US Army Retired

US Army Retired

Thursday, June 30, 2011

A June Passes

It's been an interesting month.

The first, of course, is signing a contract with XOXO Publishing for SONORA SYMPHONY. To me, this is an affirmation that all the work and effort just might be paying off. Now, only time will tell what this means and if my time as a storyteller has finally come.

The next is how this blog is moving along. Well over a thousand visits this month. {Yeah, I know there are those that have that many in a week. But, I'm certainly not complaining.} I wish I could post on a daily basis but constantly find myself wrapped up in a number of things in order to publicize and market what I've written. The side of writing we all wish we could do away with.

Until a few days ago, I had no idea this site existed. That and other sites like Kindleboard, all designed to help indie authors publicize and market their books. The experience of trying to learn all the ins and outs of these sites taxes an old man's wits at time. Each has their own system and rules and FAQs and all the rest and it's kinda difficult to keep up with all of it.

And then there's THIS! I don't have PrintShop, so I'm trying to seek another way to create professional covers for some of the books I have and will publish for myself. The graphic terms can almost be overwhelming.

And, another one of those has gone by. Not a big deal just managing to outlast the Grim Guy who will come when and if his boss decides. But, it means time to get more thoughts and ideas out to share with others and for that I'm thankful.

Here's to July!!  And getting all the things done on my To Do List.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Another Nice Review

Just received an email telling me of a review for my novel, BLOOD IN THE MEADOWS.

I had already received a nice one in the latest issue of The Writer's Beat Quarterly @ So this latest review from  Terry Wright posted a review for Blood in the Meadow: Terror on the Strip on Blog Critics, TicToc, Good Reads, Amazon, Library Thing, and Sherfari.

It can be read on:

Blood in the Meadows is available @


Monday, June 27, 2011

Lulu Deleted

I made the decision to delete all my books from as I've become quite unhappy with their responses to questions.

In addition, I'm in the middle of a major revision of Lost Wages in Las Vegas. It was written in 2005 and there have been too many changes since then. Should have the new on up in a few days.

Saturday, June 25, 2011


[In doing research for these articles, to illustrate the various moves is probably the hardest I’ve found in writing this.]

We gathered up our weapons and fell out in the company street under the watchful eye of our Drill Sergeant. As we settled into formation, he went through the platoon showing each of us how to properly sling our weapon on the right shoulder. He then spent the next half hour running us through the various parade drills.

We weren’t alone. The other four platoons were going through the same drills. I couldn’t help but notice ours was the only Drill Sergeant who didn’t scream and swear. It wasn’t that he wasn’t tough and didn’t make “drop and gimme twenty” but that he did it in a civilized manner.

[The problem with this is a recent picture is that it’s of the 3rd US Infantry Regiment. Even the weapons aren’t close as they’re M-14s which didn’t come into service until 1959. We had the M-1 as shown in my previous blog.]

My military school training once again helped as I somehow remembered all the commands and what to do. I managed to find my left and right and even felt comfortable on what foot to start with when we were finally told to turn left, then “Fooore-ward MARCH!” down the street and into the large parade ground.

We spent the entire morning going through moving the weapon from one position to another. The Drill Sergeant spotted me right away and stood me in front of the formation as his demonstrator of how the various moves were supposed to be done.

That earned me a lot of comments out of the sides of mouths about being a “brown noser” and other, slightly more profane comments. But, it didn’t bother me. In fact, it earned me the position of being appointed the first squad leader with a brassard bearing a Private First Class stripe. That didn’t really earn me anything more than a whole lot more attention from the cadre members. I was expected to be “more GI” than anyone else. It also didn’t exclude me from the Extra Duty List.

We put our weapons back in the bay before going to lunch. Afterwards, we were marched to a huge hanger-like building where we sat on hard chairs and spent the afternoon listening to sergeants reciting their subjects and watching a bunch a grainy US Army Training films. [nowadays they have real fancy training videos with all the graphics and stuff.] The films were all black and white but some with very good footage.

This proved to be our basic routine for the first week of training. calisthenics, breakfast, parade drill, lunch, lectures, the flag lowering, dinner and working on our things in the squad bay. That often meant all of us cleaning the latrine and hand-polishing the floors.

It was during that first week that I was introduced to Kitchen Police.

The cadre called him Cookie. We ’Cruits stood nervously as he introduced us to that huge area behind the serving tables. It was hot. And steamy. With lots and lots of very hot, sudsy water.  The pictures we’d all seen of a soldier sitting on a stool peeling onions proved totally untrue. They had machines to do most of the preparation like that and it was up to us ‘Cruits to keep them clean. And the mess sergeant was gonna make damned sure they were clean.

The Assistant Drill Sergeant roused those of us selected for KP two hours before revile. We were sorted out and assigned to various areas of the massive kitchen, about half sent out to clean the dining area. We quickly learned how much work went into feeding a little over 500 young men with large appetites after all the exercising, marching, drilling and instruction. Nobody would ever mistake it for a five-star dining establishment but the food was healthy and designed to keep up our energy.

The one duty that confused me was Sentry Duty. We all had to memorize the following General Orders:

1. To take charge of this post and all government property in view.
2. To walk my post in a military manner, keeping always on the alert and observing everything that takes place within sight or hearing.
3. To report all violations of orders I am instructed to enforce.
4. To repeat all calls from posts more distant from the guardhouse than my own.
5. To quit my post only when properly relieved.
6. To receive, obey, and pass on to the sentry who relieves me, all orders from the Commanding Officer, Duty Officer, and Officers and Noncommissioned Officers of the watch only.
7. To talk to no one except in the line of duty.
8. To give the alarm in case of fire or disorder.
9. To call the Corporal of the Guard in any case not covered by instructions.
10. To salute all officers and all colors and standards not cased.
11. To be especially watchful at night and during the time for challenging, to challenge all persons on or near my post, and to allow no one to pass without proper authority.

[As I understand it, in today’s “sissy” army that doesn’t do the Daily Dozen, they only have THREE General Orders to memorize.]

