US Army Retired

US Army Retired

Sunday, January 31, 2016


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 behind 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 then.

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 “Cruits say that. He’d proudly told everyone he’d lived on a produce farm out in The San Fernando 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 one's 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 to the 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 afterward 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 passed 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.


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 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 afterward 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 and fall out. Six or seven 45 passenger army buses sat there and we were loaded into one. [It just happened there were 40 of us in the barracks bay.] Once all the buses 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 - 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-stripe Staff Sergeant 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 outburst, 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 slightly 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.

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. Our platoon was the last to be released as we had far more infractions to be corrected - often accompanied by many commands of “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.

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 share 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!


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 weenie little children? Let me hear you.”


When all did 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, 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.

For those of you who have never had the pleasure of dining in a military cafeteria, let me explain it to you.

First, you move into a single file from your parade formation and make your way into the mess hall. There is a huge stack of metal trays laid out that look like most frozen foods from your grocery story (at least four times bigger.) You pick one up and work your way down a line of steam tables with huge containers of food. A soldier stands behind each item and slops his food into the appropriate section of your tray. In some cases, an actual cook will slice or portion out the main meat. Just beyond the steam tables is where you pick up a cup or glass to fill at the appropriate dispenser – lots and lots of milk or thick black coffee. You then continue to follow the line to the table assigned to your squad. There will be condiments on the table, just the bare necessity. Once you clean every little crumb on your tray, you take it to an area where you place it on a pile, dropping your utensils and drink container in the appropriate place.

You are then either free to find the assigned area to have a smoke or return to your squad bay.

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 Negros [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 stuff 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 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.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

June 1957 - Joining the Army

My life took a major turn when it was time to graduate from high school. Receiving a diploma was something I’d done as little work as possible to achieve. I seldom did homework, just managed to skate by, probably from the amount of prodigious reading I had done all my life.

I faced a problem; I had no way to go on to college. A Juvenile Court judge told me I would have to spend the remainder of my sentence for Grand Theft Auto in the Juvenile Detention Center or -- and that was a big or -- I could learn some discipline from a military drill instructor. I naturally chose the military.

The Army recruiter showed me all the wonderful schools available to someone with my preliminary test scores and I instantly selected the one to become a veterinary assistant. It was all worked out so, four days after my eighteenth birthday, I would enlist in the army with a promise to go to a great school -- if I successfully completed basic training.

It was too good to be true.

The first sign of what was to come was the day my grandmother went to the recruiter’s office with me to sign the papers. She handed over my birth certificate (which I had never seen) and the recruiter asked her, “Is this some kind of joke? This is for a Dale Day.”

She reddened slightly and stammered that it was. “Yes, sergeant, that is his birth certificate.”

When I asked, the recruiter handed it to me and I stared in disbelief. Scanning down to the names of my mother and father, they sure as heck weren't those of the people I thought were my parents.

Eighteen years living a deception!

Shock? Anger? You better believe it! Everyone I thought was family wasn’t. I’d been lied to all of my life. And, to add insult to injury, Duple (I could no longer call her Nana) apologized to the recruiter for causing the inconvenience of having to make up new papers!

Duple wouldn’t explain. I quickly signed the new papers the recruiter typed up and returned to the foster home where I'd lived for the past four years to get my things in order.

The recruiter took me and four other enlistees to the big induction center in downtown Los Angeles and, with at least a hundred other young souls, I raised my hand and swore the oath to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States of America. What a proud moment.

And freedom!

A long battery of tests followed after the humiliating physical examination. For those who aren’t familiar with that, they put about a hundred of you in this big gymnasium-like room and have you strip down to your t-shirt, shorts and socks. Then a doctor and medic go up and down each line, poking, prodding, listening through that ice cold thing they wear and - most humiliating of all - making you bend over, drop your shorts and suffer the indignity of having this guy shove a finger encased in a rubber glove up you-know-where!

I wasn’t offended by the various sergeants treating me like a moron with step-by-step instructions in the minutest detail. I looked at some of the others, wondering how they’d managed to get a diploma, learning that no few of them had not. There were also a number with lots of college and/or university time - there courtesy of The Draft.

