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Tag Archives: don”t ask don’t tell

You don’t smoke, you don’t chew, you don’t drink, you don’t screw—damn, boy, what do you do?

Memories of those words and that question, and memories of Archie Williams, W.C. Fields, Shirley Temple, dirty old men and a certain red-haired office typist—all came together in my thoughts this morning while I reminisced in search of fodder for my blog. If that group has in any way piqued your interest, read on.

I’ll begin with the red-haired office worker, an administrative clerk sitting sideways with legs crossed while operating an old-time word processor, a dinosauristic but cleverly constructed machine that combined mechanical, electrical and manual functions, a machine known as a typewriter. When the machine was operated properly it produced ink impressions, alphabet letters, on white unlined material—paper—a versatile material with many uses, made from wood pulp and commonly used for writing and printing upon but with various other uses and capabilities and sometimes referred to as tissue or tissues, quintessentially used at work, at home and away from home.

Just as an aside, I wonder how many readers will resort to Wikipedia for a definition of the word quintessentially. In the past, one in search of a definition would have referred to another dinosaur, that quaint publication known as a dictionary. Alas, that item is swiftly disappearing from our society, but I have one to which I felt I was entitled. I purloined it from my office when I retired from government service. In fact, I retired twice from government service, first from the military and then from federal law enforcement—the dictionary I brought home on the second retirement was simply a free upgrade of the one from the military.

But I have digressed from my original objective, to tell the story of Archie Williams. For that I apologize and return forthwith and continue towards that objective. From the information given in the first paragraph you, the reader, probably have in mind the image of a young auburn-haired beauty in a mini-skirt seated sideways before an office typewriter with her legs crossed and showing lots of leg, both lower leg and thigh and you would be right—except for the fact that the typist was a young red-haired male member of the United States Air Force, clothed in khaki shirt and trousers showing no leg, belted in blue and shod in black, sporting on his sleeves the three stripes of an Airman First Class, engaged in a spirited conversation with Archie Williams, an Air Force master sergeant, a six-striper similarly clothed who embodied and displayed the unique characteristics of W.C. Fields, an old-time veteran Hollywood comic of black-and-white film fame, in at least one of which films he shared billing with a very young and very precocious Shirley Temple, a child prodigy who tap danced, beautifully and at length while wearing a very short dress, and whose characteristic close-ups revealed curly hair, a cute smile, snow-white legs and significant expanses of white underwear, both front and rear, as she tapped and whirled and smiled enticingly for the camera.

I know, I know—you’re wondering why the previous sentence is so lengthy, nearing 200 words. It’s because I’m trying to equal or surpass the length of the one in William Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom!, not the longest sentence in literature but certainly among the longest—1,300 words. Of course, that’s very brief compared to a sentence in Ulysses by James Joyce that has 4,391 words—more or less!

I will digress no more—I’m running out of ink, so I’ll try to finish this posting. I’m reasonably certain that you, the reader, are wondering where this is going so I’ll put your mind at rest. I read an article in a magazine prized by men that in big city theaters that show the old black-and-white movies in certain theaters with Shirley Temple displaying her dancing talent, the major part of the audiences consists of dirty old men. Admittedly, some of the dirty old men simple needed a place to rest or to sleep, and some were addicted to black-and-white movies regardless of their contents—some may in fact have been movie producers, black-listed by Senator McCarthy and forced out of the movie industry—maybe.

My contention is that the dirty old men in the audience felt that the child prodigy was wearing that smile and showing the underwear just for them, and as a result of that feeling they perhaps—alright, probably—reached illegal and unimaginable plateaus of pleasure during the showing, a la Pee-wee Herman.

While I was busy in the Administration Office on a typical working day, I was privy—inadvertently—to a conversation between Archie and the young red-haired leg-crossing sergeant that centered on the typist’s off-duty activities. After quizzing him on those activities Archie told him, in Archie’s replication of W.C. Fields whiningly nasal tone, poetically and in rhyme, You don’t smoke, you don’t chew, you don’t drink, you don’t screw—damn, boy, what do you do? Archie’s height and girth, his stance, his ambulatory movements and his habit of carrying an unlighted cigar all mimicked W.C. Fields. While Archie’s physical characteristics were not controllable, I believe that the cigar and his voice were perhaps props, intended to imitate the old-time actor and indulged in so much over time that they belonged to him and were part of his persona, just as legitimately as they were for W.C. Fields.