But, here was my problem; we were on a massive army post completely surrounded by high barbed wire fences. Every singly entry was guarded by armed Military Policemen. The fort housed thousands of soldiers, not just recruits but many who’d been hardened by service in Korea and even the Big Deuce. Why on earth did they need some wet-behind-the-ears private marching around with a weapon with no bullets in it? Yeah, I know. It was to prepare us for The Real Thing.

Actually, sentry duty didn’t bother me. We were outside in the cool evening air with salty breezes blowing inshore from Monterey Bay. The air was clear and one could spend the hours making special forms out of the starry sky. And, it was really beautiful when the moon hung huge above.

Alas, my training only last another week. One day, while standing at Attention in formation, I keeled over. Didn’t see it coming. One minute, listening to the military music aware of being surrounded by my fellow trainees. The next, being loaded into an ambulance to be carried to the base hospital.

I learned I was among a group of trainees who had succumbed to the Asian Flu, a brand new form that had appeared on the West Coast out of nowhere.
And, for the next two months, I learned what it was to be a human guinea pig. They took blood samples morning, noon and night, explaining it was to find a vaccine to prevent it spreading further.

Great. I spent the days wandering around the ward, the hospital Day Room and Library - after mopping floors, square cornering my bed and whatever little tasks they could find for us patients. At least no KP or Sentry Duty.

[In one of the next blogs, we'll get back to basic]

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Not being lazy!

I had _really_ tried to post another piece about being in the Army - the part of how to sling a rifle around like you know what you're doing. It's called The Manual of Arms.

But, I got all tied up in some awesome stuff!!! 

I received an email from a publisher in New Zealand offering me a digital and print contract for The Sailor and The Carpenter, Book One of the Father Serra's Legacy trilogy.

 But, I had to be honest and give XOXO a chance to accept or turn down the submission of this I made to them. Almost before I could do anything, I received an email from XOXO saying they WILL offer me a contract for it when it reaches the top of the pile. She also said I could withdraw the submission if I wanted to.

I then emailed the publisher in New Zealand - plus TWO OTHERS who had expressed interest, explaining that I would remain loyal to XOXO and continue to work with them. If they felt it was worth their time and effort to see the book to publication, I felt it was my responsibility not to turn my back on them. What made it nice was the email from the Kiwi publisher indicating - more or less - "If it doesn't work out with ..."

[with that established, I submitted the sequel to SONORA SYMPHONY and will do the same for Book Two of the Father Serra's Legacy trilogy. I want to make certain they're in the queue.]

So, _I promise_ to get back to the next blog about Army life. And, as always, thanks for stopping by. The door's always open and I appreciate your comments - and clicks on this little icons below that show what you think of the post.

[And, the way things seem to be going this week - after I posted the above, I received an email about the short story I mentioned. The publisher wants to include it in the Summer Issue of Milspeak Memo which can be found at =  So, with a huge sigh of relief, it's back to what I've promised.]

Sunday, June 19, 2011

How Rabbit Shot the Sun

My stepson drew this. It probably won't make it into the novel.

“It was the height of summer, the time of year called Hadotso, the Great Heat. All day long, from a blue and cloudless sky, the blazing sun beat down upon the earth. No rain fell for many days and not the slightest breath of wind cooled the stifling air. Everything was hot and dry. Even the rose-red cliffs of the canyons and mesas seemed to take on a more brilliant color.

“The animals drooped with misery. They were parched and hungry, for it was too hot to hunt for food and, panting heavily, they sought what shade they could under the rocks and bushes.

“Rabbit was the unhappiest of all. Twice that day, the shimmering heat had tempted him to cross the baked earth towards visions of water and cool, shady trees. He had exhausted himself in his desperate attempts to reach them, only to find the mirages dissolve before him, receding further and further into the distance.”

Both children could picture poor Rabbit chasing after optical illusions.

“Now tired and wretched, Rabbit dragged himself into the shadow of an overhanging rock and listlessly crouched there. The red dust of the desert caked his soft fur. His head swam and his eyes ached from the sun's glare. “Why does it have to be so hot?” he groaned. “What have we done to deserve such torment?” He squinted up at Sun and shouted furiously, “Go away! You are making everything too hot!”

“Sun took no notice and continued to pour down his fiery beams, forcing Rabbit to retreat once more into the shade of the rock.

“’Sun needs to be taught a lesson,’ grumbled Rabbit. ‘I have a good mind to go and fight him. If he refuses to stop shining, I will kill him!’”

Alicia grinned at the thought of a lowly rabbit fighting the mighty Sun.

“Rabbit’s determination to punish Sun made him forget his weariness and, in spite of the oppressive heat, he set off at a run towards the eastern edge of the world where the Sun came up each morning,” Joe continued.

He then explained that Rabbit practiced with his bow and arrows as he ran and, to make himself brave and strong, fought with everything that crossed his path. He fought with the gophers and the lizards. He hurled his throwing stick at beetles, ants and dragonflies. He shot at the yucca and the giant cactus.

“He became a very fierce rabbit indeed,” Joe said with a smile.

“By the time he reached the edge of the world, Sun had left the sky and was nowhere to be seen.

“’The coward!’ sneered Rabbit. ‘He is afraid to fight but he will not escape me so easily.’

“So Rabbit settled to wait behind a clump of bushes.”

Sipping from the canteen, Joe paused. “In those days, Sun didn't appear slowly as he does now. Instead, he rushed up over the horizon and into the heavens with one mighty bound. Rabbit knew that he would have to act quickly in order to ambush him and he fixed his eyes intently on the spot where the Sun usually appeared.”

“Sun, however, had heard all Rabbit's threats and watched him practicing to fight. He knew that he lay in wait among the bushes. He didn't at all fear this puny creature and he thought that he might have some fun at his expense.

“Sun rolled some distance away from his usual place and swept up into the sky before Rabbit knew what happened. By the time Rabbit gathered his startled wits and released his bowstring, Sun was already high above him and out of range.

