Talking to soldiers

I remember standing to attention for the first time in the gymnasium at the Joe R. Hooper USARC in Bothell, and feeling like an absolute fraud. Then I followed the young guys back into the supply room cages, where smells of rubber and oil and brass pervaded, and remembered…

This is what soldiering smells like… this, and sweat, and dirt and diesel…

Toddling down to the motor pool to pull service checks on any vehicle they’d let me touch, I started filling out the same old DA Form 2404 EQUIPMENT INSPECTION AND MAINTENANCE WORKSHEET forms I remembered from clear back in Cold War-era Korea. Wielding a dipstick in one hand and a Skilcraft (“Quality Blind-Made Products”) ballpoint pen in the other, I got grease under my nails. I sloshed JP8 on my new BDUs. I looked, and I saw that it was good…

Next drill, off we went to Fort Lewis, and I got to be a poseur all over again. Who did I think I was, trying to run a night land nav course in my knee brace and bifocals? I was pretty sure I was meant to soldier, but some men have soldiering in their bones. As a middlin’-young businessman (another false move for me), this was not my turf, but theirs.

I went anyway, of course. When they said to hit the Green Ramp, I went there, too. Your duty may not be your calling, but it’s still duty.

Tomorrow I go back to Joint Base Lewis-McChord. We’re doing another reading of Nothing In Reserve, this time for troops and their families. From noon to one (1200-1300) I’ll be at the Fort Lewis Library, and again from 1800-1900 at the McChord Library.

I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t have butterflies about it. Is there a test? In the interesting units, everything is a test.

What if they ask me to set up a bounding overwatch, or administer an impromptu APFT?

“Gee, guys, I… say, who wants doughnuts?”

Breathe, Lewis

OK, never mind. I’m not a soldier anymore. I’m a writer. Writers have a different mission, one for which I’m as well trained as I’m likely to get — and this is what I was born for.

Got a book or two out there, another one on the cooker and a magazine gig. I’m a writer, dammit!

Pretty sure…


  1. I gotta book with your “graffito” in it that says you are. At least, that’s what it says to *me*…

  2. Thanks for the Ft. Lewis visit; particularly taking the time to hang out with that one small part of the green machine that grew up under my roof.

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