea what that meant but I nodded in agreement.

Within minutes of entering her room, I had found the thing I had been looking for.

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Erk and Jerk

I moved along the north side curb of VD Drive heading west towards the river. Unfamiliar with the exact geography of South Columbus, my only plan was to reach the river. If I hadn’t found what I was looking for by the time I reached the river, I would turn around and search for a cab ride home to Ft. Benning. Crossing over the river into Alabama seemed too risky considering I had to report for duty in the morning. 

Cars sped by me from behind, one after the other, as I felt the heat from the asphalt road rising to kiss my skin. My vision swept back and forth like a pendulum, from the south side of the street to the north side of the street, searching for an answer. I moved past strip club after strip club knowing their inflated price for drinks would leave me broke within an hour. I decided to stop at a gas station to seek cheap alcohol for my journey. I had noticed the sign advertising the prices for gas a block ahead in the distance.

Surprisingly, the gas station was a continuously moving ball of energy. Set down in a man made valley, i watched as cars pulled in and out, music blaring from their open windows. As i walked down the hill to the parking lot, i noticed passengers congregated in a group near the business building. A dozen or so mid twenty-something black men, all dressed to impress, were apparently meeting here before their night time plans. Standing directly in front of the entrance, I had no choice but to part their group as I entered.  Politely, I excused myself as I passed through their discussion. Without incident they simply moved aside for me.

I noticed the advertisement immediately behind the sales counter. A sale on E & J brandy. Affectionately nicknamed “Erk and Jerk” or “Easy Jesus” by the older black soldiers I served with in Germany, I knew that the $4.00 price tag on the half gallon bottle would be enough alcohol for my night. As I stood in line I couldn’t help but notice all the patrons in the gas station were black. I stood three people back in the line watching the constant flow of people entering inside. The old gray haired man who was first in line was talking about church with the cash register attendee causing a traffic jam near the exit. Ironically, no one was rushing anyone nor loosing their patience. It seemed they all knew each other from this neighborhood. That’s when she walked in.

She had extremely short hair that could have been mistaken for a soldiers hair cut. Her beauty was so overwhelming that it seemed hair would only serve as an annoyance to her. Her clothes were almost raggedy in appearance yet she wore them in the most sensual way I’ve ever seen clothes worn. She had on faded black shorts that hugged the curve of her hips like a baby holding its mother. The exposed skin on her legs looked moist from lotion and were longer than any I had ever remembered seeing. She wore old flip flops that exposed her bright red toe polish. As the men in the gas station all stopped to look at her, I too became hypnotized by her.

We all watched her move to the back of the store. As she picked a can of orange soda from the refrigerated cooler, I noticed that her body could have been sculpted by a Creative Intelligence. Her legs bowed out at the knees causing her body to have the perfect hour glass figure. There seemed to be a two inch gap of space, between her legs, where her legs met her genitalia. Her thighs never touched each other as she walked through the store. As she turned to look at a potato chip display I noticed the fullness of her breasts silhouetted by the faded Miller Lite t-shirt she hid them with. As she bent over to grab her snack, she exposed the extreme contrast of her round ass compared to her thin frame. She was an extremely beautiful creature. As she approached the service counter behind me I noticed her thick full lips and big dark eyes. The only African feature her face showed was a slightly wider than European nose. She could have been any race of human being mixed with another, apparently, due to the lightness of her skin tone. I heard a man whisper “red bone” to his friends as she took her place directly behind me.

The artery of traffic began to flow once the old man clogging it left the store. Once I ordered my alcohol, however, time seemed to stop. A younger black man spoke as if he couldn’t restrain his thoughts, “Did that white boy just order Erk and Jerk?” An eruption of laughter spread through the gas station so loudly that the hair on my legs began to vibrate. It was so unanimous that the cash register lady had to apologize once she composed herself. Even the beauty behind me was laughing. The exotic trance i was stuck in quickly evaporated into a humiliating, self aware mist of steam. I removed the money from my beer pocket and quickly exited through the door. I needed to twist off the cap and warm my stomach as soon as possible.

I climbed up the hill back to street level with a hurried pace. Once there, I imagined, I would crack the bottle open and pour the liquid down my throat. Before reaching the summit, I heard her soft southern drawl from behind me, “Excuse me? Can I have some of your drink? I have a cup and don’t have to work tonight”. I turned to see the light skinned beauty climbing the hill alone behind me.