“Rabbit stamped and shouted with rage and vexation.

“Sun laughed and laughed and shone even more fiercely than before.

“Although almost dead from heat, Rabbit would not give up. Next morning he tried again but, this time, Sun came up in a different place and evaded him once more.

“Day after day, the same thing happened. Sometimes Sun sprang up on Rabbit's right, sometimes on his left and sometimes straight in front of him, but always where Rabbit least expected him.”

Joe paused so the youths could envision Rabbit’s frustration.

“One morning, however, Sun grew careless. He rose more leisurely than usual and, this time, Rabbit was ready. He swiftly drew his bow. His arrow whizzed through the air and buried itself deep in Sun's side.

“Rabbit was jubilant! At last, he had shot his enemy! Wild with joy, he leaped up and down. He rolled on the ground, hugging himself. He turned somersaults. He looked at Sun again - and stopped short.”

So did Joe.

Alicia sucked on a small pebble, a way to keep saliva in her mouth so she would not wish to drink all her water. She handed one to Rudi and Ray and they did the same. The only one who could not was Joe. Especially if he wanted to continue the story.

“Rabbit’s arrow pierced Sun, making a gaping wound and, from that wound, there gushed a stream of liquid fire. Suddenly, it seemed as if the whole world had been set ablaze. Flames shot up and rushed towards Rabbit, crackling and roaring.

Rabbit took to his heels in panic and ran as fast as he could away from the fire. He spied a lone cottonwood tree and scuttled towards it.

`“’Everything is burning!’ he cried. ‘Will you shelter me?’

“The cottonwood shook its slender branches mournfully. ‘What am I to do?’ it asked. ‘I will be burned to the ground.’

“Rabbit ran on. Behind him, the flames came closer. He could feel their breath on his back. A greasewood tree lay in his path.

“’Hide me! Hide me!’ Rabbit gasped. ‘The fire is coming.’

“’I cannot help you,’ answered the greasewood tree. ‘I will be burned up, roots and branches.’

“Terrified and almost out of breath, Rabbit continued to run. However, his strength was failing. He could feel the fire licking at his heels and his fur was beginning to singe.

“Suddenly, a voice called to him. ‘Quickly, come under me! The fire will pass over me so swiftly that it will only scorch my top.’”

Joe explained that it was the voice of a small green bush with flowers like bunches of cotton capping its thin branches.

“Gratefully, Rabbit dived below it and lay there quivering with his eyes tightly shut, his ears flat against his body.

“With a thunderous roar, the sheet of flame leaped overhead. The little bush crackled and sizzled. Then, gradually, the noise receded and everything grew quiet once more.

“Rabbit raised his head cautiously and looked around. Everywhere the earth lay black and smoking, but the fire had passed on. He was safe!

“The little bush which had sheltered him was no longer green. Burned and scorched by the fire, it had turned a golden yellow,” Joe explained. “People now call it the desert yellow brush, for, although it first grows green, it always turns yellow when it feels the heat of the sun.”

“I know that,” Alicia cried. “It's used to make a yellow dye as well as provide food.”

Joe nodded and continued his story, nonplused by the girl’s interruption.

“Rabbit never recovered from his fright. To this day, he bears brown spots where the fire scorched the back of his neck. He is no longer fierce and quarrelsome, but runs and hides at the slightest noise.

“As for Sun, he too has never quite been the same. He now makes himself so bright that no one can look at him long enough to sight an arrow and he always peers very warily over the horizon before he brings his full body into view.”

The children were thrilled and Alicia bubbled over with glee at having heard one of Joe’s stories.

Ray enjoyed it almost as much as they.

[If you'll go back to my April posts, you will find another story about Puma and Cricket.]

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Bragging Time!

2,000 hits! Wow. I didn't expect that so soon.

There's a bit of a story to this. I had a contract with Virtual Tales for my novel, SONORA SYMPHONY. However, they went out of business so the rights reverted back to me. I sucked it in and went on another query session - to publishers. Not that I'm not thrilled with agents - which I'm not - but none of them have seemed to see the value of the story. Then, I found three publishers who asked me for a complete manuscript of the novel. One said they would publish it if I submitted the manuscript and the submission would serve as the binding contract. That bothered me.

So, yesterday, I received an offer to sign a contract with XOXO Publishing of Montreal, Canada. [One of the other publishers is in Australia!] So, I did some checking and they appear to be a legitimate operation. I also found another individual who had a book published by them and it appeared to be a solid operation.

So now, I'll wait and see how smoothly this goes.
And, for those of you who are reading this, here's an excerpt:

Ray’s nostrils still seemed filled with the sanitizing stuff they used to clean the hospital wards. But, he couldn’t miss the strange smells that wafted to him on the light breeze. He heard grunts and squeals of creatures moving towards them in the gulley.

“What on earth is that?”

Joe smiled. “Javelinas.”


“Some people call ‘em musk hogs, but their proper name is collared peccary.”

A grizzled black and gray alpha male appeared first, the dark dorsal stripe, showing his status. Four females followed, their pig-like snouts seeking insects. Two young animals stayed near their mothers and another male brought up the rear.

“Pigs? Wild pigs?”

“Not really. They’re a species all to themselves, but are very loosely related to hippopotami.”

“Hippos? Those monstrous things in African rivers.”

They spoke low. but the lead javelina stopped to search for their voices. They shut up and watched the animals continue up the gulley.

The javelinas reached a stand of plants with thick broad pancake like leaves covered with spines. Joe told him, “That’s prickly pear. You don’t want to try to pick one up with your bare hands. Or even brush against it.”

“They eat those things?” Ray whispered.

“It’s their favorite food,” Joe replied.

“How on earth …?”

 “They have a very tough, grooved palate that keeps the spines from damaging their mouth.”

“The male’s tusks are quite big. Or do you call him a boar? Anyhow, they sure look sharp.” “And,” Ray added, “they point down and not up like a wild pig’s I‘ve seen in books.”

Joe grinned. “That’s a blessing The Creator gave them. They’re sharpened every time they open and close their mouths.”

