Monday, December 7, 2009

The war years

No disrespect to anyone in the service-just a funny remembrance about my brief interaction with the army. About three years ago I wrote a weekly column with a disabled navy vet for the Portsmouth Herald. We interviewed WWII, Korean and Vietnam veterans and the stories they told stay with me. I have great respect for those who served in the military.
I was in college struggling mightily with hard core science courses for which I had no aptitude. All my uncles worked for IBM and they urged me to follow in their footsteps. I know they meant the best for me but it was the proverbial round peg in a square hole scenario. The war in Vietnam was heating up and I was imagining myself trying to hide behind flimsy rice stalks in a swamp with deadly snakes crawling up my pants. While in college I was called along with a thousand other young men to appear for a draft physical in Albany, N.Y. I really was not that worried because I was overweight. In fact the first stop on the physical conveyor belt was stepping on a scale and when the room stopped shaking my physical form was stamped with a huge REJECTION. So here I was not a care in the world amidst all these athletes who gazed on my being with doe like admiration. They knew I was home free and that they were taking the first step in acquiring PTS. A few stops later I took the eye exam and was accused of faking it to get out of the military. I have been legally blind in my right eye since birth but instead of trying to explain I pointed out that I had already been rejected for reasons of being a hopeless blivet. "Oh" was the reply and I eventually ended up in the world's biggest gym with a thousand naked guys all standing in a row for a hernia exam. In front of us was a paunchy hopelessly depressed doctor who actually did this day after day for a living. I thought how does someone go through medical school and end up here-one too many malpractice awards or a serial killer doing community service? He stood in front of us and asked us to bend over and for some reason having to do with a low I.Q. 999 men bent one way and I bent the opposite way. Don't try to picture this because you will never again enjoy your food. The laughter was deafening but Doctor God Hates Me just looked at me with eternal sadness in his eyes. I was sitting serenely in some lounge at the end of the physical when a young man in uniform fetched me to see Colonel Lifer in his private office. I was ready to explain why I bent the wrong way when I was politely asked to take the chair in front of his desk. I noticed the lack of a salute and thought of mentioning that when he said "Son, I have bad news for you."
"Oh my God ! The war in Vietnam is going so badly (all those hippies were right!) that they were going to draft me anyway!"
The officer continued solemnly, "Because of your physical condition we are unable to accept you into the army."
I'm waiting for the "and" and the "but"-we are going to use you for spare parts or we are trading you for POW's. I was free to go home -happy but perplexed forever.
Six months later I received a letter from the government asking "Are the conditions that disqualified you for military service still accurate?" I looked down and I still could not see my you-know-what so I wrote on their letter "yes" and sent it back. A while later they informed me that I actually had to go to a doctor to verify my overweightness. It's not enough being called fat now they doubt my word. I swallowed my pride and went our family doctor-Dr. Asstone(real name), a fat slovenly good natured old guy who blew cigar smoke in my face. In other words a doctor who is not about to lecture anyone about right living. God rest his sanctified soul. I know you are thinking this all fiction from a fevered mind, but it really happened like this.


  1. well there it is, the title of your book of these stories... "fiction from a fevered mind". :)

  2. Had me laughing out loud. Thanks, I needed that!

  3. Ronnie--You are aware that Astone only had one s, aren't you? Just sayin'.