Thursday, December 23, 2010

To Another Country (Augsburg, Germany, 1970, a short story by D.L. Siluk)

To Another Country
((Augsburg, Germany, 1970) (A Chick Evens Story)

We, the soldiers at the 1/36 Artillery, in Augsburg, Germany, in March, of 1970, understood the war in Vietnam could call us at anytime; we could be put on the allocation list, and so we formed friendships, kind of like to like, to pass the time of day away. My room in the barracks was dimly lit, and the hallways were noisy and smoky, and we had certain hours we could be up and around, and then bed check; and there were always sergeants checking this and that. On the other hand, people were bringing in girls on the weekends, along with the Mexicans with their loud music, and blacks high on dope, and whites, drunk as skunks. And all of us to a certain degree took on the behaviors of the others, at one time or another. We were mostly privates and Private First Class Soldiers, some Corporals, only a few Buck Sergeants within the barracks, and there were four to a room usually.
And I, I suppose I was like a few of the others, patriotic, and I believe a few of my buddies were the same, but not many of us were, we simply were draftees. Two of them were from the south; I think Alabama, and North Carolina. We hung around with the adjectives removed, and just got drunk, walked the parks and streets and visited the guesthouses in Augsburg, Germany.
Perhaps we needed each other, so it seemed at the time, it was kind of a small group we had, and remained friends against outsiders you might say. It had been different there, in Germany, away from home.
I was not ashamed of my homeland, but the longer I stayed in Germany, the more I liked it, I was getting used to the German soil, the night clubs, the food, the culture. I could have imagined myself taking a European Out, as they called it, and living in Germany for a year, once my tour was up, but I’d ended up in Vietnam, so that was only food for thought for a small period of time.
The three of us, Private First Class Bruce Wilcox and Buck Sergeant, John Sharp, and I, Chick Evens, were seen as almost being attached to one another, the first three months I was in Germany, even Simon, a Private like me, joined the group, as we drifted here and there. And I liked them all, thought perhaps we’d not have to be separated from one another, and we’d spend our time here in Germany together.
When I got promoted to a special project, in the security area this question came up, being separated from my buddies. They had complimented me on the so called promotion, but now our hours were irregular for us to hangout. So they were wondering, as I was wondering, if I was going to accept the promotion, it wasn’t in rank, rather in position.
This all made me think, ‘was the promotion a promotion or a demotion?’ I would get a private room, which normally only sergeants got, my hours would rotate, but be fixed for the most part, and I’d not have to go out to those horrible thirty-day training sessions in the cold wilderness a hundred miles away. But my friends, I said, ‘what about my friends?’ questioning myself.
Sergeant First Class Myers approached me; he was ahead of the Security Force at Reese Military Base, said,
“You have your new job if you want it, I’ve talked to your Company Commander, he was reluctant at first to let you go, but I had the Colonel back me up, it has to be accepted willingly, otherwise your commanding officer will request that you come back into his Command, or simply stay in his.”
“I’m trying to work it out in my head; it has more to do with leaving my friends than anything.” I said.
“The more of a fool you are, to let a good chance pass you by that you may never be able to recover. But let your conscious be your guide,” said the Sergeant First Class.
“Why, Sergeant Myers isn’t friendship important?”
He seemed very angry, “Don’t call me Sergeant, I am a First Class Sergeant, that is my title, it took me eighteen-years to get it.”
“Sorry Sergeant First Class, I do respect your rank, and I see your point.” I said, trying to smooth things out.
“You cannot pass up a good opportunity, if you are to advance, here you are subject to me, there with the Captain, you will not even be noticed among the other 160-men he has, and forgotten for promotion for good deeds done, in this position you lose nothing, and gain everything.”
I wanted to say something else, and he simply said, “Don’t argue with me private, I don’t have the time, you have five minutes to make up your mind, and then I’ll find your replacement, it’s as simple as that.”
I could not be rude, so I didn’t say another word, rather leaned against the stone wall of the barracks, to the security building. Then in five minutes he came out.
“Oh—” he said, “they are biting their lips over at your company area to have you back, they are low on men for guard duty, and kitchen clean up and so forth, I told them I’d be sending you back soon, since it is so difficult for you to resign yourself from your old duty and friends, the soldiers that work here are also good friends, matter-of-fact, wherever you go in life you will meet new and good friends, and have to say farewell to the old ones, that is simply life.”

“You must forgive me, for being so indolent in my choice, when I had in the first place asked for this new duty assignment. Yes, I will be more than glad to accept it. You are right, an opportunity missed, may never appear again, and who knows what road it will lead to. And it was at that moment my confidence in decision making was completely restored.