Military Stories 2 --- change or heart and voluntary enlistment
So . . . time went on and I bummed around town for a few years doing various semiskilled jobs, finally settling into the mail order business. I got a bit more interested in college, so I went back to the college I had attended and hung out there for a while, crashing with some students, ‘auditing classes’ for no credit (and without paying), and reestablishing my connections with the campus anti-war movement, which by that time had been taken over by a bunch of self centered idiots and turned in to ‘a cult of personality’ (as the Chinese communists were to say later when Mao started to get old and weak). But my interest in continuing my education was strong, I had blown all of my academic scholarships through poor performance when I had attended earlier, and my parents weren’t rich. So my only visible alternative for getting a college education was to enlist in the military to obtain what at that time was a very good educational benefits package: four fully paid years of tuition and living expenses for all honorably discharged veterans. Truth be known, I also had some lingering guilt at taking the easy way out while so many others had to risk and die. These feelings were not eased in any way by seeing what the anti-war movement had turned into. It had turned from hating the war because it was wrong to hating anyone who participated or cooperated with ‘the system', even though it was apparent that some of those folks were just as much against the war as the mad dog radicals, but they felt their own moral obligation to do what was right by their lights and serve when called. This moral decision on the part of many who submitted to the draft came to seem somehow more correct than the moral posturing of those who sought by that time to control the anti-war movement and use it for their own personal gain (social and personal power and lots of free pussy from the young wide-eyed liberal hippie chicks). And the military had all this neato high tech stuff you could play with: spy satellites, secret decoders and other stuff that makes a techie drool. So I went down one day, long hair streaming out behind, to talk to the recruiter. At first, he looked askance. Not many long-hairs were voluntarily walking into the enlistment offices in those days, unless it was to plant a bomb or throw buckets of blood around. But as soon as he found out I was actually there to make serious inquiries, I was his long lost buddy. I took some intelligence tests they had and by then he was grinning from ear to ear. I examined the contracts VERY carefully, obtained a guaranteed job in the field of electronics and was ready to sign the papers. If you signed up voluntarily, and qualified you got choice of career field, or choice of first duty station, or $1000 cash in hand. Then I dropped what I thought was going to be the bombshell. “Uh, there might be one minor problem … I’ve got this 4F classification.” He looked like his mother had just died. “Why, what’s wrong?” “Well, they never told me exactly, I had this letter from a shrink, and I think they must believe I am crazy …” Big grin returns --- “Oh, don’t worry about that. As long as you haven’t got some physical problems, I can fix that.” And off I went.
I breezed through the induction physical right along with a herd of very unenthusiastic and worried draftees, having a pretty good time in fact. Part of the decision to enlist involved a conscious decision to give up any pretense at personal self determination or resistance to the military system for the duration of the four years, knowing that in the end that would be the most painless way to endure what, for me was a necessary evil. Military service was price to be paid and a risk to be consciously taken in order to obtain the reward at the end of the tunnel. That is the only attitude I have seen that works for military service. Some come by it naturally. Those that resist are either ground down or weeded out. But the end result is the same, so why make it hard on yourself ? Anyway, after all the physical exams were done and everyone was waiting around for the next, as yet undisclosed, step, I and a few others were called out for personal interviews. Mine was with the shrink. We introduced ourselves to each other and he noted that I was older than most of the draftees by about 6 years, and I told him a little bit about how I had come to be there. He said, “Well, the reason for this interview is this letter in your file that caused you to be classified 4F. Do you have any idea what it says?” “Well, not in any detail. I wanted a deferment, so I sort of studied up for the interview with the other doctor. I would guess that it probably says something pretty bad to get me classified 4F, probably that I am a raving lunatic, not fit to be left alone with women, small children, or defenseless men …” “So, that is your explanation ? I’ve heard of doctor so-and-so (I discovered later when I looked him up in the medical Who’s Who that doctor so-and-so had written some notable papers in the field of Freudian psychology.), and I can’t imagine that he would be fooled into writing an evaluation like this.” So I went into The Act. We went on with the interview for another few minutes until the shrink broke out in to a huge laughing fit. Between laughs as he was calming down, he said, “Man, I’m sure glad you didn’t teach that to any of your buddies, or we’d all be out of a job here.” Then I was sort of sad that I didn’t teach that to all of my buddies, even though I suspect that it might have taken a bit of underlying character acting to pull it off effectively. I told him I actually never had seen the letter and would he mind if I took a look at it. “chuckling. . . I guess there’s no harm in that.”
“The subject suffers from fully developed paranoid schizophrenia. Close confinement with large groups of people or any attempt to enforce discipline from an external source would most likely result in uncontrollable and violent delusional behavior.” Down at the bottom was a handwritten note, “Verified by phone interview with doctor so-and-so and personal observation,” and a signature, rank, and date. Then it was my turn to laugh. I always meant to look up the good doctor and find out whether he had actually been fooled or was just doing me a favor, buy him a drink, and share a good laugh. But I never got around to it. As far as I know I never have exhibited any uncontrollable and violent delusional behavior.
But then again, if it was delusional behavior, would I remember ?