A sucker punch comes when you’re not expecting it. I got mine in Fleckertshohe just before beginning a 12 hour night shift when my sergeant (who was also, unfortunately, my roommate) informed me that I was being sent back to battalion headquarters in Butzbach … not back to Koblenz, but all the way back to Butzbach! … back to the real army!
OMG! I couldn’t believe my ears! It literally felt like the floor had buckled out from under me pitching me into a bottomless pit.
I couldn’t even hear properly. A screeching sound, like those of the high-pitched violins in the Psycho soundtrack when Janet Leigh gets slashed in the shower by the transgender freak, Mrs. Bates, filled my head.
It was a sucker punch supreme! A sucker punch without equal! A sucker punch that put me down for the count! It came without warning … a complete surprise!
That night they could’ve added my radio shack to the old saying “there’s no atheist in a foxhole!” I whimpered and screamed and writhed in agony throughout my entire twelve hour shift … several hours of which I spent on my knees praying!
I didn’t know what else to do! I couldn’t figure it out! I couldn’t understand why this had happened to me!
I knew my personality clashed with that of my sergeant. I’d tried diligently to get along with the little S.O.B. but had never been able to break through. Of course we had profound differences in education, culture, family, goals, self-confidence, religion, and just about everything else of significance in life … but I’d done my best to bite my tongue and keep my views to myself.
However to be dispatched to Butzbach with absolutely no warning, without hearing any complaints or allegations of negligence or dereliction of duty or any other transgression … I simply couldn’t it was happening!
When I asked why, I only got evasions … nothing concrete, absolutely nothing of substance! No good reason at all … not one!
I asked my buddies Rudy and Lumpkins if they knew anything more than I knew about it, but they were as surprised and clueless as I was.
I felt pitiful, insignificant, wronged and helpless. And worst of all, I faced the next two and one-half years of my life in the real army after tasting just a few months of paradise!
Two and a half years may not sound like much after you’ve reached old age and watched a long parade of seasons march past, but when you’re 21 it’s an entirely different story. At that stage of life it represents over 15% of your entire life … which would make it equivalent to 11 years at age 70!
If it sounded like an eternity it’s because IT WAS AN ETERNITY! It felt like I was being sent from heaven straight to hell!
The next morning, without ceremony, I threw my stuff in the back of a half-ton truck to begin my trip to the inferno! It was a somber drive. Rudy, with whom I’d become a close friend, drove me down the winding road that led into the spectacular Rhein Valley and Koblenz. We didn’t talk much that day as we were at a complete loss for words.
At the detachment nobody wanted to talk much either. Nobody knew exactly why I’d been expelled, nor did anybody seem curious enough to hang-out with me and try to find out. It was if I’d contracted the plague or some unknown, but deadly virus … and they wanted no part of it!
I had no one to turn to … and the only one who counted, Sergeant Peterson, had left work early and wouldn’t be back until long after I’d gone. He apparently didn’t have the inclination or the heart to face me.
I couldn’t believe this was happening … and I still didn’t know why! What could I have done so odious, so wrong-headed, so negligent, so stupid that I was getting kicked out?
Someone once said that God answers prayers with ideas. In this case it hit the nail on the head! Early that evening I pleaded with Sergeant Peterson’s second in command, “I at least deserve a chance to be heard. I at least deserve to know what I’ve done wrong!”
Finally, after seeing my pitiful face and listening to my constant whining, he relented and phoned Pete. That’s when my prayers were answered … that’s when the idea came to me that proved to be the inspiration of my young army life!
I refrained from sniveling, wailing, shouting or crying to Pete. Our conversation was cordial, polite, adult and reserved … I knew he had his mind made up and there was nothing I could say that would change it this late in the game.
He was maybe a bit nonplussed when I inquired as to why I had to go back to Butzbach, especially when I informed him that I’d received no warnings or reprimands of any sort. He told me he’d “heard” otherwise, and that I’d been a continual problem for the two-bit–Texas-tyrant E-5.
That’s when inspiration reached its denouement, “Sergeant Peterson, I know you’ve got to take the word of you sergeant. You must. You have no other choice. I understand that perfectly … and I not only respect it, I expect it. But I do have one thing I’d like to say, and a single request I’d like to make.”
I paused dramatically (after all, I was playing the role of my life) … he asked, “What’s that?”
“You should know that your sergeant’s lying. He’s grossly lying about me … and he’s going to lie about other things too. When he does, I ask that you remember me and this conversation.”
I paused again while Pete mulled it over. Then he replied, “Okay, fair enough.”
“Thanks, sarge, I really appreciate it,” I responded respectfully, “and thanks for talking with me too.”
And that was that. The die was cast, my fate was sealed. I rode back to Butzbach with my head hanging down to my boots for two and one-half years in the Real Army! OMG!
Coming next! How I Won The Cold War, Part 10 … REDEMPTION
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