My Mind

My Mind
This is my mind

Friday, June 15, 2012

Write your congressman...

"I hate it," I said.
"You just need to take one day at the time," said my dad.  He was half way across the continent in Charleston.  I was in San Antonio wallowing in self pity.  It was my third week in boot camp and I was gigged in over the weekend.  The "captain" had given me my slip showing enough demerits to keep me barrack's bound through Saturday and Sunday.  I'd tried to explain that my shoes being scuffed was due to some clod running across them in his hurry to formation.  I had them shining brilliantly only to have the sole of his chuckas grind into them in his haste.  He didn't care, so I sat on the pone moaning to my dad about the unfairness of life in basic training.
"There's three more weeks.  I guess I can do that," was my answer.
"Of course you can," said my dad.  "When you look back in six weeks it will seem like it didn't happen at all.  Other than being confined to barracks, how is it?"
"It's not so hard.  Lots of marching.  Lots of studies about the history of the Air Force and military bearing.  It's the PT that is most difficult for me.  They want us to run a mile in under six minutes.  In combat boots.  I usually save my energy for that running.  The TI has questioned me about the calisthenics asking why I only do the minimum required.  I told him I wasn't concerned about the things I knew I could do it was the running that worried me.  He just shakes his head."
"Well, sounds like you have it under control."
"I guess.  I miss all of you.  And home.  How's Myra?"
"We're all fine.  Myra's eager for you to return."
"It might be a while," I said.
"Oh?  Why's that?"  asked dad.
"I was called into the Captain's office today.  I was told that there was a position open in Officer's Training School.  Since I had a college degree he was offering it to me."
"That's good.  Are you going to take it?"
"Well, I did become a naturalized citizen so that I could if the opportunity arose."
"Well, then," said my dad.  "You should say yes."
"I did.  That's why I may not be home after basic.  There is a spot open in the next class.  I will have to stay on base in a section called OT Hold.  It'll be through June including the class."
"That's alright, son.  You do the best you can do while you are there.  The wait will be worth it to you and to Myra."
"I know you are right.  If I get in."
"I don't think there will be a problem with your getting in.  you just do your best."
"Yes sir.  I will.  Have you seen any cars on the market for a newly graduated officer?"  I asked every time I called.
"I'm still looking," he said.  "I'll have something for you when you get out."
"Remember to use the $300 I left you for a down payment."  I had saved all my paychecks earned at Charleston Rubber Company during my last summer home.
"I have it.  You better give Myra a call before the night's over."  His reminder was well taken.  We said our goodbyes.  I turned the phone over to the next guy in line and trudged back to the barracks for the night.
The next three weeks flew by.  I had received orders to attend OTS.  My next few months were filled with a job in the discharge section.  I stamped the paperwork of all the newly entered airmen who, for one reason or another, received  their discharge papers.  These were usually youngsters who were not considered fit for duty in the USAF.  They were happy as larks to get their papers releasing them for active duty in the Air Force.  I don't know how much they smiled when they received their letters of greetings from the President welcoming them into the Army.  The Army was willing to take anyone who fogged a mirror when it was held beneath their noses.  I'm sure they regretted the antics they pulled to get out of the Air Force on that day.
My time in OTS was a twelve week stretch.  More basic training, more PT upon which was added lessons to teach us how to behave as officers.  At the end of twelve weeks we tossed our caps in the air at graduation.  After sifting through all the hats on the ground for an hour or so I found mine and ran to the barracks to ready myself for my trip home.
The flight to Charleston was uneventful as I smoked my cigars in flight accompanied by the mini-bottles of scotch.  At the airport I was met by my parents.
Dad had a smile on his face as he greeted me.  It seemed to be more than just a smile of greeting.  I'd asked each time I called about a car, had he found one.  His answer had always been evasive.  I just figured he hadn't found anything but was still checking the ads.
"Boy am I glad to be home," I said.
"We're glad you're back," my parents said.
Dad drove letting my mother talk.  We joked about my time in "prison" and how I was eager to get my orders and begin the next four years.
"Did your pay increase as an officer?" asked my mother.
She looked over the front seat at me.  She had a big smile on her face as well.
"Yes," I said.  "Much more than the $90 a month of the enlisted man.  It's almost two-hundred dollars a month. Over twice as much."
"That's good," said dad.  "You might need it."  He was looking at me in the rear view.  I noticed his grin.
The trip home from the airport was full of breezy talk about Charleston.
As we drew near home dad asked me, "How about close your eyes for a minute or two until we park."
"OK," I said.  It was a puzzling request but I did it.
He turned into the drive, stopped and cut the engine off.
"Alright.  You can open them," I heard him say.
When I did I looked around and to my left on the lawn was a 1969 MGB, British Racing Green.
"Uh...," I was speechless.
"I found it a couple of days ago.  The ad in the paper said an officer had just bought it when his orders came for overseas.  He had it shipped to the states but couldn't keep it since he would be gone for a while.  It was at a good price and I thought you would like it."
"LIKE IT!  I love it," I yelled jumping out of the car.  I ran my hand along the fender and up over the windscreen onto the canvas top. "It's beautiful!"
"I thought you would like it.  Here,"  he said, offering me keys.  "After you are settled you should take it out."
"I'm settled," I said.  I opened the door and sank into the seat.  I was about four inches above ground sitting in the soft seats covered in lamb skin.  The hood stretched before me in its lush green.  I pressed the clutch and wiggled the short gear into neutral.  When I turned the key the engine throbbed into life.
"She has a four piston engine with dual carbs and runs nice.  Quite a bit of pick up for such a small engine. And the payment is only $89.89 a month.  Good thing you get an officer's pay now, isn't it?"
I looked at my dad who was smiling his broad grin of satisfaction at seeing the thrill of ownership in my face.
"Oh yeah," I said. "It sure is. She's a beaut, dad.  Thank you so much."
"I know you said you wanted a Gremlin but when I saw this I decided that you'd be more pleased with it."
Running my hand over the rich leather on the passenger side I responded, "Oh yeah, so much better.  My first car.  An MGB.  I couldn't be happier.  Thank you so much, dad."
"You're welcome, son.  I'm glad you like it."  He was beaming.  His grin was the happiest I'd ever seen him.  My grin matched his.
"Well, go on, then.  Take it for a run. We'll get your things inside."
"Thanks again, dad.  I have to show Myra."  I zipped out of the drive and wheeled it forward hitting the gas pedal.  I waved out the window as I sped off leaving the MG roar in the air.
It was so many years later that I learned my dad had written L. Mendell Rivers about me.  He was our congressman who was Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.   He'd written a long letter explaining to him that I was an only child who was the last to carry on the family name.  He explained that I had become a naturalized citizen who wanted to serve this country in my best capacity which he knew would be as an officer utilizing the college degree obtained before joining.  The captain had mentioned that day that he had been sent a letter from a congressman from SC about me and my desire to serve as an officer.  I didn't know what he was talking about at the time but said nothing since I just wanted the chance.  I never received orders to Viet Nam either.  My dad's letter was a persuasive one for my welfare.  He worked behind the scenes without telling me.  It was his way.

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