Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Veterans Day 2018

500 Words
Incipient Veteran
Michael Sedano

The Draft notice waited in the unopened mailbox. My wife sensed something was wrong and urged me to come on, let’s have some fun on a sunny October day at Santa Barbara Botanic Garden. We’d enjoyed Summer courtship promenades along its pathways.

I’d had premonitions in the transition from Involuntary to birthdate-based Draft lottery in 1968. For the nonce all bets were off. I knew they’d come for me. All summer my bride-to-be watched me doing push-ups in our living room.

“What are you doing?” She’d ask as if I could change the answer to please her.

“I’m getting ready for the Army,” I’d grunt.

“You’re not getting drafted,” she’d say angrily and that settled it.

Los Sedano in Basic Training, Ft. Ord February 1969
January 15, 1969 I boarded a Greyhound in a Santa Barbara parking lot and the driver deposited the lot of us on Wilshire Boulevard near the Ebell Theatre. 

There was no “Group W” bench and no one sang.

We became Incipient Veterans sometime around 3 p.m. when we raised hands swearing to defend the Constitution from all enemies etcetera. 

Every one of us meant it, what we swore. It’s a forever oath, we still mean it. That’s what makes a man or woman a Veteran.

Every now and then my “Army knee” goes out, sending piercing pain from my right knee paralyzing me until the knee can again support the stress of moving. I injured that knee on the first day of Basic.

“Possible stress fracture,” the Doc wrote, and gave me a Profile. For the next ten weeks of Basic I rode the “sick, lame, and lazy” truck when the Platoon marched and ran extended distances. On the final day of Basic Combat Training, I ran the same test and broke the knee again.

The view from the Huey blew my mind. I’d spent six months on top of our destination mountain and didn’t realize the ridges were lined for miles with pugnacious trenches defined by wire and timber fortifications, just like the movies where GIs keep their oath with bayonets and blood and guts. Then our pilot banked hard to the right. 

Flying onto Mae Bong, Bravo 7/5 from the North
My shoulder pounded into Sergeant-Major, who grunted as he banged into bulkhead. No one complained when we noticed the mountainside to our left blossoming silently in tall spires of smoke from an artillery barrage.

The darkroom wasn’t empty. Some GI was showing his Yobo the magic of film developing. I didn’t notice that she poured the acid Stop Bath into the jug of Developer. I used the same jug next. When I pulled the film off the stainless steel reel to hang in the dryer the emulsion had dissolved and I had five feet of clear vinyl. Those compellingly beautiful plumes of smoke against that beaten Korean mountainside must forever be only engrams.

I became a Veteran on August 14, 1970. Took a Greyhound bus down the coast.

Incipient Veterans are bivouacking along la frontera. Soldiers are trained not to miss. Veterans can’t not remember. Apostrophe to soldiers: Don’t.

Sp4 Sedano's final act as a soldier. This was published the date Sedano left Korea.

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