The herd happily fed.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Blog Title Change

Another thing I've thought about a lot is the name of this blog. I think it was too indirect and didn't tell the complete story of why I'm here doing this.

Any comments on the change?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


We fell out for the Sunday morning flag-raising in our khaki uniforms. Even without any of the ribbons and badges worn by the veterans, it looked kinda good with the shiny lapel US tabs and the Sixth US Army patch. Instead of the “Flying Saucer” we were told to wear our garrison caps.

Church Call was held after breakfast. They provided busses for those who wished to go to services, one for Catholics, another for Protestants and even one for Mormons. I guess because we were in California there were enough of us to merit one. Before and after the service, I met a couple of guys who had gone to the church in Los Angeles I grew up in so I didn’t feel so all alone and isolated. We didn’t get to socialize as they were almost in their eighth week, far ahead of me.

Sunday supper was a pretty good meal with roast beef and baked potatoes, if I remember right. We then had the remainder of the day to relax until evening Retreat and meal. I seems to remember sitting in the Day Room to watch baseball.

We got down to business Monday morning. As soon as the flag had been raised, we were ordered to remove our caps and blouses for the morning Daily Dozen Calisthenics. Our DI carefully showed us each move before starting it. We did twelve four-count repetitions of each of the following:

First exercise, the Side Bender -

And, we were told to count ALOUD!

“What is wrong with you, ’Cruits? I CAN’T HEAR YOU!”

So, the, “One. Two, Three and One. One, Two, Three and Two” echoed between the two massive buildings as several hundred men voiced the cadence until twelve repetitions were completed.

Second exercise, the Toe Touch -

The third exercise, the Side Straddle Hop [I thought about this all night! I'm certain we called them Jumping Jacks, but that was probably too non-PC for today's military]  -

By this time, my heart was going along at a good pace and I enjoyed the chill morning air off the ocean filling my lungs.

The fourth exercise, the Windmill -

A couple of “City Boys” were finding keeping up difficult and received some kindly urging by the Cadre members there to keep an eye on us.

The fifth exercise, the Toe Touch -

The sixth exercise, the Leg Lift -

The seventh exercise, the Flutter Kick -

The eighth exercise, the Crunch [although I think it had another name in the late '50s]

The ninth exercise, the Sit-up. We took turns, each one holding the others' feet until the twelve repetitions were completed. Both of us shouted cadence. This was where about half our platoon just about had all they could deal with. A cadre member would come over and order the faltering ‘Cruit to gather up their cover and blouse to fall in before the formation.

The tenth exercise, the Squat Thrust - There were two types of these but we didn’t get to the harder ones until after two weeks.

By now, well over half of our platoon and no few from the others were formed up behind the company formation.

The eleventh exercise, the 8-count push-up -

I seem to remembering making it through all but the last few repetitions before I had to sort of cheat and go only half-way up and down. By this time, out of 160 of us in the company, no more than two dozen were still going.

The twelfth exercise, the Run-in place. We even kept cadence to this but did twenty-four four-count repetitions.

It took many years for me to realize the subtle psychology and cunning physiology behind these exercises. Each step was designed to loosen us up and tone certain muscles we would need in the combat arms. The shouting cadence took one’s mind off one’s own efforts and made us feel a part of something bigger - a team. Completing the full Daily Dozen gave each of us a sense of accomplishment, a feeling we could do anything we set out minds to.

At the same time, those who dropped out were united with others who looked on while the rest of us continued as a team. It made them want to be as good as we were and gave them a benchmark to set themselves against.

Of course, the quitters and “I can’ts” were slowly weeded out. And, the DIs and cadre members set out to help those in bad shape to catch up.

Having lived on the ranch and enjoying gym class in school, I didn’t have a lot of problems with any of the exercises - except push-ups. That surprised me as I thought I was strong in the arms.

From that morning on, we never “walked” anywhere. It was either in March Step or, most often, Double Time.

Afterwards, we were dismissed to shower and change into clean fatigues, showing why we’d been issued three of everything. From there, it was breakfast followed by our real introduction to training - The Manual of Arms and How to March - Coming next.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Some Blog Additions

You all might check the right margin as I've added a couple of features.

First is a listing of the various blogs I follow.
Second is a list of Writing Forums I visit on a daily basis
Third is a list of Writing/Discussion forums I check one a week or so
And fourth is a list of military-related sites.

If there are any of your own favorites, let me know and I'll add them.

Sunday, June 12, 2011


Four racks for our weapons stood in the center of each bay.

“You will sling your weapon over your right shoulder with the muzzle pointing downwards. Do you understand?”

“Yes, Drill Sergeant.”

When our less than gusty reply dissatisfied him, the DI shouted, “Are you a bunch of little children? Let me hear you.”


When all had done as directed - two ‘Cruits slinging them over the left shoulder, of course - the DI ordered us to sit on our foot lockers. “Pay attention, ‘Cruits. I am going to show you how to break down your weapon, clean it, then reassemble it.” He paused, then asked, “Has any of you ever owned or fired a weapon?”

I was one of three who raised our hands.

“Come forward and watch closely what I am about to do.”

We complied. I stared in amazement as he broke the weapon down in what seemed a matter of seconds.

He first turned it over and pulled up on the trigger guard to remove the trigger group.

He then broke the weapon into two pieces.

“This is called Field Stripping. Each of you will do as I did and then show it to the people on either side of you.”

Having owned and used rifles while living on the ranch, I quickly learned how to break down the weapon. I then bit my lip as the guy to my right couldn’t figure out how to remove the trigger group.

Once everybody had their weapons field stripped, the DI pulled out the cleaning kit from the butt of the stock of his weapon. It held a small can of oil and a rod. He had us do the same and we removed a small piece of cloth from our cleaning kits and he showed us how to put it into the end of the rod.

He was surprisingly patient with those who had never before held any kind of weapon. He didn’t even yell at the three who kept calling them “guns.”

