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Old Sgts. 1

August 11th, 2018 by jomo

Fifteen years after the end of WW2, when I was nineteen I joined the US Army, went through boot camp at Ft. Hood, basic artillery training at Ft. Sill, and was posted to a self-propelled 8″ howitzer battalion at a small kaserne west of Würzburg, Germany. Many of the NCOs were WW2 vets, nearing retirement after 20 years of service.

One fellow comes to mind foremost. He was somewhere in his 40s, and was a serious drinker – and had been for a long time. Every morning was a struggle for him, redolent of booze with blurry-focus bloodshot eyes and trembling hands. He was a staff sergeant, and I think that he was in the commo section of HQ Battery, but I’m not sure. He had one more enlistment to go before retiring, but someone in Battalion HQ put a bar to his re-enlistment. That was a rotten thing to do, but it was the Army, right?

He was outraged at the bar. He had jumped into Normandy with the 82nd Airborne. He had jumped into Holland. He had fought the Battle of the Bulge. And now they were kicking him out.

President Kennedy had appointed James M. Gavin as US Ambassador to France. Gavin, known as “Jumpin’ Jim,” had commanded the 82nd Airborne Division in 1944. So the old drunk sarge was going to Paris to see his bud, the Jumping General.

He took leave and went to Paris. When he came back, the bar to his re-enlistment had been lifted, he had already re-upped, and was forthwith transferred to Seattle, his hometown, where he was assigned as Recruiting NCO to finish out his career in the US Army.

Once again, “it’s who you know” eh?

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