When I heard Archie’s question I immediately decided that I had no other business in that office, and I hurriedly relocated so I could satisfactorily react to the question without incurring the enmity of the typist. I never knew the typist’s answer, if in fact he gave an answer, and I did not have the temerity to ask Archie how his talk with the typist was concluded. I did learn later from another source that the typist shared his lodging and his life with an over-the-road non-military truck driver. I find it interesting that in that era I was not aware that my service had either an animus against, or a tolerance for, members with sexual preferences that differed from what traditionally has been our society’s norm—there was no don’t ask, don’t tell policy. At that time, circa 1965, I was in my sixteenth year of military service, and if my service had a problem with such preferences it was never part of my training. Over the years I served during peacetime and wartime with several such persons and had no problems—none at that time and none now.

Archie died in the mid-1960s, and his earthly remains were interred in Fort Sam Houston’s national cemetery here in San Antonio, Texas. Full military services were provided, with taps, rifle volleys and uniformed pallbearers, and I was one of the six men that carried the casket, with Archie safely ensconced inside, a considerable distance through interminable rows of upright grave markers to an open grave, fitted with the mechanical device that would lower the casket.

Archie was a big man that in life would have approached a weight of 250 pounds, perhaps more, and at least partially because of that weight I almost preceded him into the excavation that had been prepared for him alone. As we marched towards the open grave I quickly concluded that he had not been embalmed—had he chosen that mortuary option—not required in Texas—he would have been considerably lighter. Of the six pallbearers, I’ll give you three guesses as to which pallbearer was less tall than the others, and the first two guesses won’t count—not that I am necessarily short, mind you, but I will admit that I was less tall than the others.

My position as we marched Archie, feet first through the rows of white markers, was at the left forward corner of Archie’s casket, the corner closest to his left foot, I am convinced that mine was the heaviest area of the weight we carried, perhaps fitted with a large anvil—perhaps Archie had been a blacksmith in his youth and the anvil was placed as a salutary salute to that profession—he may have suffered from a left club-foot, but I doubt that it would account for the weight at my corner.

Just as we moved the casket to a point directly over the grave and the lowering mechanism, my right foot slipped into the opening and I frantically relinquished my portion of the weight—I became an ex-pallbearer. However, the remaining five pallbearers apparently divided up my former contribution to the operation and held the casket up until I could reposition myself and return to pallbearer status, and we then properly placed the casket, stepped back and snapped to attention, and the ceremony continued and was concluded without further incident. In my haste to return both feet to solid ground, scrambling to avoid being interred with Archie, I soiled the knees of my uniform trousers as I frantically returned to an upright position—the soiling process could have been far worse, I suppose.

I have good reason to visit Fort Sam Houston’s national cemetery these days. I don’t remember where we left Archie some fifty years ago—that’s far too much time for me to be expected to remember his Section and Plot numbers. I have promised myself that I will ask cemetery office personnel for the location of his grave. I want to say hello to him, and I may hear again the question below, the question he addressed to that red-haired typist, and perhaps the typist’s answer to the query—if Archie chooses to confide in me:

You don’t smoke, you don’t chew, you don’t drink, you don’t screw—damn, boy, what do you do?

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

 
 

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Underage enlistment and other stuff . . .

Underage enlistment

My initial enlistment in the United States Air Force required perjury on the part of three people. The recruiting sergeant, my mother and I all lied about my age. I lacked six months and 12 days before my seventeenth birthday, the mandatory minimum age for enlistment with parental or guardian permission. The recruiting sergeant used ink eradicator on a certified copy of my birth certificate to change my year of birth and my mother perjured herself by signing the required parental consent form, and I was off on a great adventure—all 16 years, 110 pounds and 66 and three-fourths inches of me.

Speaking of height—I was unable to comply with the very first order given by an Air Force officer. Several of us, all new enlistees, were ushered into a room furnished with one desk, one chair and two flags—the U.S. flag and the official U.S. Air Force flag. The NCO that took us to the room told us the captain would be there in a few minutes to administer the oath of enlistment. A bit later the captain came in, said good morning, looked at his watch and said, Stand tall, men. I’ll be right back. I lacked one-fourth of an inch being five feet, seven inches tall, and I was dwarfed by the NBA wanna-bees with whom I was to share the oath of enlistment. Need I say more?