I replied in a matter of fact way, “Sure, once I get the top off.”

Jonny’s Lingerie Modeling Agency

Immediately to the north of Ft. Benning sat the town of Columbus, Georgia. Located 100 miles south of Atlanta, Columbus sits on the eastern shoreline of the Chattahoochee River. Pre Civil War Columbus used the Chattahoochee River to connect its plantations with the international cotton markets accross the globe. During the Civil War, Columbus was the amongst the largest manufacturers of supplies to the Confederate Army second only to Richmond Virginia.

The last recorded land battle during the Civil War took place when a Union detachment attacked one of the most prominent industrial cities in the Confederate south. Unaware that General Lee had already surrendered to General Grant and that President Lincoln had been assassinated, Union and Confederate soldiers clashed on April 16, 1865, Easter Sunday. This battle is officially known as “The Battle of Columbus, Georgia”. The Civil War officially ended ten days later.

As a visitor to Columbus, Georgia from the Chicago area, Illinois, i noticed a few realities immediately. First, the closer I got to the military base the less fortunate the residents were. South Columbus was obviously the poorest section of Columbus. Strip bars and prostitutes littered the landscape like weeds choking the life out of blades of grass. Secondly, the further north we drove off post the more white people we saw. There seemed to be an invisible line that divided the town. South Columbus was poor and black while north Columbus was wealthy and white. I had no personal vehicle of my own and I was limited to a soldiers budget. As a result, I traveled mostly by taxi cab when I traveled off post alone. Cab rides were cheaper, obviously, if I ended the ride as soon as possible after leaving Ft. Benning. The closest main thoroughfare off post was Victory Drive in South Columbus.

Victory Drive, known better to soldiers as VD Drive, housed only three types of establishments: strip clubs, cheap run down hotels and payday loan businesses. Immediately to the North of VD Drive was Columbus’ ghetto. If you decided to take the road west, “The Drive” would lead you to the Chattahoochee River and across it into Alabama. I never did bother to find out where the road East would take me. Once the taxi driver gave me the green light to drink my Colt 45 in the back seat, I figured I would let him decide where to take me. Armed with the only knowledge I gave him, “somewhere with women” and how much i was willing to pay for the ride, he decided on taking me to a “lingerie show” on VD Drive.

I exited the taxi cab with my back to the establishment. To prevent any argument, I paid upfront before we left Ft. Benning. He was now giving me his direct phone number for a return ride home when my night was over. I nodded to acknowledge the gesture but waved his offer away. I didn’t want to think about the end of the night. I had money stored in a compartmentalized way across the geography of my body. I entered the cab with cash in hand. I had beer money in one pocket, girl money in another pocket and ride home money in my shoe. Right now I wanted more beer and a woman to drink with.

I entered “Jonny’s Lingerie Modeling Agency” through the only visible entrance I could find. The building itself resembled a mixture of both a trailer home and a one floor ranch style house. The blinds were closed preventing me from seeing inside the only window. There was a faint yellow light that escaped from beneath the door frame like a tortured animal running for its life. The smell of stale cigarettes and coffee lingered in the air like a thick fog and the rhythmic, musical thumping of bass rattled the walls. I knocked on the door three times before I heard the faint response, “C’mon in, it’s open!”

As I crossed the threshold of the doorway I saw her facing me. In a reflex type reaction, I sliced the pie. The inner walls of the building had all been removed. Three light weight, plastic, pre-fabricated chairs sat against the south side wall. The opposite wall was one large mirror. Cheap posters of women in bikinis cluttered the two remaining walls with a closed door in the corner of the east side of the room. Assuming the closed door was a restroom, I asked her if I could use the latrine. There was no hiding the fact I was a soldier from her so using military jargon seemed appropriate. After receiving her permission I crossed the room towards the closed door. She spoke to me loud enough to hear her over a small radio playing rap music in the middle of the room.

I didn’t want to be in an open room, by myself, with a woman in lingerie and a closed door. Expecting to find some one in the room waiting for me, I approached the closed door with caution. I would have a better chance to defend myself on my terms while facing the latrine. As I approached the room I turned to see where the lingerie woman was. She hadn’t moved. That was a good sign. I opened the door by pushing the door to the right while scanning the space from the left. Wall, toilet, sink, window and wall. I turned to face lingerie again: not moved. The room was clear.

