Thursday, November 11, 2004

Veteran's Day

During my time in the Military, I spent time in Louisiana, Texas, Germany and in Desert Storm. Today, I think about the guys that I spent that time with. We were closer than brothers. I mean that. There is a level of trust you put into the hands of your fellow trooper that you wouldn't trust anyone but your self to handle otherwise. It is not all about warfare, although that is part of it. I only keep in touch with a couple of those guys today and it doesn't matter where we are in our own lives when we talk and spend time together it is perfect. I believe this is tied to our common past. Today I remember all the guys even the ones I didn't particularly like at that time. So I want to share a few stories as I remember all those guys who I spent time with.

Just a few short stories: (Military folk are good at this)

I spent $20 for a book and another trooper asked to borrow it. He took it to the field and ruined the book but he left the cover at home so that was in good shape. There is something funny about that logic.

My Sergeant Major at my first unit (4/12 Cavalry Regiment). Sgt. Major Clark was good friends with members of the Senate and other Washington folks. He was out of a movie:
One time I was handling the unit colors for a general's retirement and a couple of pilots from our helicopter Troop were in attendance, they were wearing their pistols (part of the uniform for these things). Sgt. Major Clark said to them, "Sir, if you shoot a grown man with a .38 you will only make him mad." Another more vulgar story involved another vet's day parade, the Sgt. Major had our troop out on the Squadron field and was explaining something that was important to him -- I can't quite recall what now -- but to emphasize his point he added .... "And, I'm as serious as two dogs fucking." I thought that was pretty serious. This was his character. He was the oldest man to graduate from Ranger School at age 41 and at the time was the second highest ranking Sgt. Major in the Army.

During Desert Storm, (2nd Squadron/ 1st Cavalry Regiment, Second Armor Division) we were conducting maintenance on our vehicles during a morning prior to the air war starting. Our Lt.'s driver was on the hood of his Bradley. (A mechanical note: The Bradley has a built in system where the gun of the Bradley will elevate when the driver hatch is open, this is to prevent the death of the driver. This only operates when the power is on). The Lt. then crawled into the turret and turned on the power without looking to see if anyone was on the deck of the vehicle. The gun instantly elevated and caught the driver under the chin which threw him off the vehicle and into the sand. He was K.O.'d by the gun. (Lucky that's all that happened.)

While in Louisiana, I worked for Staff Sergeant Beamer, he had gone to Delta Force School but didn't finish due to a busted ankle. During a field exercise he decided to cross a stream. It was too deep and we didn't make it. But the five guys on the M113 spent the next four hours cutting trees for traction to get the vehicle out while singing Bon Jovi -- it was one of the best times of my life. We never got it out -- a recovery vehicle named "Your Fat Sister" came and pulled us out.

In Desert Storm, I was in charge of securing a small radio trailer. It looked like two semi trailers connected together. The doors were locked and we fired into the trailers and the rounds went through, I went for my demo kit when one of the other soldiers fired a grenade at the door. We were only 10 feet away. Luckily the grenade doesn't arm for 5 meters or I would not be writing this today. I just laugh when I think of that today. The same guy was part of some very funny moments -- When he was new to the unit, he was trying to clean his room while drinking heavily --Not a good combination. I heard some banging from my room so I went down the hall to see what was happening. The same guy was riding a floor buffer and banging into the walls. Too funny.

There is so much more. I just wanted to share some of my memories of the Military as I think about those guys today. I hope they are all well. God bless them and all who followed us as well as those who came before. We all tried to do our best for our country. I can't speak for all on this but for me, I enlisted because I loved my country and as much as I gained from being a part of the Military, I am proud to have given what I did.

Former Sergeant Robert Barker of the 2nd Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Armor Division

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