"War is hell." I'm not sure exactly who said that, but I know it to be true. Though I was never actually in combat myself, I did watch "Saving Private Ryan", so I'm a bit of an authority on that subject. Sometimes, though, peace time can be just as brutal.
I served as a member of the elite Adjutant General's Corp which is made up of some of the best typists in the Army. Out of every 100 men and women who desire to wear the AG pin, 3 don't make it. Our dedication, bravery and ability to file paperwork in the smoldering heat of an unairconditioned office is legendary. Even the fabled Green Berets come to us when they need copies made. We were the backbone of the Army and were counted on by our superior officers to drive them safely around in Humvees. 75% of the time, we successfully drove to our destination without incident. But, sadly, many brave combat clerks lost their lives transporting the officers. Most of the casualties were caused by the clerks dutifully trying to type a DA Form 87 while driving, then losing control and falling out of the Humvee, hitting their heads on their giant typewriters and killing themselves. Legend even has it that one clerk's last task was to type his own death certificate while he lay dying on the street. The officers would just shake their heads and say, "Damn. That was one fine combat clerk." Then they would laugh as a show of respect for our good-natured humor.
One day, I had my own brush with death while driving a Captain and three 2nd Leiutenants. I had just returned to duty after receiving a Purple Heart for carapl tunnel syndrome. I was anxious to get back, but I had become hardened by my injury. No longer was I a "green", wide-eyed clerk. Now, I was a "green", wide-eyed Private First Class clerk. I had finally been promoted after three years and I credited my newfound sense of duty after my wound for my rapid ascent to the top of the enlisted ranks.
My task that day was to deliver the officers to the post golf course. Everything was going well until we came to a fork in the road. One direction had a sign that read "road closed." The other direction was the detour that we were supposed to take. But, being assigned to an
infantry company whose motto was "Always Forward", I got a little cocky and decided to take the "road closed" route. I knew from my experience in typing meritorious service awards for infantrymen, that taking the road less traveled was the honorable thing to do. So, I ran over the road block and continued on my way. The captain started screaming at me to stop. But, I just shouted "always forward, sir!" and drove on. I saw the golf course clubhouse straight ahead, but to get to it I had to drive through the outer rough on hole 7. Sadly, I didn't see the water hazard that came next. I drove the Humvee into the small pond and we sunk immediately. I yelled "fore!!!" just before we went down, but it was too late.
The five of us frantically tried to get the radios and golf clubs out of the water, but in doing so, the Captain accidentally hit me several times upon the head with his 4 iron. I later was awarded my 2nd Purple Heart because some shrapnel from the club lodged into my buttocks. I'm still not sure how that happened.
After the incident, I was taken off driving duty. The stress of being a combat support specialist in the field of personnel administration had finally gotten to me. I was assigned to permanent latrine duty which I continued to the end of my enlistment.
War is hell. Tom Hanks showed me that. What he didn't prepare me for was the horror of serving as a combat clerk. Damn him!