The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

14 October 2002

Greatest Hits, volume III

Originally posted 28 May 2001

The sun comes up early in mid-Missouri on the first of April, but we were already awake. Sort of.

It was 5:02 am, cool and damp getting a head start on its way to becoming warm and sticky, and we were standing outside on the gravel wondering what would happen next. Most of us were eighteen or nineteen, but the adolescent bluster that had sustained us for the last few years had vanished with yesterday's sunset and our arrival at Fort Lost-in-the-Woods.

Not all of us wanted to be there. Our company seemed evenly divided among draftees, Reservists and the so-called "Regular Army". "RA, Drill Sergeant!" I recited as I moved up the line to the mess hall. The Drill Sergeant managed to look both scary and unimpressed at the same time.

Very little in that spring of 1972 made a whole lot of sense to me. "Hurry up and wait" was the order of the day. The story goes — I'll probably never know for sure, and maybe I don't want to — that after we finished training, the Army arbitrarily dispatched everyone in the company whose surname began with A through G to Vietnam. My H and I eventually landed in the Middle East, where there was arguably just as much tension but definitely a lot less live ammo.

If there's a lesson in all of this, it's that sometimes, whether we wear the uniform or not, we have to go through things that don't make a whole lot of sense, on the off-chance that it might do some good somewhere down the line. Many men went through the same things I did, and not all of them got to come home. Perhaps their deaths didn't make a whole lot of sense, either.

Their lives, on the other hand, most certainly did.

Posted at 8:00 AM to Greatest Hits