GCSPrank Is Here

For people who spend the day saying and writing things that others accept, while thinking things that are infinitely more interesting.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005


A blue uniform, heavy in wool, cut squarely to flatter a figure both wider and shallower than mine. A peaked cap that acted more like weather vane than symbol. The ritual of dressing was akin to torture, a depressing rite faced only with the balm of music and flashes of anger.

Joining the Air Force ROTC program was not a wise decision for me. Although raised as an Air Force brat, familiar with base life and the rigors of military existence, AFROTC was more mild nightmare after anchovy pizza than a formative experience.

The first facet of the nightmare was the gung-ho mentality, the “War is Glory” vehemence of youths with battle experience limited to war movies, wargames and the occasional fistfight. They pranced and snorted like immature apes, bandying words of aggression like pre-schoolers talking about being policemen, firemen and superheroes.

The second facet was the banality of the program itself. Mired in post-Vietnam apathy, soured by the then-recent humiliation of the Iranian hostage crisis, the Armed Forces were searching for relevance in a world not yet fooled by Reagan’s policies and still fooled by so-called “Communist threats.”

The third facet of the nightmare was my hair, shoulder-length from Day One to well beyond the final hour. ROTC regulations no longer forced a cadet’s hair to be trimmed to specs, so with nary a thought, I let it grow. But in the midst of my natural incompatibility, I felt the vague wash of shame. My father had served honorably and with commendations for 21 years, and yet here I was, displaying a flip attitude in the uniform he wore with dignity. The colonel once remarked about it, unable to keep himself neutral as expected. I nodded as if he’d spoken words I’d make my own. But I didn’t say “Yessir” nor did I take his suggestion.

The fourth and final facet was my temporary loss of isolation and anonymity. Wearing that blue canvas tent made me feel like a marked man again, a target, a figure to be scorned and singled out for abuse. Knowing only one way to handle that—straight on and inflicting pain on others as well as myself—the exposure dragged me back to a time and place I had definitely left behind. Week after week I went through the gauntlet of exposure, struggling to beat the odds and my own fears. Yet I take away from those hours the certainty that while wearing the uniform I never missed a commitment, whether class or ceremony, was never late and never acted in any way that would chalk up a black mark on the unit. My hair was enough.

One Thanksgiving, the commander, Major Covell, invited me to his home. Three other cadets were also invited, but as I was the stranger in his home, I attracted the most attention. The conversation funneled through me, so much so that I barely ate. Once dinner ended, I headed for the kitchen to help with the dishes, but was shooed away by Mrs. Covell (with a warm smile) and called away by Major Covell, to sneers from the cadets. Football, of course. The cadets tried to impress Major Covell with their knowledge of the war sport, when in the middle of the second quarter, I predicted a lengthy series of plays and the commentary about it. The cadets lapsed into furious silence and Major Covell seemed to really notice me for the first time.

“You know a lot about football,” he said to me.

Eyes on my fellow cadets I said “I know a lot about a lot of things.”

Major Covell smiled. “So why don’t you put them on display in the program?” His eyes were cheerful, wine-happy without drinking wine.

I stared at the cadets. “Not enough competition,” I said. They paled and started talking loudly.

Major Covell asked “Run or pass?” then belatedly nodded towards the TV screen.

I almost laughed. I got the message. “They will pass, about 15 yards out,” I replied, pointing at the screen. “And I’ll stay.”

Major Covell laughed and clapped softly. The cadets stared at us like a befuddled hydra. The pass was complete for a 14 yard gain.


Blogger Basket said...

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Merci pour est un bon blogger.

October 08, 2005 5:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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September 09, 2006 10:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You were in AFROTC!!!!Why....
Excelent story by the way.

Hey...Jenius...would you translate the second comment, my french is not as good as my ....ehhh....forget it.

September 13, 2006 9:24 PM  

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