in honor of memorial day
An Army Memory!
So this is during basic training June-August 2002.
When the end of our journey was coming to a close, we had to go to the field for 3 days. I dreaded that trip for the duration of basic. In all honesty, if I had been told about this prior to signing the papers, I probably wouldn’t have joined. No joke. Dreaded it.
By this time my hip had been broken for a few weeks and I hobbled along like Hop Along Cassidy, with a purpose. My Drill Sergeant had me on ‘light duty’ for a while now, so the 5 mile walk to the camp site was cancelled for me and I was sent on a truck to help secure the area with sleeping tents…for the Drill Sergeants.
So here I am, in the back of this army truck with a few other broken soldiers and I felt like such a loser. I was sitting on my duffel, 50 pound body armor plate and tent when this box comes sliding past me. *CS gas. You’ve got to be freaking kidding me, right? They planned on gassing the hell out of us while we were there. Not to mention, I sucked at putting on my gas mask. It ripped all my damn hair out and I would suck in before I’d blow out, causing me to breathe in all the unfortunateness that was out there, like tear gas. Needless to say, if in a NBC (nuclear, biological, chemical) attack, I’d be f***ed. Royally. Or I’d just work on it, I guess.
Anywho, back to the truck. This stuff is rolling past us because the driver was a woman who’s MOS was Truck Driver. Made perfect sense that she’d be a crappy driver, right? (FYI, my MOS was 88M which was Truck Driver. I made a joke.) As we pulled into this middle of nowhere camp site, she screeched to a halt, and all of us in the back (completely unstrapped and probably illegal) went flying to the wall behind the driver’s seat and the CS gas followed us. I heard a familiar sizzle and started running to the end of the truck. Apparently no one else realized what was going on, but I did, and I got out of that truck in lightening speed. DS Rutlidge (the crazy woman driver) got out and while walking back towards me, to yell at me inevitably (because I was 5’8″ and she was vertically challenged) got a noseful of CS gas.
So there I was, standing there at the back of the truck, slowly backing up to get away from the fumes when DS Roebling pulled up in a humvee. (He was my platoon’s DS and the one who actually took pity on my hip situation.) He took one look at me, looked at the other soldiers stuck in the truck, and then DS Rutlidge. Then he laughed. His braces shined against the sunlight and I got a full on, gut holding laugh from him. He put his hand on my shoulder, told me to wait behind the humvee and got his fellow Drill Sergeant some water.
Once the whole group’s sinuses had been cleared, we got to business, putting up tents, securing the site and got the CS gas unloaded, safely.
I warned my friend Brown about the incredible amount of CS. Since he was platoon guide at the time, he let everyone know to keep their hand on their masks.
That night, our platoon was the only one not effected by the horrible stuff.
The night before graduation, when it was just us soliders in my platoon, they all thanked me for that information. One even said, “Good thing you busted your hip, otherwise we’d all have been so sick.”
So if something good could come out of my hip going south, it’d be that.
Oh, and that I didn’t have to go overseas.
*My experiences with CS gas were while in the chamber, we were asked to remove our masks to show our chin. Then, return our mask to our faces, blow out, then suck in to secure it. Me, being oh so smart, returned it to my face, sucked in and CHOKED. I have the video at home here on VHS. It shows me trying hard to hold my breath, but dancing in place. I think I looked tough. However, if this is any indication of my toughness…I was coughing up a lung, snot was hanging out of my nose, I was flapping my arms like I was told to do, and my drill sergeant was singing, “I believe I can fly,” in the background.
On a serious note, though. To all my friends overseas right now, thanks. While my thoughts on the war at hand are pretty well known…I won’t speak them now. Whether or not you guys should be over there is irrelevant. The fact of the matter is, you are. You’re giving your lives and are away from your families so that we can be safer. For that, there’s no amount of words to say thanks. But…thanks.