In July 1968 I enlisted in the U.S. Army with the conviction that the United States of America gives us a lifetime of freedom and the least I could do was give the country two years of service.
The basic training company to which I was assigned at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., was the most dysfunctional, abusive, corrupt and even criminal organization I have ever encountered. A few of the highlights of that training company would be:
1) A drill sergeant shook down every member of every new training company for $4 a head every eight weeks—thousands of dollars.
2) A physically abusive drill sergeant struck trainees, of a differing race than his, on a daily basis. His favorite was a punch to the stomach just below the rib cage that would drop you to your knees.
3) A company captain covered up the purposeful death of a trainee. They ran us coming back from the firing ranges in 100 degree heat. When one trainee fell out unconscious, they kept kicking him, ordering him to get up. By the time they threw him on the back of a truck and got him to to medical aid, he was dead. Subsequently, the company was marched to a clearing in the woods where the company captain threatened us with retaliation if any of us cooperated with anyone investigating the death. This has bothered me ever since.
4) A chronically drunk doctor in the infirmary who touched and treated troops with a yellow hand, yes, his whole hand was yellow from chain smoking filterless "Camel" cigarettes, in the office.
5) A squad leader was beaten senseless and a drill sergeant ordered "blanketing" who was emaciated by the end of basic.
6) A drunken drill sergeant in a sharkskin suit and ruffled silk shirt
would fall out the whole company at 3 a.m. on a Sunday, and conduct physical training and low crawling the length of the parade field, while weaving on the front porch of the barracks.
7) A sadistic 19-year-old lieutenant would push the troops in physical training and running to, and beyond the breaking point—see item No. 3 above.
How am I doing so far?