Tuesday, August 21, 2007

A is for...

Celeste is doing this , and I thought I would too. If I have anything else to report or opine on, there will just be extra posts. And some letters may need more than one post, so it may take more than 26 days to finish!

A is for Army.

I am both an Army brat and an Army veteran. My father had joined the 240th Coast Artillery of the Maine National Guard at 16, and in 1940 President Roosevelt Federalized it along with a number of other units. Daddy served through the war, and was called up again in 1950, when we (my mother and I) accompanied him to Fort (then Camp) Stewart, Georgia . Here is a photo of him, taken September 1950 at Fort Gordon, GA (I think Camp Stewart was not ready yet, according to the history. I'm not sure, but I think Mama and I took the train down to Camp Stewart and joined him there).

Subsequent assignments took him to Fort Hancock, NJ, and unaccompanied to Japan and Korea. It was probably at about this time he decided to make the Army a career. We also lived at Fort Sill, OK; Fort Bliss, TX; Wiesbaden, Germany; and in Milford and Fairfield, CT, while he was a National Guard advisor in Bridgeport. His last assignment was with the VII Corps Engineers in Stuttgart, Germany.

Shortly after college graduation, I found myself back in Maine with no definite plans for the future. My sister, four years younger, was in the same boat. We decided to call the recruiter, and before we knew it we were on our way to WAC Basic Training at Fort McClellan, AL – she with a guarantee for medic training at Brooke Army Medical Center in Texas, and I with one for Russian language school at DLIWC. I’ve mentioned before the results of my Army experience (see June 25 blog post). I can also report that it’s really true that Basic Training will put you in the best shape of your life. Here is a photo of me upon completion of Basic Training. I might add that both The Medic and I were promoted to Private (E-2) at graduation, so we started out with a stripe on each of our sleeves. (Given that we were graded not only on paper tests, but physical training, marching skills, and keeping our bunks and lockers neat, I feel this is still one of my greatest achievements!)
How has this experience affected my worldview?

  • I tend to bristle when anyone makes blanket statements about “the military mind.” The military is made up of a lot of different people with differing ideas and experiences.
  • I firmly believe we should have some kind of National Service for young people, with the military as one possible option. The generation which is now in the 18-26 age group is actually doing a lot of national and international service on their own, but it would be nice if it could be recognized and rewarded. And no one should be exempt except the most profoundly disabled.
  • I enjoy military history and historical fiction, probably more than most women. The Sharpe series is one of my favorites.
  • I’m puzzled by the complaints of some military brats and wives. I had a fine childhood with many experiences and opportunities that I would not have had otherwise. Having to make new friends at each of the nine schools I attended from grades 1-12 helped me overcome enough of my natural introversion to function in society (see August 13 post).
  • And where else would I have learned this song?
1)The biscuits in the army
They say are mighty fine,
But one rolled off the table
And killed a pal of mine.
(cho)OOOOh, I don't want no more of army life.
Gee, but I want to go home.
2)The coffee in the army
They say is mighty fine.
It's good for cuts and bruises
And tastes like iodine.
3)The chicken in the army
They say is mighty fine,
But one jumped off the table
And started marking time.
4)The uniforms they give you,
They say are mighty fine.
Me and my battalion
Can all fit into mine.

(I got this from the Mudcat Café , from a person whose stepfather had learned it in the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, so I suspect it goes back at least to WWI. I edited the last verse to reflect what I remember.)

Or these:
Duty - WAC Song
(Tune: Col. Bogey March words by Major Dorothy E. Nielsen, USAR)
Duty is calling you and me,
We have a date with destiny,
Ready, the WACs are ready,
Their pulse is steady,
A world to set free,
(it goes on but I don't recall singing the rest)

Song of the Women’s Army Corps
If the task at hand is an Army command
And the deadline is zero hour,
If the way is rough and the odds are tough
And the need is for all our power,
And if everyday brings a challenge your way,
No matter what the score,
Count the mission won, for the job will be done

Pallas Athene, Goddess of Victory
History tells your story brave,
And our own Statue of Liberty,
Shows what we’ve sworn to save!

Shout the word around, let the echo resound
On every distant shore,
Whether peace or war, there’s a need evermore,

(For more songs, go here. Yes, we actually sang these in Basic Training.

I have a couple more “A” things to post about, but it's getting late, so more anon.

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