01 February 2010

Friends Indeed.

Life is a great way to pass the time, isn't it?
Except when it's not.

"HELL DAY"... 1 May, 1967...
My first day of Officer Candidate School.
A friend from High School halfway through OCS had warned me... "Every available TAC Officer in the battalion will descend upon you. From Reveille until 'Lights Out', someone is gonna be in your face. You'll do more push-ups and sit-ups than you ever imagined you could do. You'll crawl most everywhere you go. They want you to quit. When you go to bed that evening, reflect on the day and smile. REFUSE TO QUIT!"

It's easy to say he was SPOT ON. It's IMPOSSIBLE to adequately describe the experience. The lights came on at 5 A.M. and the cacophony started. It seemed as if every Candidate had their very own 2nd Lieutenant Tactical Officer assigned to them shouting at the top of their lungs just four inches from each Candidate's nose. My experience that day is probably a good sample of what all the new aspirants went through... I did 200 or so push-ups, 10 at a time throughout the day. I did 250 sit-ups, 25 at a time. I low-crawled virtually everywhere I went, with a young TAC officer standing over me shouting to speed me up all along the way.
We WERE allowed to stand and walk through the chow line.
After breakfast, one of the TACs started "Health and Welfare Inspections".
Seems most of our uniforms were dirty from low-crawling on the floor. We were marched, fully clothed, into the shower to fix that deficiency. Then, of course there was another TAC ready to point out our uniforms were WET!... WHAT ARE YOU DOING IN THAT SOAKING UNIFORM, CANDIDATE?!!" Of course once we were in a dry uniform, the other TAC noticed it was "soiled"...
And so it went, until every uniform we owned... work (fatigues), Class A, and Class B, was drenched. There were 120 Candidates experiencing this madness... try to imagine the "organized chaos". At some point one of the TACs noticed I looked "tired" for some reason. He suggested bedrest, and told me, in the middle of all this noise and confusion, to go to bed. Then he grabbed the nearest Candidate and told him to make my bed, with me in it! That Candidate was Ole Prairie Dog.
Another TAC came by and questioned why I was in bed when everyone else was up doing "constructive work". When O.P.D. explained that another TAC had suggested bedrest, TAC #2 said that was fine, but I ought to at least be marching while I was in bed, and had O.P.D. give me marching commands. Again imagine... I'm completely covered with wool blanket and dust cover, marching...
Gosh how I wish someone had recorded it! At the end of the day, 30 Candidates had turned in their "Quit Letters".

When we graduated OCS, O.P.D. became my roommate. We rented a mobile home together while waiting on Flight School orders. In Flight School we were roommates at Ft. Wolters, Texas and at Hunter Army Airfield, (Savannah) Georgia. We deployed to Viet Nam on the same day and hoped to serve together there, but he was assigned to the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment flying Scouts, while I initially went to the 4th Infantry Division Gunship Platoon. Our careers have taken different paths since those days long ago, but still, we've stayed in touch... 43 years.
I was there long ago listening to his lament about his "Flame", and how he wished she could just see how much he loved her.

I was in touch when she finally realized how much they loved one another and she agreed to marry him.
I was Best Man at the wedding.

When his first-born was born impossibly premature, I held that tiny baby in the palm of my hand... head at my fingertips and feet not quite reaching my wrist, and cried, his fragility so apparent but his will to live so strong.

We chat frequently via Msn Instant Messenger. With him in New Mexico and me here in the Midwest, it's a gift from God... wonderful. But life intrudes...

You can imagine my reaction when I read "Pancreatic cancer. Stage IV. Her bowel and other organs are involved."

Life ain't fair. We all know that. But when the goin' gets tough, the tough get goin', right? I wrote earlier about how easily the tears flow for me these days, and this situation has certainly added to that accumulation. The frustration of being a million miles away while wanting to be able to just "Do something", all the while knowing there's not much I could be doing, is also stressful. She's in EL Paso, in good hands. They've run lots of tests and are determining the course they'll take. He's driving eight hours round trip to check on their home and keep things there in order as much as possible. His three sons, including the tiny TOUGH little guy I held in one hand, are a strong foundation backing him up. Knowing that gives me great comfort.

Before I hung up the phone last night he related a chat he had with a young Chaplain...

"Live until you die", the Chaplain said.
"Nope. Live WELL until you die" was O.P.D.'s response.

That's the guy I know and love.


Capt. Schmoe said...

Having just gone through this with a friend of mine, my heart goes out to you Greybeard. Wish your friends well for me, they will be in my prayers.


JP said...

It's a tribute to both of your characters that this friendship has lasted this long. I'm sure your friend appreciates your support...even though the miles separate you.

Rita said...

I'm so sorry. This has to be heartbreaking. I would worry about you if you weren't brought to tears on hearing the news.

My prayers are with OPD and his family and friends.

Bloviating Zeppelin said...

You've said it all. Beautifully written.