You will print, not write, your last name first, then your first name and then your middle initial.”

And, they had to go over it for at least twenty men who could not, for the life of them, understand just what that meant.

We were then handed some test papers and went through another agonizing [to me] instruction period of how to only mark between the little brackets, carefully erase any mistakes, not to raise our hands to ask questions ,and definitely not talk to the person next to us.

I was a whiz at passing tests and those were no different. Multiple choice was so easy I finished well ahead of everyone else in the room. That meant I was sent to another room to wait. And wait...

The time came to learn the test results The interviewer showed me the scores, commenting about how they were among the highest he’d seen from someone without college credits. He explained that my IQ score of 142 put me in the upper percentile, something I just shrugged off as I’d already figured that out. Next came a rundown of the various aptitude tests.

And the male bovine excrement hit the flabellum!

While my scores were more than high enough for the veterinary assistant school, my mechanical aptitude score was even higher. It seemed the army had a severe shortage of people able to maintain and repair heavy construction equipment. And, I was going to be assigned to a school for just that after my completion of basic training. I wasn’t exactly thrilled by that and complained that I'd signed up for the other school.

Listen, 'Cruit, there is one thing you'd better learn right now,” the sergeant said, “is that the needs of the service come first. You have the scores and the army has the need. You're already sworn in, so that's it. Got it?”

I muttered something and bit back the anger. There was no turning back. Being a grease monkey was better than being behind bars. Besides, they already had me as I’d signed the papers and swore the oath. I was in, like it or not.


LA Train Station

The processing center was in the middle of downtown so, when we’d finished all the administrative processing, they lined us up and marched us [more like straggled us] to the Los Angeles Union Train Station. It didn’t take that long and they gathered us in one spot so we could wait - and wait - until it was time to lead us through some big gates onto the tracks. We boarded a passenger train and were herded into one particular car the army had set aside for us.

Noon Daylight

I hadn't eaten since early morning. We’d missed lunch. So, all of us wondered if they were ever going to feed us. The train barely started to move when a soldier in fatigues came in pushing a big cart filled with boxed meals. I don’t remember what kind of selection they offered but, as I sat towards the back of the car, I think my choice was Bologna on stale white bread smeared with oleo, a small bag of chips, an apple and a small carton of milk. At least, once we were underway, they brought a huge urn of coffee - which I didn’t drink back then because I was a member of the Mormon church.

I was on my way!


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. 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 previously took. 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.

A strange thing occurred. We were all new recruits but it seemed everybody somehow sorted themselves into very distinct groups. There were the acne-faced, beardless kids like me who had just signed up. Another group clearly had more than two years of previous service under their skins. We young RA’s [for Regular Army] smiled and joked with each other, eager for the adventure before them. And then there were the US’s [Draftees} who glumly sat in their seats, most with eyes closed, showing no interest in the passing sprawl of LA. The Prior Service types quickly dropped off to sleep.

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 dirty white jackets, olive drab pants tucked into shiny brown boots, came out and ordered four recruits in the front row to follow them. They in turn returned carrying stacks of boxes. 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 them and dug into our packets, examining every item. 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 Tee Pee 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 quickly passing by. 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.

"1911 Hat, Service, M1911 (Campaign Hat.)"

[Another lesson – it 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!”

Most 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 found a seat, wondering what came next.

We crossed some hills and, as the sky turned gray in the east, we saw the ocean 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.

WWII Barracks

We stopped in front of some buildings right out of the movies. 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 but had it down pat by the time we got to Fort Ord. Yes - I still have it memorized more than 55 years later!! RA-19-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 three five dollar bills!!! Our first military pay.

Fatigue Blouse

Then, came the issuance of our gear. A large, olive gray duffel bag was soon filled with Olive Gray 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!]

Our 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 were able to claim 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.