For those that have never had the pleasure of being sworn into the United States Air Force, here is the complete text of the oath I took:

US AIR FORCE OATH OF ENLISTMENT

I, (state your name), swear to sign away 4 years of my life to the UNITED STATES AIR FORCE because I know I couldn’t hack it in the Army, because the Marines frighten me, and because I am afraid of water over waist-deep. I swear to sit behind a desk. I also swear not to do any form of real exercise, but promise to defend our bike-riding test as a valid form of exercise. I promise to walk around calling everyone by their first name because I find it amusing to annoy the other services. I will have a better quality of life than those around me and will, at all times, be sure to make them aware of that fact. After completion of Basic Training I will be a lean, mean, donut-eating, Lazy-Boy sitting, civilian-wearing-blue-clothes, a Chair-borne Ranger. I will believe I am superior to all others and will make an effort to clean the knife before stabbing the next person in the back. I will annoy those around me, and will go home early every day. So Help Me God!

Hey, I’m just kidding! That oath came from the internet—you can check it and other hilarious pseudo military service oaths out here. That site is well worth a visit—trust me, you’ll like it!

The real oath of enlistment, the one that is administered by all services except the National Guard follows—this oath differs from the National Guard only because it includes the name of the state of enlistment. Click here for a history of the real oath of enlistment.

In the Armed Forces EXCEPT the National Guard (Army or Air)

I, (NAME), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.

The months and days between enlistment and the attainment of the required age of 17 were considered minority time, and had the law governing minority time in service not been changed, it would not have been counted in determining the time required for retirement from the military. The law was changed, I believe, in the 1950s through congressional action—my minority time was counted in my total service for retirement purposes.

Re: Minority time:

A funny thing happened to me on the way to retirement from the U.S. Air Force. About a month after I began basic training, our training NCO told one of the trainees to break formation following breakfast and report to the commanding officer. He then took a long look at me and said, You might as well go with himyou’re not seventeen either.

The two of us were ushered into the commander’s office and told to be seated. In addition to the commander, a military chaplain was present. The chaplain told my fellow trainee that his mother had contacted him, saying that her son was underage and she missed him and wanted him back home with her. Following that information, the commander told the trainee that it was his choice—he could be released from his oath of enlistment and be separated from the Air Force immediately without prejudice, or if he chose, he could continue his training and his enlistment.

When my fellow trainee elected to remain in service against his mother’s wishes, the commander told me that nobody believed that I was 17 years old, but that he would give me  the same option. I could continue my training, or I could choose to be released from the military without prejudice. He didn’t bother to ask me if I was underage, and I didn’t admit that I was—he probably figured I would lie if he asked me. I guess the commander and I were well ahead of the curve on the don’t ask, don’t tell option—mind you, this pertained to age only.

And the rest is history—I elected to remain in service. I managed to successfully complete basic training and I continued to reenlist over a period of 22 years plus before retiring. My retirement was based purely on years completed—no percentage for disability—no lower back pain, no loss of hearing, no bad feet, 20-20 eyesight, good teeth, etc.

I mention the absence of disabilities because some retirees feign medical problems in an effort to retire with a disability percentage—yes, Virginia, it’s true, some do—it’s only a few perhaps, but still some do try to fake it. Any percentage of disability will reduce taxes on their retirement pay and give them a leg up for employment in federal service—a disability of just five percent qualifies one for employment preferences and a reduction in federal taxes—a slight reduction, perhaps, but still a reduction. In many cases the full amount of retired pay is exempted from federal tax.

A bit of advice for future retirees—only the claim of lower back pain has even a slight chance to fool the medics. If one holds one’s ground, a disability may be given, probably the minimum five percent. Don’t even consider trying to fool the machines used to determine loss of hearing—it can’t be done. I’m not speaking from personal experience—had I known the ins and outs of faking medical problems I may have made the attempt, but I learned all this only after I completed my retirement physical. The doctor told me that my case was unusual—I took that as a compliment.

That’s it—that’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

Pee Ess: I subsequently retired from a second career as a United States federal law enforcement officer after 26 years of spotless service, and still with no disability percentage, not even five percent—damn it!

 
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Posted by on April 25, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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