She was explaining to me the services she provided with a price list attached to each service. I left the door open as she spoke so I could see her. I washed my hands in the sink as I stared at her reflection in the mirror in front of me. She was dressed in a white corset with dangling straps intended to hook to the stockings she wasn’t wearing. She wore plain white panties with matching heels that looked worn and cracked in the distance. Her face, although far away in the dim light, looked as tired and worn as her shoes. Her orange/red hair hung loosely and unkept to her shoulders. Physically, she wasn’t a threat. Spiritually, she looked dead.

Unnoticed, I removed a ten dollar bill from my girl pocket and left it on the cracked wooden sink top. I turned to face her and began to walk slowly towards the door. The creeks from my weight moving across the floor echoed through the room. Without a word from me, she began lowering prices and negotiating the time frame. The final offer she made me was allowing me to masturbate while watching her dance as I sat on a plastic chair. She would charge me forty dollars to finish in twenty minutes.

I thanked her for the use of her restroom and told her of the ten dollars i had left there. She immediately moved to retrieve the money the way a dog moves toward a bone it suddenly finds. The whole scene compared to a tomb with a living corpse residing in it.

I didn’t want to think about death. I didn’t want to negotiate terms for sex. I didn’t want to feel anything or explain myself. I wanted to feel numb so i could pretend that I didn’t exist. As I head out into the darkness of the night I didn’t want to think at all. I was out of beer and wanted more.

The insides didn’t quite match the outside

Cpt. Lombardo symbolically placed me on the mantle for everyone to see. As a highly respected officer by his peers and subordinates, his endorsement of me was resolute. He brought me in front of H.H.C. during end of business formation that day and referred to me as a “bad ass motherfucker”. As he playfully grabbed me in a headlock while addressing the Company, I noticed the look of shock on the men’s faces. None of us had ever seen the Commander so animated. Like a trophy, he placed me on the mantle for everyone to see.

From that day forward, the men of 1/18 Infantry Regiment no longer addressed me by my rank. Both officers and enlisted men addressed me the same way. I was recognized everywhere I went on Kelley Hill and was shown the type of respect normally awarded to the warrior elite. The story of my fight, attempt to escape and inevitable capture had snowballed into a fable of legend highlighted by the Commanders’ endorsement. They now addressed me as Doc.

Cloaked in the armor of anonymity, I had been able to fade into the background of my surroundings throughout the course of my life until now. In contrast, my outside reality had changed so dramatically that I felt like Dorothy after she landed in the Technicolor Land of Oz. However, unlike Dorothys’ tornado that had delivered her to a place then disappeared, my tornado was just beginning to form. Internally, I couldn’t have felt more alone and afraid.

I responded to my changed reality with a duality of purpose. Professionally, I accepted the responsibility of being looked up to with grace and dignity. No longer the Alpha Company vehicle maintenance supervisor, Sgt. Gleason requested my reattachment to H.H.C. under his supervision. Sgt. Moreno couldn’t have signed off on the request any faster. I was now responsible for mentoring new Medics for the entire Battalion. When we received a new Medic to our platoon, regardless of his rank, I was responsible for him for 30 days. He would not be assigned to a Company until I thought he was ready. I took my new role serious and treated the mentorship of new Combat Medics appropriately. I viewed my new job as an honor.

Personally, however, I suffered from an internal void that was beginning to eat away at my insides like a cancer. Once my restriction was over and I was off duty, I wanted to be left alone. Isolation with two roommates in an over crowded and rowdy barracks was proving to be a challenge. I was beginning to feel like I would suffocate. In an attempt to remedy the claustrophobia, I began to leave post alone every night. I would stop at the P.X. to get a 40oz of Colt 45 to enhance my adventure.

I was 22 years old.

Without a Doubt, Sir!

I walked into the Commanders’ office as I was trained to do. All soldiers, from as early as Basic Training, are taught the proper etiquette for reporting to superiors. At a determined and professional march I approached the desk of a sitting Cpt. Lombardo. Halting at the position of attention, I delivered a crisp and clean hand salute announcing my presence. “Specialist (TwistedMedic) reporting to the Commander as ordered, Sir!” Enlisted men salute officers out of the respect for rank. The saluting hand (right hand) is not dropped until the salute is returned. Cpt. Lombardo returned my salute. As I was trained to do, I snapped my hand down to the side of my leg. Remaining at the position of attention, with my eyes straight ahead, I waited for the Commander to speak.

