A Tale of Two Deserters Episode 5
When I joined the Air Force, I did so feeling that a gun was held to my head, literally and figuratively. I was 1A for the draft, in the days before the lottery system was created. I was, most likely only months away from the rice paddies.
The American military has always had a tendency to throw large numbers of poorly trained conscripts into battle. A tradition that dates back to the American civil war.
One day you are on the street delivering pizza or bagging groceries, a few months later, you’re humping through a jungle full of snakes, disease, and residents who want to kill you for blowing up their villages.
On the home front there was serious pressure to get me into the military and out of the way. Dad had remarried and my long covert campaign get my mother hooked up with a stable man, was coming to fruition.
While I had already left, to seek my own way in the world, each household had its reasons to want me completely out of the picture and without embarrassment. The Air Force was everybody’s idea of the perfect solution. Everyone except me and no one was actually asking me.
What did I think about it? Glad someone asked. I thought I was being punished for a crime never committed. It appeared that I had, without trial, been convicted of being a working class male of limited immediate prospects. Sentenced to make something of myself in the killing grounds. Or die trying. “Another poor boy trapped in a rich mans’ war” to quote Steve Earle.
I also thought I had a life. I had left my crappy little home town and dysfunctional family to create my own life. A life of music, poetry, and a search for truth in the streets and people of America. Things of zero value to either the town or its good citizens, including
my long suffering family.
My sister, Rebecca, was my only supporter and ally in the familial cluster. She often saw things more clearly than I.
Back to the Air Force: My recruiting officer, Sgt. Hill, was a great salesman and a shameless liar. According to him I had scored maximum on all but two categories on the test. I failed the electrical part and passed the mechanical section by the minimum passing score. That was not bad news. I had decided to enlist in the Air Force security police. I had maxed the category of the test that related to that job.
BUT, Sgt. said the Air Force didn’t need SPs this month, it needed mechanics. So, I say "I will wait the two months until the Air Force needs me."
“Oh now, says Sgt. Hill, the draft will get you by then.”
I say, “So let me sign up now and I'll wait the month for call up?” It seemed the reasonable course. A win-win situation.
But crafty Sgt. Hill told me I could sign up now, as a mechanic, and I would be allowed to change my specialty, during the first couple of weeks of basic training.
A little secret boys and girls: Recruiting officers are supposed to lie to you and they do it, all the time.
In one session, in basic, a bellowing T.I. in a Smokey Bear hat, ask us, “How many of you shave headed maggots were promised you could change your Air Force career path during basic training?” He had an evil, self satisfied smirk that telegraphed the bad news.
“Welcome to the Air Force. You can change your career path if and when you complete your four year enlistment, until then, you will perform what ever duties have been assigned to you. Ha, Ha, Ha.”
I knew they were going to lose the war, if they actually thought they could turn me into a real mechanic,
This particular insult, added to the grievous injury of forced involuntary servitude, was the final straw. I decided that the worm would turn. Escaping basic training, in San Antonio, with my shaved head and no civilian clothes, was out of the question. But, the die was cast. I decided I would not be a good slave. Neither would I be a foolish rebel. I could bide my time. Make sure that my departure was planned and at a favorable time. Besides, surviving basic had a way of occupying a persons’ strict attention, to matters at hand.
George Bush, on the other hand, had a very different experience. It was recently revealed that George failed his National Guard entrance test, with a miserable score of 25%. Yet, good old Georgie boy was sprung over the heads of a great multitude of men in line ahead of him. Men who had actually passed the test.
But, George was a poor student who could not stay in university and Daddy didn’t have time to buy poor dumb George into a post grad program at the "right" university. However, just a few days before George would have been eligible for the draft, he was appointed, as if by magic, to the Texas Air National Guard. A force that did not serve overseas, at the time.
Here is the real “as if by magic” part: George, who flunked a very easy entrance exam, was given permission to train as a fighter pilot! A job reserved for the best, the brightest, the quickest, and the bravest. Not for under bright, under achievers like George.
But, it gets better. The National Guard doesn’t train new pilots. The Air National Guard Pilots were fully trained veterans of the Army, Air Force. or other branches of the military. But George, was assigned to be trained as a fighter pilot, for a unit that did not do overseas service.
Why? Well, daddy was thinking ahead and planning his slow witted sons’ future resume.
So, a working class policeman’s son aces the test for his preferred job. He is denied the opportunity and lied to by a recruiting sergeant who is intentionally misrepresenting the facts. To ‘close the sale’. This future deserter had no administrative or legal recourse, of course.
George flunks the chimp easy entrance test, leaps to the head of the line, and has a singular, glorious assignment put into his inept hands.
So George told the recruiter what he wanted to do and Daddy made it so. There was one real fly in the ointment. Flying jet fighters is very, very dangerous work, even when you aren’t being shot at.
I suspect, I got a burning case of the “I will not serve” blues a bit earlier than George. I think George joined the choir when he realized that in his slow witted, hard drinking, party boy mitts, a jet fighter would be a death trap. George is not burdened with great intellect but he was bright enough to know he was going to be a bad pilot. George wanted the uniform and the title of jet pilot. But his plans, like so many others of his era, didn’t include dying for the glory. George was in a position to make plans, it seems.
So, George walked away. Scott free. Just walked away. And, in the fullness of time, Daddy bought Georgie into Harvard ($40 mil. worth of architecture) and later George got his honorable discharge for service never performed.
And that, boys and girls, is the American way. For some people.