Thursday, November 11, 2010

A Time to Remember....

The eleventh month, the eleventh day, the eleventh hour and the eleventh minute we revisit those that have served this country in war and peace.  For the most part as I see it, we spend little time remember those who have served.  Perhaps that is the way it ought to be.  I am a veteran, drafted into the Korean War.  I was teaching elementary music in a Seattle suburb and I didn't want to go.  I didn't want to leave my kids.  I got my draft notice in January and my district was able to get them to hold off until the end of the school year in June.

I also got married in June and we had a month together before I had to go for basic training.  I remember a little kid in one of my classes that I taught wanting to know if getting married and getting drafted were the same thing.  Smart little sucker.  I still don't know the answer to that one.

I write about this today not to memorialize those who served but to write about the teachers I had in the military.  No, they weren't professional teachers like I normally write about and no, for the most part, they didn't care about their "students."  They were drill sergeants who were prone to yell, scream, punch, prod, kick and say and do whatever they thought might get your attention and to change your attitude.  But they also taught young men how the military worked.

Most of these drill sergeants had been in combat, had been under fire and had done the dirty work of "fighting."  Their goal was to teach us "civilians" what we would have to do when going into combat.  By and large, if my memory serves me at all, I liked my drill sergeants.  They had something to teach me and I was well aware that some of this "stuff" that I was learning might indeed come in handy someday.  Most of the sergeants use external motivation to make sure we learned.  "Now listen up, I'm going to show you this once and only once and you don't get it right the first time, I'm going to have you run around this camp with full pack ten times.  DO YOU UNDERSTAND?"  

Most of the kids that went through basic training with me were just that--eighteen and nineteen year olds who had never left home before.  A number of them had their future decided by a Judge. "Either finish high school or go to jail or do four years in the Army."  I suspect most chose the Army. They didn't know how to make a bed (bunk), wash their clothes, shine shoes and boots, keep their mouth shut, stand still, follow orders, eat with any degree of manners or keep a neat locker.  Life up to this point was anything they wanted life to be.  It took yelling and screaming and threats to get their attention.  It was possible but it was hard work. 

So the drill sergeants taught us how to walk, march, stand tall, fire a rife, a bazooka (now called a grenade launcher), machine guns, how to crawl low on the ground under fire, put on gas masks, and a variety of skills that were needed at that time in the Army.  I thought to myself that teaching kids was harder work quite frankly.  There was a lot of standing around and waiting in the Army.  You couldn't do that with kids.

After "basic" I was assigned another base and did my advanced training.  Most of advanced training was mostly skills needed in the Army such as clerks training, medical and para-medical, air-borne (parachutes), heavy equipment (tanks and personnel carriers), radio, etc.  

My eventual assignment was in an Army division band.  One might call it "easy duty" but I was not a happy individual.  We played out of tune most of the time and we played the same tunes for almost the two years that I was in that band. And the Army's hurry up and wait was a predominate feature for this group.  We'd wait for this general or some VIP from the states.  My feelings have not improved.

But I did do one thing that gave me some satisfaction.  Given that we had time to wait, I signed up for a college course from the University of Michigan through some sort of an Army system in education.  The Army would pay for the course, books, everything--all I had to do was learn.  So, I signed up for an abnormal psychology course.  I figured that it might help me in later years in my teaching career.  I got the textbook and started to read.  This in itself was an abnormal 
behavior in this unit as no one read.  I don't remember anyone ever getting a book out.  

But the fascinating part was reading about different abnormal behaviors, their characteristics, evidence, treatment (if there was treatment) and possible causes of that behavior.  Great material.  But even better was that I had actually examples of these deviant behaviors all around me.   Manic-depression?  Yeah, Sergeant Crowley fit the bill exactly.  A controlling nature?  Oh my,  did First Sergeant Pagio fit that behavior. For every chapter I had one or more examples right by me.  

I did my written assignments and got excellent grades and much encouragement from some professor back at the University of Michigan.  However, I never finished the course for a variety of reasons.  

I'm a school teacher, plain and simple.  I was not military material--never would be.  I spent two years and then two more years in active reserve and was very happy to be discharged after six years.  

It is interesting that I find this blog difficult to write.  I don't want anyone to write and thank me--I'm happy now writing and talking about teachers and teaching.  Maybe we teachers need to do a better job so there will be no more wars and violence.  Maybe?

You can thank a vet but be sure to thank the teachers around you.

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