Thursday, June 2, 2016

Seriously, I'm Okay...



Alright, so I've heard from a few folks who were perhaps a bit concerned regarding my string of serious, downright depressing posts lately concerning the world situation in these days and times.

Well, while I am a bit miffed/concerned/pissed off regarding the State of the Union, in real every day life, that opening gif illustrates perfectly, how I actually feel. And yes, I actually do dance like Jed Clampett but without the man's grace and smoothness. (I would have fallen down right around the middle of that sweet pivot move. Ask The Nuke. There was an incident in an elevator which I might, or might not, relate someday.)

Ahem.

Anyhoo...

The following photo (which I saw earlier in the day and managed to find later) put me in mind of a story. Or two. Regarding parades. Not the kind you see on Main Street on the Fourth of July nor the kind you'd see in Red Square on May Day. (Or in November as I recall during the bad old days of the Soviet Union.)

(Source)

Back in my halcyon days I was in a parade or two. Well, four that I can remember with any certainty. One while in my freshman year of college at Norwich University, the other three were in the Air Force. In fact two of those Air Force parades occurred within my very first year wearing the blue. The last was while I was stationed in Germany, though the parade actually took place in Belgium.

That last parade I will leave for another time. It involves the Royal Highland Regiment (the Black Watch to be specific, the pipers of that regiment to be even more pedantic in my attention to detail). Strong drink was involved as was the playing of bagpipes and a stirring march through the wee village of La-Roche-en-Ardenne in the heart of the Ardennes forest.

Did ya know that sergeants of Her Majesty's forces give commands in what I can only describe as a high pitched screech? Nothing unmanly about it, it's somewhat unsettling as a matter of fact. Just thought I'd mention that.

Oh, there were other times which would qualify as a parade, but we were not marching. We all just sort of stood there in formation and tried not to let gravity pull us down as has happened to that Welsh Guardsman above. (How do I know he's Welsh? I don't, but he is a soldier of the Welsh Guards Regiment. Buttons arranged in fives dontcha know? I mean, I know my uniforms. Well, okay, I did look it up to confirm it... But I did know what to look for, that has to count for something, neh?)

The parade which springs to mind first and foremost was long ago in the spring of Nineteen and Seventy-Two at Norwich University. It had something to do with the seniors approaching graduation (many of whom would be commissioned in the Army and could maybe look forward to service in a far away Southeast Asian country) and this was one of (if not the actual) last parades.

As in the photo fancy dress uniforms were involved. Nothing as fancy as what the Guards sport but pretty slick looking nevertheless. As I recall for this occasion we wore our fanciest kit which involved a dark blue U.S. Army-style dress coat with Norwich insignia, a dark blue U.S. Army-style hat (again with cadet insignia), white trousers, black low-quarter shoes, and white gloves. Similar to the next photo, but again with white trousers.

(Source)

Now the day of the parade dawned bright and sunny. A bit hot as I recall, not Vermont summer time hot (which is nowhere near Biloxi-hot but is hotter'n Sandy Eggo at its hottest) but hot enough where the idea of standing at attention (parade rest from time to time) out on the parade ground is a bit daunting.

Now the seniors at our glorious school, in anticipation of heading off to the service or having to go into the civilian rat race, had decided that the night before the parade was a fine time to make merry and cause a bit of mischief. Mischief involving adult beverages. Not the sort of mischief which involved one set of alcohol fueled cadets being incarcerated in the local hoosegow for riotous conduct while another set of alcohol fueled cadets (who just so happened to belong to the Armor Club) decided that springing their classmates from the local equivalent of the Bastille was a capital idea.

Of course, even I felt it was a bit overboard for the cadets who were still free to use one of the University's tanks in the escapade. The local constabulary was not amused, the administration at Norwich was not amused, the United States Army was not amused, the people who had to repair the roads torn up by the tracks of said armored vehicle were not amused, and (naturally) the State of Vermont was not amused. The incarcerated cadets remained incarcerated even though a great deal of damage was done to (ahem) the Bastille.

