After getting thoroughly dressed down by the T2 looking sergeant, I went back to bed and was alone in the huge barracks for the rest of the day. I think they may have even forgotten about me, to be honest. By dinner time I got hungry, so I went to the mess hall and ate and then went back to bed.
The next day, I got up at with reveille and went to breakfast. One of the not so nice sergeants told me to report to his office at 0700, I think, maybe 0800. I had no idea what for as no one was talking to me. I quickly learned that no one tells anyone anything, especially when they don’t have any stripes on their arm. I also learned quickly that it was usually not good news when you were summoned anywhere.
When I got to the sergeant’s office, I walked in and saw pretty much all the dickhead sergeants who greeted you at the reception battalion. My stomach did a few flip flops, but I tried to act like I was not scared shitless. T2 actually eased off a bit, though, and said something like, “Tough break, Reardon.” I still didn’t really know what they were talking about, and they let me stand at attention for quite a while before one of the Sergeants handed me a stack of papers and said I was to get on the base bus in 10 minutes and head to the hospital where I would present this stack of papers to the soldiers in the reception area.
“Now get the fuck out of here you fucking reject.”
I had no idea how or where to catch the base bus and I could tell no one there was going to help me. I walked out of the building and towards the road that ran in front of the set of buildings that made up the reception battalion area. There were lots of pine trees and the air was super crisp. I was enjoying that aspect of my first week there but was still very scared and unsure of what was going on.
Eventually I found a bus stop and waited there for a bit before a small bus pulled up and I got on. The driver was friendly and let me know that he would be going right by the hospital. It was kind of cool to see more of the base. There were so many barracks and old buildings. Fort Benning had some interesting history.
During World War Two, Fort Benning became one of the primary training bases for infantry and airborne soldiers. Over the years, it was a place where the army would roll out new ideas, too, which I found to be kind of cool. It was also home to Ranger school beginning in the 1950s, as well, and everyone wanted to be a Ranger, including me for about a minute. They got to wear the cool black berets.
When I got to the hospital, I was taken aback by how large it was. I don’t know why, but I was expecting something smaller. I presented my paperwork to the front desk and was told to sit and wait for my name to be called. There was a gift shop close by, so I went in and bought myself a newspaper and a crossword puzzle book. I would learn to regret this later, but it saved me while I was at the hospital.
After about an hour or so, I was sent up to one of the top floors to meet with a neurologist. I went over what I had shared with the doctors back in Phoenix about my concussion and was put through a barrage of tests to check reflexes and such. It was a bit unnerving, really, and I kept expecting them to tell me that I was more messed up from the concussion than I had thought.
I was shown to another waiting area, and I was there for a few hours. I had not had any lunch, so I was starving. I asked one of the nurses if I had time to go and get some food, but she said there was no way of telling, so there I sat. Finally, I was ushered into a really nice office to speak with one of the high-ranking doctors.
He was a full bird colonel, and I was nervous as heck. He told me to relax, have a seat, and ended up being nice. He said I had a couple of options because I had been wrongfully enlisted. He said it happened pretty often due to medical reasons and that many recruiters looked the other way when they had someone like me in their sights.
My first option was to sue the army to be allowed to stay. I would be given representation from the JAG’s office and there was chance, albeit slim, that I would be allowed to remain and go through basic training, but it could take a while before I would get a hearing. Option two was to accept a medical discharge and go home. I would be welcome to reenlist in three years as someone like me, who had a major concussion, had to wait five years from the time of the concussion to enlist.
I could, he said, if I wanted to do so, sue the army for wrongful enlistment. If I were to win that case, I would get $85 per day that I was there. I asked him what he thought I should do, and I will never forget what he said.
“You seem like a smart young man. I’m sure you’ll make the right decision. It doesn’t seem like you really want to be here, but I’m sure you could do well if you wanted to.”
Now this might not be his exact words, to be honest, but it’s how I remember it. I told him I would prefer to go home and he signed the paperwork. When I asked him what would happen next, he said, “Well, the army doesn’t like to let good soldiers go, but I’m sure in the next six weeks or so, you’ll be on your way home. There’s a lot of paperwork to fill out.”
Six weeks? I died a little on the inside.
See you tomorrow.
Martin Army Hospital. At one point, I was up in there.