Along the side of the wall stood my entire chain of command. I could feel their glare without physically looking at them. Their presence was as powerful as the heat from a fire burning the side of my face. One by one, Cpt. Lombardo asked each member of my platoon to identify themselves. Each member identified themselves by rank and last name. Cpt. Lombardo then asked me to explain to the group in his office my version of “the incident at N.T.C. that resulted in my being apprehended by Military Police”. Eyes straight ahead, I gave my recollection.

When I finished my brief synopsis the Commander ordered me to leave his office and wait by the C.Q. desk until he called for me to return. Saluting again, I replied, ” Yes Sir!” Once my salute was returned, I executed an about face and marched out of the office.

For what seemed like an eternity I paced back and forth in front of the Charge of Quarters. I knew there would be no turning back once I entered that room again. I had no official plan for my military career at this point. I was simply doing what was in front of me to do. I purposefully pushed any questions of my plan away from the forefront of my mind. To avoid the feelings, I approached my career with an attitude of indifference. I believed I would be spared the humiliation of defeat if I didn’t think about a plan. That was my only plan. However, in this moment, I knew my plan was shit. I was about to walk into the gladiators’ arena and get slaughtered.

I thought of my life in the Army versus my life growing up. There were alot of similarities. As a child I was given an outline for structure to base my life on. My clothes, food and shelter were all provided to me by my parents. The same provisions were awarded to me by the Army. As a child I was expected to behave a certain way or suffer consequences. The Army had the same model for behavior. The difference between the two institutions, as far as I could tell, was that I seemed to thrive in the Army. Unlike my youth, which ended in humiliating defeat, I seemed to have a sense of belonging in the Army. Not only did I feel like I belonged but I was beginning to excel in the very culture that was about to throw me away. Until this moment, I enjoyed every aspect of being a soldier. I was home.

The Commanders’ office door opened and I was ordered to report once again. Repeating the same expectations, I stood in front of Cpt. Lombardos’ desk for the second time. My only hope at this point, I believed, was to carry myself with dignity as I was given my reality. “Please God, give me strength to take the ass beating I am about to receive. Don’t let me cry in front of these men.” I figured I would pray silently. What harm could it possibly do?

The Commander explained to me the suggestion of my chain of command. They wanted me to suffer the maximum penalty allowed for “failure to obey order or regulation”. He went on to explain that if he followed the suggestion of my chain of command he could not hand out the punishment. That punishment, he informed me, could only come from our Brigade Commander under field grade article 15. He then paused and stood up. He asked me if I understood the consequences I faced. My mouth was as dry as sand from the lack of saliva to moisten it. I had a lump the size of a baseball stuck in my throat preventing me from answering. He leaned forward onto his desk pounding his fists into the wood top. He repeated the question. I replied, ” Yes Sir!”, with a cracked puberty riddled voice command. He then leaned back off the desk.

He continued, “Doc, the First Sergeant didn’t like that recommendation so he called for Lt. Bromund and Sgt. Gleason to get a second opinion.” He shot a look of disgust to the wall where my chain of command stood. He then repeated the question both he and Killer Pete asked Lt. Bromund and Sgt. Gleason. They asked each man individually, “If we deployed to combat tomorrow would you want Doc (TwistedMedic) next to you when the shit hit the fan.” Lt. Lombardo asked each man to repeat their responses to me exactly as they responded to him.

Both Lt. Bromund and Sgt. Gleason answered identically: “Without a doubt Sir!”

The Commander restricted me to the barracks for seven days with a matching seven days of extra duty cleaning the barracks until 2200 hours (10:00pm). He then informed me if I ever stood in front of his desk for disciplinary action again he would personally drag me to the Brigade Commander by my scrotum. Again he asked me, “Do you understand me?”

With the relief I can only assume is comparable to men being exonerated from Death Row I answered him, “Yes Sir!”

…Report to the Commander…

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!”

Run Doc! M.P.s … (Part 2)

At a full sprint, I ran between building after building. We spent so much time at Ft. Irwin, California I should know this base like the back of my hand. The problem soon became obvious: we spent our time at N.T.C. in the field training. I had never paid attention to the geography or  landmarks on the base itself. I was lost.

I assumed  I was sprinting through the base barracks but couldn’t be completely sure. I contemplated entering a building to camouflage myself with the base personnel when I lost my footing. I misjudged a drop in the sidewalk surface and was sent sprawling to the pavement in a parking lot. I scrambled under a parked car hoping to conceal myself. Within seconds the K9 M.P.s were growling and barking over my location. Alerting everyone in the vicinity of my location, the German Shepard Dogs were standing on my body pinning me down. One K9 was lustfully slobbering on my neck, while barking its alert, waiting for the command from its handler. Out of sheer terror I surrendered.