“This is not a gun, recruits. This is a rifle. You will refer to it as a weapon.” He further explained that guns were artillery pieces. “When you go into combat, this will save your life and the lives of your companions. You must learn to treat it more carefully than your wives or girlfriends.”

I wondered about that. Going into combat? Korea was over and we didn’t have anything brewing that I knew of.

He then went up and down the barracks, stopping to ask every one of us our name, rank, serial number and the serial number of our weapon. He also inspected each weapon, pointing our where pieces of Cosmoline had not been cleaned away. [That’s the waxy stuff they smeared all over weapons when storing or shipping them.] He managed to find the tiniest motes of dust in the darndest places.

When it was time for the evening flag lowering, we were told to stack our weapons in the racks and fall out. As it was our third time of the time, we did so faster. He told us before dismissing us for chow that, as the next day was Sunday, we would fall out wearing our khaki uniforms.

I’d heard a lot of stories about Army food. So far, everything they’d served us had been okay. Not exactly haute cuisine but good, filling meat and potatoes type food. There was always soup, a main entrée and dessert for dinner. The baked goods were fresh and often oven-warm. With nothing pending, we could take our time.

I know my bunk mate and I came from different backgrounds. I’d been raised in the Mormon church and kinda found it hard to melt in with those who were “Gentiles” as we called them.

One thing surprised me. There were six or seven blacks [that’s what we called them in the 50’s, nothing racist about it] and several Latinos. Being in the army broke down any barriers. We were recruits trying to adjust to massive changes in our lives and we turned to anyone who could help us get along. Our ten man squad was mixed and we hung together as we knew we’d be going through a lot of things together.

As in our bay, the mess hall had a bulletin board. Before leaving, I stopped at it, finding a small notice in one corner indicating where one could fall out the next morning for church services. There was even a place for Jewish personnel that evening after chow. There was even a Mormon church service.

We had no idea what to do. We had until nine o’clock to be in bed but didn’t have enough money to do much more. Monday was the first of July, meaning payday for those who had any coming. For those further along in the cycle, buses ran through the training area to take them to the base theaters - I think there were four or five of them - and the Enlisted Club. As for newbies like us, it was either the company Day Room or our bunks. I wandered to the Day Room to find it had a small library of paperback books and magazines along with a pool table [always in use], several tables for card players and a color television set.

Duple had been an inveterate card player, dragging me to many of her “hen sessions” to make a fourth, so I picked a table looking for a fourth and quickly learned the basics of Pinochle. Two tables were playing poker using matchsticks instead of money. But, I quickly learned the stakes were for real.

As Taps played that evening, I lay in my bunk and thought being in the army wasn’t going to be all that difficult. Just follow the rules, listen to the DI and do my best to stay out of trouble.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Some Self-Publicity

I was in OfficeMax the other day and saw something by Avery to do with business cards. The salesman told me I could design my own and print them out on my computer. Well ... here they are!

The little red line is obviously to tell everyone I got them free from that site. For a mere $3 and change, they'll remove the line from the pdf.

Avery has a website where one can design and download business cards using their templates. I tried it, didn't like the selection and decided to find another. This is the site I chose.

A very important point! Make certain WHICH type of card you buy!!!!! I bought the one for Laser Printers without realizing I couldn't make cards on my Ink Jet printer. I ended up going back to Office Max and had them print them for me. Yes, I checked and found the ones for my printer when I want to make more.

I don't know how this is going to work but it gives you a chance to seek readers face-to-face, adding to the pissibility of having them buy your things.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


I found it much easier to roll out of the sack the next morning. Our barracks sergeant of course found fault with no few of us and even Fall on Yer Face made it out to formation with the rest of us. We underwent the usual inspection, none of us meeting the sergeant’s expectations. After the flag was raised, we marched in step [almost] to the mess hall. Much to our surprise, we were marched back to the barracks afterwards where the sergeant spent an hour showing us how to repack our duffel bags so the clothing would not become wrinkled.

Once all the duffels were packed and padlocked, we were ordered to heft them on our shoulders to fall out. Six or seven 45 passenger army busses sat there and we were loaded into one. [It just happened there were 40 of us in the barracks bay.] Once all the busses were loaded, we drove out of the processing area and up a long hill to new buildings erected in two orderly rows.

These would be our living quarters while taking basic training. I don’t remember exactly how it was organized but it seems to me each floor held a training company of four platoons of 40 ‘Cruits and each building held a training battalion. The ground floor had a mess hall, an orderly room for each company,  three day rooms, and laundry facilities. I managed to claim an upper bunk near the door leading to the latrine.

“Secure yer duffels to your bunks and fall in!”

We hurried to comply - some less swift and garnering “Drop ‘n gimme 20!”
We were then led to the same stairway we’d entered on - I think we were on the 3rd floor - and marched downstairs and into the mess hall. The other two companies were just ahead of us in the training cycle so they got to eat before us. But, there was lots and lots of food left.

We were then given the afternoon to “police our areas” a term for making our foot and wall lockers meet the exacting standards directed by our new DI.

I doubt anyone else fully appreciated who would be in charge of turning raw ‘Cruits into soldiers. Our Drill Instructor had five stripes of a a Sergeant First Class on his sleeves. He also had five service stripes showing 15 years’ service along with foreign service bars showing a lot of combat time. His Fruit Salad indicated a man who’d been there and done that. A Silver Star earned for some truly heroic action. A Purple Heart ribbon with two little things showing he’d been wounded three times. I later learned another ribbon was for two awards of the Bronze Star. When I checked it out on a chart outside the Day Room [which we were only allowed to use after showing we earned the privilege], I saw he’d served in Korea on a whole lot of campaigns.

Unlike the four-striper in the processing area, our Drill Instructor did not need to shout to catch one’s attention. He had a way of getting into your face and speaking in a reasonable tone that made you shiver and wish to find a hole to climb into. I never heard him use a single world of profanity - until some idiot turned on the firing line and pointed a loaded M-1 rifle in the direction of the soldier standing next to him. Even then, after the initial burst, he calmed to quietly and effectively dress down the individual so the rest of us could hear - and learn.