The cadets (from what I was led to believe) were to a man jack tremendously amused. Alas, they did not have a say in the matter and so the Armor Club lost their tanks. Confiscated by glowering authority who just did not see the humor that was in it.

That was before my time, though a number of folks of my acquaintance swear it to be the "God's Honest Truth."

Anyhoo, where was I? Lemme see, oh yes, parades, impending graduation, and strong drink. In the hands of young men who ought to know better. But hey, we were all young once.

So there I was...*

We marched forth onto the parade field in all of our martial splendor. In fact we may have even done a turn around the "quad" which surrounded the field. It was magnificent! Drums were thumping, brass instruments were blaring, and I dare say there might have been a clash or two of cymbals. It was all very military and proper.

Well, except for the fact that some of the troops were wavering in their devotion to discipline and good order. There may have been a zig, even yes a zag, involved as the various companies and platoons wheeled into place. Some of the troops looked a bit weary, yea verily, some of the troops appeared to be, dare I say it? In their cups, intoxicated, three sheets to the wind, and other hoary phrases indicating a state of less than absolute sobriety.

For you see, when one doesn't quit imbibing until the wee hours before dawn, the odds of being completely sober for a ten o'clock parade are exactly slim and none. But hey, it was the seniors, they had earned it, this was their day, we underclassmen endeavored with our all skill and subterfuge to assist our besotted brethren in their attempts to remain upright and in the ranks.

The sheer futility of said endeavor quickly became apparent when we had all assumed our proper places on the parade ground and the regiment in all its splendor was assembled. Now the speechifying began.

Speechifying, often in an exhorting and long-winded vein, always seems to accompany the presence of troops in fancy uniforms. Why else would we need to be assembled in our serried ranks? Provides wondrous opportunities for a general or two to harangue the assembled uniformed multitude.

Have you ever tried standing still, in the hot sun, in a dress uniform, for any amount of time? Now add the ingestion of spirits and malted beverages with hops to the mix and you have, what I like to call, a "situation." I mean there's a reason sobriety tests often involve assuming a somewhat unnatural posture and being expected to hold it. Yeah, not really possible.

In the company to our front, one fine lad threw his gaze to the sky, abruptly enough so that his headgear departed from its position atop his cranium and tumbled to the grass. Followed shortly thereafter by its owner. He went down like a felled tree. Happened so quickly that his mates couldn't stop his fall. In fact, he took one of them with him.

To my right was another company. Speaking of holding it, there is a certain physiological effect involved with downing quantities of liquid. After all, there is only so much storage space (if you will) in the human body and we are actually designed to dispense with any excess liquid. Come on, you know what I mean.

Golden flow.

The Yellow River by I. P. Freely.

At any rate, one trooper in that company experienced a certain wetness in his trousers. In his white trousers mind you. Yes, it was pretty obvious what had occurred. I'm guessing the smell and (no doubt) that fellow's sigh of relied triggered his classmates to also let go.

I tell you, I don't remember any of the speeches. I couldn't tell you how long that parade lasted. I'm pretty sure that we were dismissed in place rather than making any attempt to march the diminished companies off the field and over the bodies of the prostrate inebriates scattered about.

But that parade was epic. A sight I'll remember to my dying day. I'm also quite proud to add that our company suffered no casualties during the event. All of our seniors stayed upright and none soiled their trousers. But as we left the parade ground after our dismissal, there were more than a few of Fox Company's seniors who left breakfast out there on the field.

And on the company street.

And in the bushes.

I daresay one of the faculty member's automobiles was also "decorated" for the event.

Man, who doesn't love a parade?





*SJC

16 comments:

  1. In 1987, I went back to college. Oil was too cheap, and my job as an electrician in Boerne was about to end. I went to the piney woods of east Texas. Deep in the oil patch (I mean, really, I didn't know). As I drove all over creation looking for work, I began to question my own intelligence. BUT..... a friend at school introduced me to a Mr. Brown.