Whilst I sat in the backseat of the squad car handcuffed, I pondered how I came to be in this current dilemma. I hadn’t started any altercation. I was simply trying to defend the new soldier in my squad. My thoughts then turned to Sgt. Moreno. I assumed he was going to thoroughly enjoy handing me over to the Company Commander for disciplinary actions. I imagined him, alongside Spineless, licking their chops as I was sent down the river in shame and defeat. Rules were not just suggestions in our way of life. We were not to fight each other in the barracks. We were not to fight each other in the field. It was never said directly to us, however I assumed we were never to run from the M.P.s.

The M.P.s were oddly quiet on the drive across base. Gently removing me from the squad, they never acknowledged my being in their presence. There was no interrogation or paperwork filed. In a matter of fact way, a twenty something black M.P. Staff Sergeant (E-6) handcuffed me to the bench in the front of the receiving room. I was left alone waiting to be retrieved by my chain of command. My hands were throbbing from the tightness of the handcuffs. My shoulders ached from the slouching position I was forced to sit in. My right eye was beginning to swell from either the fight or the fall, I couldn’t remember which. Regardless of the physical discomfort I felt, the overwhelming feeling of failure took over my entire being. I felt ashamed.

It was 0100 when Cpt. Jones retrieved me from the M.P. station. He signed the log at the desk while showing his I.D. and I was unchained from the bench. As I reached for the pen to sign under Cpt. Jones I considered the time I sat waiting for him. An eternity had seemed to pass while I contemplated my consequences. Dishonorable discharge? Time in the stockade? Would I be stripped of my rank and sent to Ft. Leavenworth for hard labor before going home? The Infantry takes their codes and rules very seriously. As I signed the log sheet I noticed how long I sat waiting: fifteen minutes.

It was an awkwardly silent walk from the M.P. station to our temporary barracks at Ft. Irwin. Cpt. Jones broke the silence by telling me to get some shut eye as we fly home first thing in the morning. Out of guilt, I explained, “Sir for what it’s worth, I didn’t start the fight.” He eyed me up and down before replying. This was the most I had ever spoke to the man in the year I was attached under his command of Alpha Company. Also a highly decorated tabbed Ranger, Cpt. Jones dealt exclusively with Sgt. Walker. He always sat silently through my combat life saver classes. He replied, “I’m sure you didn’t start that fight Doc, but Cpt. Lombardo will address the issue when we get home. Go to bed.”

Cpt. Lombardo was the Commander of H.H.C. Company. In Garrison, the Medic Platoon fell under the command of H.H.C.. Also a tabbed Ranger, Cpt Lombardo jumped into Panama with the 82nd Airborne Division during the 1989 invasion to overthrow Manuel Norriega. Only hearing of his reputation from other soldiers, Cpt. Lombardo was considered a fierce warrior. He liked to surprise soldiers in their foxholes in the middle of the night while in the field and ask them questions about the war. His favorite question was, “Hey soldier! How many confirmed kills did you receive in Iraq?” The only proper answer was: Not enough, sir!

I woke up the next morning by rapid fire questions from the men in my platoon. I could tell by the excitement of their tones that I was the main topic of discussion over night. Apparently, the soldier that told me to run was an Infantry squad leader from Alpha Company. He came back to the barracks after the fight and spread the word. Obviously, everyone in Battalion knew about the fight.

We flew home without incident that day, which was a Friday. When we arrived in Garrison, Spineless Puddin informed me I was back on restriction until I could see the Commander first thing Monday. He told me to have my bags packed and to prepare for the worst. I nodded in response to acknowledge my defeat.

Oddly enough, Saturday morning there was a knock on our barracks door. Cpl. Joe answered and was hushed into the hallway. He came back in with a case of budweiser and a folded piece of paper. He placed the note on my bed and cracked open a beer. He stood over my bed staring at me. He tossed a beer to the now awake C.J. who was also staring at me. They toasted each other with the phonetic, “Lima Bravo”, which to us meant “Liquid Breakfast”. I reached for a beer and while cracking it open I opened the paper.

It read, “For Doc (TwistedMedic), from the men of Alpha Company.”