The first thing he pointed out was a bulletin board on the wall next to the door. “You will all check the board every time you come near this door. It will list the classes for the next day and, most importantly, the names of those selected for various details.”

Guard duty? What on earth? With what? And where?
KP or Kitchen Police I knew. That meant working in the mess hall.
Latrine Duty was also self-evident.

*     *     *

 “You know military drill?”

“Yes, Drill Sergeant!”

“Good. When we fall out, you will take the 2nd platoon Guidon position.”

“Yes, Drill Sergeant!”

When the sergeant yelled for us to fall out, I ran downstairs and quickly found my spot. The three other platoons were almost formed up and a sergeant with six stripes and a diamond in the middle, our First Sergeant, gave my fellow soldiers dirty looks for failing to do the same. For the first time, we saw our officers. Three Platoon Leaders, lieutenants with silver bars, stood slight ahead of the platoon sergeants with another, the Company Commander wearing two silver bars in front of all with the six-striper slight behind him, another officer with a gold bar slightly to one side.

Ours was the middle of three companies. We were put At Ease and our DI’s walked through each platoon to make minor “adjustments” in our posture and uniforms. How could men not see how others wore their headgear? Did they think they could make theirs individual?

The company commander then asked the first sergeant to “Call the Role.” Each platoon leader passed that to their sergeants who then barked the names of each individual from a list on a clipboard. [Not a computer - an actual piece of wood with a clasp to hold papers.] Each ‘Cruit called out “Present, Sergeant” until all answered. The sergeant then reported the results to the platoon leader who then reported that to the company commander.

The company commander then asked the first sergeant to “Call the Role.” Each platoon leader passed that to their sergeants who then barked the names of each individual from a list on a clipboard. [Not a computer - an actual piece of wood with a clasp to hold papers.] Each ‘Cruit called out “Present, Sergeant” until all answered. The sergeant then reported the results to the platoon leader who then reported that to the company commander.

A bugle call came through the loudspeakers and began a routine I would become very familiar during the following weeks. A sergeant major standing with the battalion commander [a lieutenant colonel] called “Stand At Aten-shun.” Each first sergeant followed suit, echoed by each platoon sergeant. The sergeant major then ordered “Present Arms!” at which the order was echoed and we raised our hands to our forehead in the hand salute. We held it during the playing of the National Anthem, at which we heard “Order Arms” and dropped our hands.

The officers then turned the companies over to the sergeants who inspected us once again, “suggesting” changes in our recent responses. The other two companies were dismissed and the men streamed inside to the mess hall. Out platoon was the last to be released as we had far more infractions to be corrected - often accompanied by many “Drop and gimme twenty!”

Again, the food was filling and high-energy in content. Some of the older men complained about it but the newbies like me found nothing to complain about.

And then, after breakfast, came the part all of us awaited - issuance of our weapons and field gear.

Ours were metal

Like this

 The list is rather lengthy so I’ll cut it down to a few items all of us couldn’t survive without. A poncho to hold off the rain. A shelter half - or one half of a tent to shared in the field with another soldier. Web belt, backpack, entrenching tool [a nice name for a folding shovel] and, most important of all, our mess gear. There was also our helmet and helmet cover and a first aid pack.

But, that wasn’t all. We went to a barred door and, after showing our ID card and dog tags, we signed a sheet and were handed an M-1 Garand Rifle with bayonet, bayonet sheath and weapon cleaning kit.

Rifle, M-1 Garand - the basic infantry weapon
 We were told, quite firmly, we were to memorize our weapon’s serial number as firmly as our individual serial number.

Now, in truth - we were soldiers!

Monday, June 6, 2011


The older part of Fort Ord

Revile reverberated through my skull like the sound of a blacksmith pounding on an anvil. Probably worse as the loudspeaker was directly outside the open window from my bunk. And, it didn’t help that it was scratchy and overcome by the sound from speakers further away.

Of course, our barracks sergeant arrived to admonish us that it was time to rise and shine. “Git yer lazy rear ends outta them bunks! Hit the floor! Ya got exactly fifteen minutes ta git yer stuff done and fall out in front of the barracks!”

Now, I have to admit to my readers my slight advantage over my fellow ‘Cruits. During World War Deuce, my dad had been an LA cop and mom was a Rosie The Riveter. [I still couldn’t get over the fact they weren’t my real parents and had spent 18 years lying to me.] They sent me to a boarding school called Page Military Academy. There, I learned about military life to include all the appropriate bugle calls, military protocols, how to stand and march, even the Manual of Arms for weapons. We lived in barracks-type conditions and went through the exact same things we were being called upon to do.

One of the guys forgot he was in a top bunk and ended up flat on his face on the floor. Of course, the barracks sergeant came to assist him to his feet with a few well-chosen admonitions.  That soldier earned the name of Fall on Yer Face - probably for the remainder of his basic training.

“Boy, they sure keep this place clean. Must have a heck of a janitor.”

I almost choked when I heard one of the Rubes say that. He’d proudly told everyone he’d lived on a produce farm out in The Valley.

I knew what to do and quickly splashed water on my face, brushed my teeth, donned my OG socks, pants and blouse - we never wore shirts. After Lights Out the night before, I’d sat on my footlocker using a small flashlight I’d bought in the Exchange store to finish polishing my brass belt buckle and brown boots. When the sergeant told us to “Fall out!” I was first out the door. I immediately saw the small white lines painted in the middle of the street and found the same spot I’d been in during our march to the barracks. I stood there At Ease while our sergeant carefully instructed the others where to stand, going a bit further to explain the proper posture - as well as “suggesting” what minor infractions in uniform wear certain members had performed.

I knew to stand At East until called to Attention. Feet shoulder-width apart, hands clasped behind my back, upper torso slightly relaxed, able to look around and talk - UNLESS one was a ‘Cruit at which time one kept his mouth closed.


When the vast majority of my fellow ‘Cruits had no idea what to do, we went through a fifteen minute lesson on the proper way of standing at attention.

