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Thursday, March 29, 2012


In other posts in this blog, I talk about my fear of fighting and about my Army desertion during basic training, but despite it all I had some successes during basic training, too, even though they were all accidental.

My wife, Micki, often points out that I have a charmed life. For instance, when she became a Catholic, she had to battle through most everybody, including me. But when I converted to Catholicism five years later, I sailed right in. Luckily for me (not him) my brother had become a Jehovah's Witness meanwhile, much to the disappointment of all of us, and so when I became a Catholic in 1989, the worst thing that was said to me was by my mother, who muttered, "Well, at least it's not Jehovah's Witness." While Micki was still changing the dressings on her criticism wounds, I enjoyed dancing into the Church amidst a wonderful, positive experience.

I could go on and on about how nice life has been to me (and have, throughout this blog), but here I'll just mention three successes in basic training in 1968 at Fort Lewis, Washington.


I wasn't a bad shot, although it seemed I always got one of the M-14 rifles that jammed. My main gripe was having to go out to the shooting range even on inclement days and lying prone in the mud for some of the shooting. When the day came for the final test, it was foggy -- so foggy that we couldn't even see the targets, and some were 300 meters away. But since when does such a thing stop the Army? We had to shoot anyway. Behind me was a man who graded my shots, and he couldn't see whether I hit what. Seeing that I seemed to be trying, and feeling sorry for me, he awarded me an Expert badge with the rifle -- the highest medal to hope for.


A lot of the hand-to-hand combat techniques I thought were silly, like poking your fingers at an imaginary enemy's neck, or acting all stiff like a robot while lunging forward with a bayonet affixed to your rifle. But some of the training was fun and challenging. At one point, they hung a dummy up behind me, and told me to whirl around and kick it. I'm not tall -- only 5' 5" -- and figured I didn't stand much of a chance at defeating this giant doll who sneaked up in back of me. It was just a game anyhow, I thought. And I swung my booted foot around and high. Purely by luck, it struck the dummy right in the head, impressing everyone, even the dummy. Top score in hand-to-hand combat.


One of the first basic training matches we had was with pugil sticks. This scared me to death because it was going up against a real-live man wearing a helmet and holding another pugil stick. I was going to get killed, less than a month into the Army. The pugil stick represented a rifle, out of ammunition and so used as a sort of club. It was a heavy stick with thick padding at both ends. The helmet was to keep us from getting more brain damaged than we had to be to have gone into the Army, but still it seemed like a lot of injury could occur with a big man coming at you, swinging a big stick. Remember, I live a charmed life. This was not cool. And because I was so scared, when the time came for my opponent and I to attack each other, I just ran at him, swinging my stick with my eyes closed. I swung my pugil stick back and forth twice, and heard a loud gasp coming from those watching. I didn't even get hit. I opened my eyes and saw my opponent lying on the ground in front of me, looking woozy. Since my eyes had been closed, I had to be told that my first hit knocked his helmet off, and my second hit slammed into the side of his unprotected head!  Top score.

So, if ever you threaten me, and I close my eyes, watch out.

If you liked this post, you may also enjoy the following:  Fighting.
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  1. Yes you did live a charmed life. Your lucky some one didn't beat the crap out of you long ago.
    The Mad Indian

  2. That Mad Indian is smarter than you give him credit for....Uncle Miltie

  3. Next time that Mad Indian strangles me, I'll shut my eyes. I'll show him.

  4. Dale this was a good one, Even Lee (The Mad Indian) and "Uncle Miltie" (not really an uncle, just a friend) made comments). So I had to join the other friends and make a comment also. You were a sucess in the Army. I didn`t know you were a good soldier. If the North Korean comunists attacked Camp Ames, all Lee, Milt and Me had to do was: Blind fold you and let you slug the comunist troops. You are a Legend Dale!!!
    Wilfredo (The Quiet Boricua)