Watch and learn

I entered the Army in May 1943 and was sent to Camp Edison in New Jersey which was close to the resort town of Asbury Park, which I never got to see. On about the 3rd day, this sergeant got about a hundred of us lined up along the side of a great big lawn. He was a much older man. Perhaps 40 or more and he spoke in a very gruff voice. I thought it was a foreign accent so I wondered what he was doing in the Army. He also sounded mean.
So we were lined up and he ordered everyone to make a left face. Now we were looking across the field. He then ordered all the men who graduated from college to take two steps forward. A few of the fellows did. I was sorry I wasn't among them because it was obvious that they would get special treatment.
Then this sergeant ordered all the men who had been to college to take one step forward.
Since I had gone to college for a while, I moved forward.
"Now you smart guys I want you to police the area. That means pick up everything in your path that doesn't grow. I mean twigs, matches cigarette butts and anything else. Hold it till you get to the other side. Then put it in the trash."
I was disappointed because I thought something good was going to happen.
As we started to walk across the field I heard the Sergeant shout to the fellows who were left behind, 'Now you dummies standing there, watch and learn.!"
I felt like laughing but I thought I'd get in trouble. I got to the other side but I found nothing to pick up.
I suppose there was some reason for this exercise, but I could never figure that out unless it was to teach us that some screwy things would happen while in the Army. and that was true.

Paul Kessler, Collingswood, N.J.

« Previous story
Next story »