Sunday, October 31, 2004

A Tale of Two Deserters "The Big Decision"

When I decided to quit the Air Force, it was just that, a clear level headed decision. I knew that once it started, there would be no going back. I was playing for keeps, just like the Air Force.

I knew a guy who had gotten out by going AWOL at every opportunity. He would take off, go and do what ever, then reappear at the base, just before the end of the thirty day 'grace period'. After that you were listed with the FBI and a search was begun. Theoretically, you could be charged with desertion after thirty days.

He'd catch hell and get punishment details and the next time he got paid, poof, he's gone again. It took him almost two years. Much of that time spent in the stockade.

By the time I made the final decision, it was past time to go. I couldn't see wasting another day of my life under military control. Control of ones own life was what it was all about, to me. I resented every day of this involuntary and pointless servitude.

My intention was to reclaim my freedom and to reclaim and rebuild my life, some where else. Europeans had once come to America, to escape this very sort of thing, in the 'old world'. In the late 60s and early 70s, young Americans were escaping America. Now, in 2004, they are looking for safe harbor, once again.

I have a very clear memory of the moment I made the final decision to quit the war machine. I was sitting in my old 50 Chevy, in a dark parking lot in downtown Birmingham. I had a tight sweaty grip on an old twenty two caliber,. single shot target pistol, I had just stolen from a friend.

Feeling bitter, angry, hopeless, and helpless, in the face of the Air Force and the US government, certain I was morally right but knowing that didn't matter, I thought of taking the quick way out, with the pistol.

I was being sent to Thailand. About the best duty I could have hoped for. Much more interesting than a stateside assignment with very little of the danger presented in Vietnam, just across the border.

My room mate who had just returned from a tour in Thailand told me, many times, that the only real danger in Thailand was in the bars and on the flight line if one was too brainless from the festivities at the bars.

But, I would be loading bombs and munitions and launching the planes just miles and minutes from their farmer targets. I would still be putting my puny shoulder to a wheel I didn't believe in, pushing in a direction I was sure was very wrong.

Knowing that my family and everything I had ever known would be lost to me and feeling that my odds of beating the Government was way bad against me, I decided to 'fuck 'em all' and blow my own brains out. Depriving the criminal politicians of my service and avoiding the whole slave thing.

I sat in the car not far from a little coffee house I used play. I could not give the Air Force another day of my life. I would wear that damned uniform, never again. But, I couldn't face the large reality of deserting the military of my home and native land. That is not a small or easily made decision.. I decided to shoot my way into a final compromise.

I remember loading the old 'break down' pistol with a hollow point long rifle round, sure to do the job correctly. I didn't say good bye to the world or leave a note or think forgiving thoughts to those that may have wronged me. I grabbled the gun, cocked the stiff old hammer and put the gun to my temple. I didn't know that the mouth was a better shot.

I closed my eyes and started pulling the trigger. The trigger had a long pull and a lot of creak. Meaning it didn't pull evenly.. The trigger creaked twice. I felt the gun go off, my head expanded from the inside and in that nano-second, I felt profound regret at the stupid thing I had just done.

Thank rust and bad gun makers for trigger creak. The gun had not gone off. But, to this moment I still feel the blast against my scalp and the flash of red, inside my head, before bitter and profound regret fell onto me. I have never been prone to hallucination. That was a powerful one.

I jerked the gun away from my head. I released the sticky hammer and sat the pistol on the seat gently, to avoid accidental discharge.

Suddenly, everything looked different. I came up from my very, very brief face to face with death, with a whole new outlook. Death waits for everyone, no matter what they do with their time here. The choice was simple, fight or submit. Submission, to what I perceived as historical injustice, was not possible.

I felt then, as I do now, that the men who wrote and signed our national manifesto, the Declaration of Independence, would have agreed with me.

I decided that I would fight. I would play for keeps and I would be prepared to accept and deal with the consequences. I would not give up, go back, or kill myself. I would be a free person again or die trying.

I don't feel like talking about party boy George tonight. I had never heard of him at the time, as George and I ran in different circles. George and I could not have related on a face to face basis. George Bush has never ever been his own man. Never made his own decisions, and never taken responsibility for or accepted the consequences of his actions.

If he weren't the make believe president, he would not be worthy of a line of text.


At 1:42 PM, Blogger Randall S. Andrews said...


This was a revelation that took outstanding courage to tell. You have taken a very difficult and, I would think, at times, a very lonely journey. I hope that some of the young people who are struggling with the same kind of decisions today might read this, and realize from it that their lives are important, and that there are other solutions than going to grab oil in an illegal war, that they may serve their country better by resisting the current regime and survive to find better solutions for the future.

At 4:17 AM, Blogger ThomasMcCay said...

I don't know that it takes courage to tell it. It's more personal that I'm comfortable with, but, I know there are a lot of young men in America, today, faced with similar choices. I hope no more will take the path I almost took. Some young soldiers already have, all for corporate oil and one mans' dreams of granduer.

Check the url below. The presidents' former biographer talks about what George Bush told him about what it takes to be a successfull president, by way of war.

At 11:33 PM, Blogger R said...

I think of my time out of state and of the things I have missed. The death of people I thought would be there for me forever. The long slow grieving process of someone not around to notice these people ARE INDEED GONE from your life...and I imagine you've had to go through the same. (Although for vastly different reasons.) And I feel for you. I find it ironic that another man in the airforce who made the same decision had a far different fate. He sits in the most powerful seat in the nation. Guess that pretty much answers the old question..."What's in a name?"


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