It was Company C, actually.
I always think about this stuff on Veterans Day, but today I took a minute and dug up a couple of photo albums in the attic, and found some pictures that haven’t seen the light of day for a very long time.
This is pretty much the first thing you see when you arrive at Fort Knox; I arrived in the middle of the night, and I recall the sign being lit up, even at 12:30 a.m. And then I remember three or four giant drill sergeants getting on the bus, and the screaming began. That first 24 hours seemed like three days.
That’s me, but that’s not my tank. My unit maintained M-1 Abrams tanks that the Armor School at Fort Knox used to train new lieutenants and non-commissioned officers going through tactical courses. We had to keep up our own skills as well; this was shot on Cedar Creek Range, the range where my squadron almost always held its gunnery competitions.
We spent a ton of time at Cedar Creek, whether we were doing our own stuff or if we were keeping our tanks ready for a new group of lieutenants. Much of that was tedious maintenance work, like my buddies are doing here. And yes, this is my tank. I was serving as driver for this gunnery; at this point I was taking pictures while I was supposed to be checking the track.
We did manage to have some fun though. Yes, I painted a Stealie on my CVC helmet; the company commander tolerated that kind of personalization during a gunnery, but when it was over, we had to go back to OD green (or in my case, I just switched it out with my other CVC. Heh.).
This is the pic that I found to be the most startling, second only to the one they shoot of everybody immediately after your first haircut at reception station. I can’t find the one copy of that one, but it’s funny — we were allowed to sleep for about 45 minutes that first night, and then you jump right into uniform issue, a mountain of paperwork and the haircut. The look of shock on my face is hysterical.
The boots? They shined like glass.
And what was probably that same pair of boots ended up on a utility line just outside our quarters on this night in mid-October 1990.
It’s kind of a last-night-in-the-Army tradition: You toss a laced-together pair of boots up on a power line somewhere. I went to bed right after this, woke up at midnight, did the last bit of out-processing I needed to do and drove back to Columbus. The Army got me back, though — three weeks into winter quarter at OU, I was recalled because of the Gulf War. I went back to Knox and then flew to Germany, where we were staged as the second wave of tankers, should they need us.
They didn’t. I came home after about a month, and my time in the Army was done.
I joke a lot about the best thing I got from the Army was learning how to iron and scrub toilets (and Mrs. Crappy would tell you she’s happy I have both of those skills), but the truth is that was a valuable time for me. But for as much as I accomplished — and was prepared to do — in Kentucky and in Germany, my experiences pale in comparison with those who have had to do more than go overseas only to be sent home.
I count among my friends a bunch of people who have fought in the Middle East, whether it was back in the 90s or during this decade. I am a veteran, yes, but Veterans Day is for those guys. I hope they’ve heard the gratitude all day.
And I hope they’ll accept it from me as well.