    Mr. Brown was old oil money rich. His dad was a driller from the 30's. All the Brown boys went to VMI, and then to an ivy league school for engineering. Mr. Brown's older brother founded what became Burr-Brown. My Mr. Brown was caught smuggling drink on the train home from VMI in 1946 (+/-), and was summarily dismissed from VMI. He finished up school in Longview, and went to UT Arlington and became a lawyer....

    I always wondered what he would have done if he'd been allowed to finish VMI and follow the family track. As it was, he never worked for anyone, managed his share of the family fortune with extreme diligence, and was in the bar at 1300 and usually home in bed by 2100 totally wasted. He had a beer gut out to THERE! was gout-y and sallow. He let me work for him, and for that, I am extremely grateful. Fed my family for four years, and was a decent man, to me at least.

    I'm glad the powers that be didn't ruin the rest of those cadet's lives by coming down hard. They had the rest of their lives to ruin themselves!!

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    1. Those were the days where it was considered career-enhancing to have been a "bad boy" at some point in time.

      Hell, in today's military it's tough to survive a freaking parking ticket!

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  2. You can't soar with the iggles, after wallowing with the pigs.

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    1. Well you can, but the smell annoys the Hell out of the eagles.

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    2. According to my children, who had it oft told them by their father, the correct version of that saying is "You can't soar with the Eagles, if you hoot with the Owls." Just sayin'

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    3. I've also heard turkeys referenced in this saying.

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  3. Pioneer Kaserne, Hanau, Germany circa 1960's had an Artillery Battalion housed in the barracks next to ours. For whatever reason, they always had an animal mascot. First, a goat. The goat learned how to open flipper top beer bottles, got into the beer supply at a unit day, and drank itself to death. Next was a mule. The mule was being abused so went away. Next up was a huge St. Bernard. At a Change of Command formation, the dog decided he had enough and drug his handler through the assembled ranks. Total shambles. After that, no more mascots.

    Speaking of shambles, we Engineers seldom marched in any formation larger than a platoon. When we had to wear Class A uniforms and march as a company (eight abreast) it wasn't pretty.

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    1. Engineers marching? What were they thinking.

      Mascots? Wow, another "what were they thinking"?

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  4. The only parades in which I participated were before I made E-3.
    Beyond that point, if there was any event where dress uniforms were required, we mustered in place.
    Side note: every year the first two weeks of PE were all about drill.
    The high point of that was seeing if a complaint could be generated from a classroom teacher about the disruption of the drilling "troops" sounding off.

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    1. I did a lot of drilling back in the day. I actually got pretty good at it.

      Of course, there were some places where trying to get the airmen to march in something resembling a formation was always a challenge.

      Parade stories. I have more.

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  5. Great post!

    The Queen expects every man to remain at attention, even when unconscious. I wonder if the rack of medals she sports are her WWII service medals or just royal bling.

    Regarding the charge on the Bastille, I'm wondering if a large proportion of those lads weren't products of General Bache and Bunker Hill Military Academy. Or if someone heard the story and said, "this would make a great movie!"

    The only parade I marched in was boot camp graduation. I'm sure it was splendid but I wanted so much to put that place behind me that I failed to pay proper attention. I do seem to recall a few horizontal sailors.

    I do, however, remember barfing at morning quarters a couple of times.

    Those were the days!

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    1. I did note that the recumbent Guardsman was still (more or less) at attention. But his bearskin is askew, Sarn't Major ain't going to like that, not at all.

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  6. "free to use one of the University's tanks in the escapade. " WOW! I am impressed. Did they leave the keys in them or something?
    There are many things that seemed like good ideas at the time - stealing an ambulance and driving over to the Aussie side of the base and others. Most did not end well. But we were rarely chastised, our fearless leaders thinking that the ideas were good too. I guess that was the difference between O-5 (Squadron) and O-6 (Wing), good ideas changed somehow.

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    1. Well, the guys who borrowed the tank were in the Armor Club. It was "their" tank (so to speak) so they knew where everything was.

      Back in the day things were very different, then our leaders remembered what they had been like when they were at that level. Nowadays, not so much.

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Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)