Missing In Action

Upon being drafted by the U.S. Army in 1970, I figured that after two years, if was still alive, I would be discharged from military service and be done with the government’s intrusion into my life. But no, I hadn’t given a thought to the fact that I was discharged from “active” military duty; that I had an obligation as a reserve a few years later.

I read the notice that said I was report to Camp McCoy on a Monday morning. It was a camp at that time; it has since been promoted to a fort – Fort McCoy.

I arrived in Sparta, WI, on a Sunday night and rented a motel room. The following morning, I reported to where I was supposed to be, and they told me I was late.

“What do you mean – late?”

That is when I discovered that I was supposed to report on Sunday evening. I couldn’t find it on the letter I had with me, and neither could the person who told me I was late.

“Did you bring your boots, uniform, etc.?” The guy asked.

“No, I thought I was done with that stuff.” I responded.

I can only imagine the look of disgust on the guy’s face since I can no longer remember much more of the exchange. I do recall that he looked at my MOS (Military Occupational Skill) and it showed that I was a 94C10. “What’s 94C?” He asked.

“Meat cutter,” I said, stoically.

“We don’t have meat cutters in the Army.” He smirked like ‘I gotcha.’

“Yeah, I know,” without saying another word.

“So, what did you do while you were in?”

“I had a primary MOS of 94C, which I never did; a secondary MOS of 94b [cook]; and a duty MOS of 70A [clerk].” I rattled those number and letters off like a military lifer.

“You were a cook?” I could tell he was thinking of something.

“Yeah, I was a cook for a few months. I became a mess hall clerk after that.”

He handed me a set of military cook whites and told me to report to the mess hall after I found my barracks and located a bunk.

Once I got to the mess hall and reported to the mess sergeant, he told me they had too many cooks as it was. They were all tripping over each other. So, he suggested I do what I really did toward the end of military career – Hide! Get lost! That was easy. The military had no MOS for that function, but I was experienced.

One day they needed extras to fall out for some brass that was coming on to the camp. I was one of the people recruited for that duty, since I was lying on my bunk reading a book. I was to show up with my uniform. I showed up with my cook whites and they sent me back to the barracks. I needed a new place to read a book. I found solace in the barracks of the Iowa National Guard’s 34th Army Band out of Fairfield. No one bothered the band.

Another day, I was in my jeans and a T-shirt, and I was asked if I want to go on a helicopter ride. Sure, it sounded like fun. A bunch of us walked into the back of a Chinook and took a seat, strapped ourselves in and waited for the door to shut. What happened next was not what I had expected. The damned thing began to shake like a carnival ride and an officer came from the front to tell us that the pilot was earning time to obtain his pilot’s license, or some crazy stuff like that. It was too late to back out.

Actually, the copter ride was fairly smooth. Once in the air the ride became much more tolerable. That is, until a couple of them came from the front and opened up a hatch that looked the size of a kitchen cabinet. They were pulling out maps, looking at them, and peering out the windows. There was nothing below us but trees. Nothing!

We did manage to get back to the camp without incident.

Finally, a guy from Des Moines asked me what my favorite band was. When I told him Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young his eyes lit up like a blue light on a police vehicle. He told me that CSN&Y were playing that weekend at Milwaukee County Stadium on the other end of the state. Because I came up in a car, and all the others there rode up in some form of military vehicle, the guy convinced me to drive the two of us to Milwaukee if he could get concert tickets. Hell, yes! He had family relations in Milwaukee, and he called them. We could stay at their house, and they would get tickets for us.

We headed out that Friday afternoon and went to Milwaukee. His relatives were fantastic. We ate a really good breakfast the following morning and three of us headed to the baseball field. The concert was called “A Day On The Green.” Couldn’t find a good parking space so I parked on a residential street near the stadium, and we walked in. We found a space right around second base (the stage was in center field). The concert began shortly after noon with Jesse Colin Young. The Beach Boys followed him. They were booed when they tried to get us excited about tunes they wrote in Germany. Once they got back to Little Deuce Coupe and other oldies they were cheered again. Finally, CSN&Y came on. By that time we had passed a few joints back and forth and never knew where they came from nor where they were going.

CSN&Y sang a few songs and then each one took a turn on the stage performing their individual songs. They came back together for an encore. What a beautiful day!

When we got to the car, an old man working in his yard caught our attention and let us know that we had received a parking ticket. However, some kid came by and ripped it off the windshield. But that’s okay, he let us know. “I called the police and they’re coming back to give you a new one.”

I told him that we would save them the time and just stop at the police station and pick up another one. He seemed to be okay with that.

This was one of the best two weeks of paid vacation a guy could want. I enjoyed it much better than my time on active duty.

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