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Entry date: 5-31-2022 - Homeward Bound - Letters to My Friends

Dear Friends,

Time to finish the Army story for now...

After coming down from the weird stress high of the great Oktoberfest Theft of 1987, I settled into the routine of being the secretary at Headquarters and Service Company (HSC), hanging with my buddies after work, and piling up cash. Halloween was coming up and I still didn’t know when I was going to get to go home.

I was starting to get nervous about all the cash I had. It was pretty darn near $1200, I think, at this point and I did have a paycheck that I hadn’t even cashed yet. There were thieves all over the place and I was one of them, although my understanding of karma was not very good then. If I knew then what I know now, my military experience would have been very different.

But that was then, and I was just wanting to get home, karma-dumb or not. Some of the guys that I was sort of close with were getting their paperwork and it seemed like I should be next. The rumor mill about these types of things was huge at HSC. People were always asking me what I knew or saw because of where I worked and sometimes, I did see the paperwork before others did.

Finally, I got the word that I was going home in 5-7 days which put me possibly on a plane by November 1st if it was five days. Halloween in the army would be okay, especially knowing that I would be on a plane soon enough. As the days slowly passed, I started thinking about what I was going to do when I got back.

Brian and I had been in contact, and we talked about getting a place together. This is a whole ‘nother story and not a good one. It was karma just waiting to bite me on my stupid ass, but again, I’ll get to that sooner or later. The reality, though, of what was next was harsh.

I remember lying awake on those last few nights in the army and being really scared of what I was going home to in a few days. Sure, I had money in my pocket, but what happened when it was gone? Was I going to get a job and what would it be? What was going to happen with Suzi and I? All these questions were weighing on me.

I began to realize that the option I had enjoyed having for the previous six months or so was gone. Sure, I knew that I would have hated the military, too. It was a bad choice for me, but I was kind of a king or a prince of bad choices in those days.

I thought I was smart, though, and I’m guessing that every 18-year-old thinks pretty highly of themselves in the brains and decision-making area so I’m not sitting here having a pity party or beating myself up. I can smile about all of this now. I just had a few days to savor the uniform.

At formation on morning of Halloween, which was a Saturday, my orders came through. I was going to be processing out on Tuesday, November 3. Nothing the army did was on any type of a set schedule, in my opinion. They had told me 5-7 days and it was going to be eight. I was there exactly seven weeks.

Because I had done a bang-up job in my four weeks at HSC, I got to train my replacement and create, for the first time in my life, a training to get soldiers in my role up to speed quickly. I had some fun with that on my last couple of days on the job and didn’t realize then that I would create many more training programs in my life. Heck, I would even put a slide into many of my future PowerPoints when I worked in call centers saying, “I was a teenaged gatekeeper.”

The first sergeant even was kind of nice to me the last couple of days and let me go to the PX after work on Monday to get myself a new duffle bag to carry my extra stuff home in that I had acquired. I was kind of sad to say goodbye to my chums, especially Lionel, in the army and even felt a little sad saying goodbye to old Sgt. “Fucking” Kitchen, who kind of looked like a Hispanic Scott Glenn.

On Monday, November 2 at our evening formation, I drew fire watch (of course) so I would be up all night prior to finishing my processing out. Fun stuff. It was weird to wander around the barracks and check on all the sleeping dudes. There were not a lot of cots full at that point, but I can see the dark rooms quite easily if I shut my eyes right now. Ironically, I was on fire watch and smoked way too many cigarettes that night. It was hard to stay awake when all I wanted to do was dream of home.

After our morning formation, I was told to put my civilian clothes on and head to the bus stop so I could grab the base bus and head over to the offices for people who were processing out. I had to leave my uniform there, but I got to keep my name tags and my dog tags. I still have a couple of those name tags, I think, but a girl I dated in 88 or 89 got away with my dog tags. Would have been kind of fun to have them, but karma never sleeps.

I was processing out with my buddy, King, from Chicago, so we took the bus together and then waited for an hour or so to get everything situated for us to have our final orders. I signed a mountain of paperwork and that was that. The army got us a taxi into Columbus where we got on a bus to the Atlanta airport. King and I were on the same flight to Dallas, where would change planes, and shared an awkward, “What the fuck do we do now” conversation before we said goodbye. I wonder what happened to that guy.

I was on my way home, though, and karma was waiting.

See you tomorrow.

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