Heels together, toes as a forty-five degree angle. Knees slightly bent. Stomach in. Chin tight. Eyes straight front. Hands down at your sides, thumbs on the seam of your pants. Do not - I repeat - do not look around or speak to the individual next to you.

Our barracks sergeant paid particular attention to Fall on Yer Face as well as others who could not manage to get outside in a timely manner. The rest of us were told “At ease!”

The fuzzy sound of another bugle call brought the formation to Attention, followed by the order “Pree-sent Harms!”

I saw the sergeant cringe at a goodly number of my fellow ‘Cruits who didn’t know which hand to salute with. A couple had watched too many British movies because they tried it with the palm out.

The Star Spangled Banner blurred through the air, overwhelmed by other loudspeakers far in the distance. One note sounded close, then again several blocks over and yet again further on until the last note sounded way up on the hill. And, when it was over where we were, several men in my formation dropped their salutes, the rest of us holding on until the final note sounded from the nether-lands.

“Hor-der Harms!” That was followed by a question. “Who told you to stop saluting? You do not honor our National Anthem? What is wrong with you, ‘Cruit?” That was followed with an order to “Drop and give me twenty!” The ‘Cruit dropped to his hands and feet, struggling to perform the 20 push-ups.

Knowing there was no way the platoon knew how to march in formation, the sergeant finally ordered, “Route Step, MARCH!” and told me to lead the way to the mess hall. Without expecting it, I’d become the platoon Guidon.

Having lived on a ranch, I was used to hearty breakfasts. After getting my tray and utensils, I walked down the line and watched as cooks piled on scrambled eggs, potatoes, bacon, small pancakes and toast. There were pats of butter and maple syrup along with grape jelly. A small carton of juice and a larger one of milk. There were cups and several huge urns for those who drank coffee.

I did notice the sergeants ate the same food as we, even though they sat together in a special section.

At the end of thirty minutes, the sergeant came and told the few who’d not finished to pick up their trays and follow him. There was a place to scrape the left over food from the plates, rinse them in a dirty tub of water, then drop the trays in one place, silverware in another, and our drinking vessels in another.

We spent an hour on instructions how to stand in formation, follow commands and even march. [I had to fight back snickering at the few who had two left feet.] We also heard how we were expected to have shined boots and polished brass. For those who did not understand the latter, they were detailed to polish the metal fixtures in the latrine. For those who didn’t understand polishing boots, they got to polish the floor - on their hands and knees with tooth brushes.

We were then marched to a building where we received cloth name tags. We marched back to the barracks, given five minutes to gather our blouses and jackets, then marched to another building where name tags and patches were sewn on.

With that out of the way, we returned to the barracks where the sergeant individually “instructed” us on how to arrange our footlockers and wall lockers. There was a closet with five steam irons and ironing boards and we were given the opportunity to press our uniforms - at least those who knew what an iron was.

There was no way the barracks sergeant was going to teach us what we needed to do in such a short time. His job was to give us the basics so we wouldn’t make complete fools of ourselves.

Oh yeah, the Rube who’d asked how the barracks had been so clean learned when the sergeant detailed him and others to clean the latrine and polish the floors - yes, they had one of those big floor polishers and cans of floor polish. And one did not simply drape a mop anywhere to dry - there was a very specific way of rinsing it and then placing it in its designated place to dry - along with brooms, dust pans and rags.

Lunch was filling and we had time afterwards to go to the Exchange store to buy a few extra things we hadn’t realized we needed. Most importantly, it was time to follow the drawing on exactly how things were to be placed in our foot and wall lockers. Oh yes, each of us had to buy combination padlocks.

We fell out for Retreat and then marched to the mess hall for dinner. I wondered what we were going to do after that and wasn’t disappointed when they marched us to a theater where we and another platoon of ’Cruits spent two hours watching movies on The Code of Conduct and History of the US Army.

While some guys flaked out on their bunks back in the barracks, I sat on my footlocker reading the field manual they’d issued us along with the rest of our stuff. I also knew that what we’d been given to that point was just a start.

I lay on my bunk thinking about the day just past when the sounds of Taps came through the night air. Somehow the soft, even sad notes, were clear instead of fuzzy like the rest.

So far, so good.

Sunday, June 5, 2011


It seemed to take forever for the train to get out of the railroad yards. I knew we headed north toward the San Fernando Valley, having grown up in Los Angeles. The train car appeared a little on the worn side and didn’t seem like any I’d remembered from a couple of trips I took before. It was only after a bit of looking around that I spotted the US Army Transportation Corps logo on the door at the front of the car. How had they hooked up an Army troop car to the regular train? That also explained the narrow aisle with two rows of three across seats.

I also noticed that a strange thing had occurred. We were all new recruits but it seemed everybody somehow sorted themselves into two very distinct groups. There were the acne-faced, beardless kids like me. And the other group clearly had more than two years under their skin. We young RA’s [for Regular Army] smiled and joked with each other, eager for the adventure before us. The US’s [Draftees} glumly sat in the seats, most with eyes closed, showing no interest in the sprawl of LA passing by us.

We RA’s calmed down by the time we got to Ventura, turning our attention to the ocean to our left. The train briefly stopped there before going on to our next stop in Santa Barbara.

The train car had only two toilets and a constant line formed up outside of them. I noticed another area in the front of the car and had no idea what it was for. The hour grew late and the sun lowered close to the horizon. All of us were hungry and wondered if and when they would feed us.

That’s when we learned what the compartment up front was for. Two men in white jackets, olive drab pants tucking into shiny brown boots, came out and ordered for recruits in the front row to follow them. They in turn returned carrying stacks of boxes in the arms. K-Rations! Our first real Army meal. The stuff that had carried GI’s across Europe, the Pacific and Korea.

We were really soldiers.