Mess Tray

Some of you veterans and even active duty types are probably lifting your noses and sneering at Mess Hall Slop, but I’m gonna tell you, that was probably the best banquet I’d tasted in as long as I could 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 9 pm and every one of us collapsed into our bunks. I am certain I was asleep before my head hit the pillow.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

My First Army Tour of Duty

When I started this blog, I wrote about the first time I enlisted. I wrote about the initial testing and swearing the Oath of Enlistment -- as laid out in the US Constitution. I talked about going by train from Los Angeles to Fort Ord for Basic Training followed by undergoing Advanced Training at Fort Belvoir, Virgina. That was followed by boarding a troop ship to go to Europe and my next assignment to an Engineer Maintenance Platoon in the South of France. It ended with my return to the USA and my discharge from the Army.

Since that time, I've learned a lot more about blogging - and hopefully have improved my writing skills.

So, for the next week or so, I am going to repost that story with better images.

I hope you will enjoy them.

And, I can only suggest that comments are always welcome. And, just below this are three little boxes in which you can indicate your reaction. Participation will tell me how I'm doing.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

A Rejection that Isn't a Downer

Not every rejection has to be negative is something I just learned. I sent out the following query with the hope that it stood a chance as the University of Oklahoma is where the Cherokee Nation is. For your information, the word “Tsalagi” is what the Cherokee call themselves. It is phonetically – Cha-Lah-Gee. So you can see who early Europeans mangled it to Cherokee. Here's the query:

Dear Ms. Tamulevich,

Staff Sergeant Ray Daniels, a modern Tsalagi warrior, awakens from nothingness. He feels the aches and pains of his healing physical injuries. But not the mental ones. Even the bravest mind cowers and entombs memories when confronted with unbearable horrors. Ray's memories only crawl out during his weakest hours, and when they do, they drag him awake, covered in cold sweat and shaking from unheard screams.

He doesn't know who he is, where he's from, and whether he has a family. All he knows is that the doctors told him he was injured in Afghanistan. Unlike the other patients, no one visits him. No family. No friends. He is alone.

Frustrated, he leaves the hospital to find himself in a truck stop outside of South Tuscon, Arizona. There, he's noticed by an ex-Green Beret veteran of the Vietnam War. Joe Redmond recognizes the blankness in the young soldier's eyes. He's an elder of the Tohono O'odham (Papago) Tribe and takes Ray in, seeking to heal him using traditional know-how.

Sonora Symphony is a contemporary novel of 109,000 words that approaches PTSD from a unique perspective. Ray's immersed in nature, given healthful and healing foods, and has his dark thoughts diverted with tales and lore of American Indians. All takes place in the Sonora Desert of southern Arizona.

Ray takes part in an ancient ritual on Baboquivari, the sacred mountain. It leads to a fork in his life's road. One leads to the World Above and the other to his future.

The potential audience for this work includes, but is not limited to, military personnel, both active and retired, anyone has has or has suffered from PTSD, all who are interested in the legends and culture of American Indians, nature lovers and those interested in beneficial plants, herb, and cooking, and a general audience interested in a good story.

I am aware of your submission guidelines and am prepared to submit all of it upon learning of your interest in this. I have, however, attached the first three chapters for your pleasure.

Thank you. Sincerely,

And so on as required.

So, yesterday I receive this response:

Dear Master Sergeant Dale Day,

Thank you so much for submitting your book idea to the University of Oklahoma Press. The novel sounds intriguing as well as important in terms of exploring the life of a contemporary Native soldier with PTSD. While the project merits publication, I fear the OU Press is not the right publisher for it. We rarely publish fiction given the unpredictable and volatile sales as well as the strong competition from commercial publishers. Thus, I suggest you contact the University of Arizona Press or the University of New Mexico Press since they publish fiction more frequently than we do.

I appreciate your thinking of the OU Press in regards to your publishing plans and wish you all the best in finding an appropriate publisher.

Best wishes,


Makes me feel good! Upbeat. She says it “merits publication.” And suggests two places where it might find a home.

Now, this leaves me with a couple of options:

a. I have a query pending with a literary agent who lived in the area where the novel takes place. Do I give her a follow up with this to show her someone thinks it has merit?

b. Contact the two universities and include the OkU comment?

What would you do?