Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Two Years For a Free Meal

Michael Sedano
Formerly of the 7th of the 5th Air Defense Artillery (HAWK) Battalion
Eighth U.S. Army, Republic of Korea

I claimed my first Veterans Day free meal. Every year I would read this or that chain restaurant's ad offering ex-GIs some free chow. Just prove you're a Veteran. There's the rub. They don't take your word for it.

Every year my mouth waters for free chow, but I would say to myself, "Self, where did you put that DD-214?" And Self had no idea where he'd put that form, the Armed Forces of the United States Report of Transfer or Discharge.

I know its real name because I found that darn thing the other day, just in time for Veterans Day. My own DD-214. Not a lot of people own one. Once a year it gets any Veteran who has one, a free meal. My Great Uncle Joe earned a Congressional Medal of Honor. I asked him one time, I must have been 10 or 11, if he got any money for it? Twenty-five bucks a month, he informed me. Uncle Joe had a lot of other stuff to say, too. His DD-214 probably has two pages for his medals from Korea.

A sleepy clerk at Ft. Lewis mistyped my unit as the "15th" 
This time of year I get to behold e-mail from places I frequent, like Central Grille in Pasadena,  promising me a free meal up to $15.99 because 50 years ago I gave the United States of America my body to do with as it pleased for one year, seven months and five days. Not quite two years, but they said that's what they were taking from me as they dragged me onto that bus.

According to the DD-214, this soldier was a piss-poor shot with an M14, he is a Marksman. Below that you have to take the test again. On the M16, however, he's deadly, awarded a Sharpshooter badge. It's silent on the day he had M60 machine gun training for the heck of it. He was Signal Corps, served with the Air Defenders. Had he died the Army would have given his wife $10,000. His Character of Service: Honorable.

That's all in writing. I welled up at the table reading the boxes. Sneaky quiet tears I shed for stuff the DD-214 doesn't say. That young fool with the new wedding band used to sit behind a couple of steel barrels overlooking the invasion route, armed with a field phone, a book, an M14, and one magazine of 7.62mm bullets. Had he spotted something like an enemy tank coming 'round the mountain, he would have emptied that magazine at them then scurried down the open field of fire to leap into the last jeep hightailing it to safety.

John McCrae. In Flanders Fields. click for full poem 
Even when it rained. Even when it snowed. That young fool sat up there waiting to be cannon fodder. And it rained a lot. And it snowed a lot. The book got soaked and he sat there miserably, hunkered down in mud. For hours.

Some people in our nation shirk duty when it rains.

Taking it, that's what Duty looks like, when you mean it. The pendejo named in the DD-214 raised his hand like all Veterans did, swore the same Oath every other man and woman swore, repeated the same Creed every man and woman in uniform spoke aloud their first day of training:

Excerpt, Soldier's Creed. Link in text above to full Creed.
The fellow in this DD-214 was one happy G.I. when Hq called him off the mountain to come down to civilization to run the unit propaganda mill. The DD-214 doesn't say anything about that, in fact, it says he's a Radio Operator, a Morse Code guy, not the Information Specialist in the Colonel's office. This guy got a fancy certificate from the General for his work--the DD-214 doesn't say that, either. So it goes.

I felt guilty, taking the free meal. I don't need a free meal because I was a soldier. That's not why I did that, for recognition, to be heroes like my uncle Joe and my cousin Vince--same war. If you got a medal, that's different. Otherwise, none of us merits any special treatment because we did our Duty with a capital "D". There are thousands of guys who share my good fortune, the values to aguantar and do the Duty. Then there are the people homeless, strung-out, cardboard-sign-Veterans with their hands out and getting in return an American back.

I ordered an eleven-dollar salad and the check credited $15.99. That's cool, the restaurant is giving away the max no matter what the Vet orders. If we can prove it, we're worth the cost. Barbara's entrée was list price even though she was Drafted when I was Drafted, and was just as much in the Service as I was. Peor, she suffered plenty while I had the time of my life.

Thank you, Central Grille. Ordinarily this dinner would have set me back 40 bucks with propina. So that's what I left. The workers can share the 80 percent tip.

Happy Veterans Day. I mean that.

75 men stationed on Bravo Battery did two nights up on the mountain, one day down in the Admin Area enjoying amenities like hot chow, houseboys and KPs, recreation like cheap booze and traveling USO shows.
It rained a lot. foto: Dean Moler, "Arky".

1 comment:

JimWLA said...

They can keep there free meals...………...