K-Ration Supper Unit: canned meat, consisting of either chicken paté, pork luncheon meat with carrot and apple (1st issue), beef and pork loaf (2nd issue), or sausages; biscuits; a 2-ounce D ration emergency chocolate bar, Tropical bar, or (in temperate climates) commercial sweet chocolate bar; a packet of toilet paper tissues; a 4-pack of cigarettes; chewing gum, and a bouillon soup cube or powder packet.

The only difference between the picture above is, instead of the little metal key-like thing, mine contained a can opener I knew from my Boy Scout days - a P-38.

We recruits eagerly opened and dug into our packets, examining every little part of them. I quickly learned that being a non-smoker provided me with some good leverage. My small packet of cigarettes and matches earned me two extra chocolate bars. One of the older guys who’d sorta been put in charge of us because he’d been in before, made it a point of telling us to keep everything we didn’t eat for “future use,” not explaining exactly what that meant. What on earth would I need the teepee or soup packet for?

The same guys who’d passed out the food came by an hour later to gather up the empty boxes. It grew dark outside and all we soon saw were lights and small towns we quickly passed through. We stopped at San Luis Obispo, Paso Robles and King City. [Growing up in California, it wasn’t until many years later that I learned Paso Robles meant Oak Tree Pass.]

Sometime about four in the morning, we stopped and the motion of the car jerked all of us awake. It became clear the car was being uncoupled from the rest of the train. Once something shoved us unto a siding, a gruff voice shouted, “All you ‘Cruits! Outa yer seats. On yer feet. Grab yer pitiful stuff and fall in outside.”

Somehow, the way he said “Cruit” told us we were the dumbest, most worthless pieces of excrement in all the universe. I must also point out that never once did I hear any of those noncoms use profanity or vulgarity at any of us. Yet, they could make one feel no bigger than an ant by the way they “informed you of the proper Army way.”

The stripes on his sleeve told us he was some kind of sergeant. I almost smiled at the cowboy hat he wore.
[Another lesson - it’s a “Campaign Hat” and denotes a Drill Instructor, one of the most bad-ass noncoms in the entire universe! At least back then.]

He spent the next half hour shouting and “lecturing” us in getting into a formation. We of course heard what was to become a litany I can never forget. “Do not call me Sir, ‘Cruit. I work for a living and you will call me Sergeant! Am I clear.”

“Y-yes, Si --- Sergeant.”

“What did you say, ‘Cruit? I can’t hear you!”

He sorted us out, tallest in front, shortest in the rear. At 6’1”, I was in the second row to the front. “Ah-left face!” he shouted. “You there! Your other left!”

Must of us were numb from the long day and even longer train ride. It was cold and dark and misty. But somehow, he got us into some kind of order and marched us to three school buses painted olive drab with US Army in black on their sides. We climbed in and sat back, wondering what came next.

We crossed some hills and, as the sky turned gray in the east, we saw the ocean in front of us as the buses turned left through a large gate with Military Police guards waving us through. They carried rifles and all of us wondered if they were real and filled with bullets.

We stopped in front of some building right out of movies I’d seen. Sergeants shouted and yelled as we stumbled out of the buses and somehow got ourselves into an almost orderly formation. Each of us carried a large, sealed manila envelope with our names and serial numbers on them.

Oh yeah. Did I mention that one of the things we heard over and over again at the processing station was, “You will memorize your serial number. Failure to do so will result in punishment.” I had to drop down to hands and feet to do pushups at least twice at the processing station and had it down pat by the time we got to Fort Ord. Yes - I still have it memorized more than 50 years later!! RA19 xxx xx8.

We lined up and passed through a series of stations. We turned over our records, had a quick run through a barber shop where our glorious hair was shaved to the scalp, moved to another where someone took our picture, yet another where we filled out a form before watching a soldier stamp a couple of pieces of metal with our names, ranks, serial numbers and blood types. We walked to the next station proudly wearing our Dog Tags. [However, the draftees weren’t all that happy with ‘em.]

Our next stop was a desk where we filled out another form - Last Name first, First Name and Middle Initial. “Not your middle name dummy!” That led to one other stop where we signed some kind of list and an officer wearing a single gold bar handed us $15!!! Our first military pay.

Then, came the issuance of our gear. A large, olive green duffel bag was soon filled with OG underclothing, socks, outer clothing, work uniforms, dress uniforms [to include an Ike Jacket], coats, jackets and hats. And, we got fitted for brown boots, combat and shoes, low quarter.

Finally, we stopped at one more station where we were given patches, shoulder, tags, name and cards, identity. [I didn’t recognize the guy in the photo!]

One final journey was to a WWII barracks where the sergeant told us to select our bunks. Each had a footlocker and a wall locker. We put our duffel bags on the bunk we wanted and followed the sergeant to where we were issued thin mattresses, sheets, a wool blanket, a pillow and pillow cover - all Green, Olive, Shade 107.

But, there was no time for rest. Several sergeants with three stripes on their sleeves came in and shouted, cajoled and otherwise bullied a bunch of stupid ‘Cruits in how to properly make a bed, fold and store our things in our footlockers and wall lockers.

Finally, properly dressed in our OG fatigue uniforms, we were marched to a building that turned out to be a mess hall.

Some of you veterans and even active duty types are probably lifting your noses and sneering about Mess Hall Slop, but I’m gonna tell you, that was probably the best banquet I’d tasted in as long as I can remember. The tin tray partitioned off into sections was heaped with a steaming stew, mashed potatoes, vegetables and a piece of chocolate cake. A plastic glass came to be filled with cold milk, a couple of pieces of white bread, real butter and we moved on to gather up our paper napkin and silverware.
We were marched to a small store after dinner where be bought some necessities from a list. Besides toothbrushes and toothpaste, soap, comb, razor, shaving cream and so on, it included shoe polish, shoe brush, shining rag and Brasso. [All you GI’s recognize that, don’t you!]

Back in the barracks, with sergeants hovering over us, we polished our boots and shoes and the brass insignia we were to wear on our Class A and B uniform.

Lights Out came at 9pm and every once of us collapsed into our bunks. I am certain I was asleep before my head hit the pillow.

[More next post. I’m sure you GI’s know what’s coming.]