In the spring of 1967 I was a green Army recruit at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. I had just spent two months learning to be a clerk typist, and our company was awaiting orders for permanent assignment.
I got in trouble off-base – I stole a car – and became embroiled with both civilian and military police authorities. The civil charges were dismissed because the owner of the car didn’t press charges – I didn’t get very far, about 300 feet – but the military law came down differently.
Although I was free from civil authority, the military confined me to barracks – I was not allowed to leave the company area or the base. Meanwhile, my company received orders and everyone shipped off to Germany.
I was bored out of my mind confined to the empty barracks – a giant dormitory with 30 bunk beds and only one occupant, me. I was caught up in the infinite corridors of military bureaucracy. This is when I first discovered reading for pleasure. One month went by, two months. Finally, I won an appointment with the Post Chaplin, a full colonel, a Catholic priest, and I complained about my indefinite status.
The good father held up his hands and said, “Okay, just a second.” He picked up his phone and called “Sgt. Warren.” He told the sergeant about my predicament and asked him to help me. The Catholic colonel hung up and told me to go to personnel and find Sgt. Warren.
I zoomed over to personnel, happy at the prospect of a possible ending to my in-between status. I found Sgt. Warren, and the priest’s friend handed me my orders, still warm from the copy machine.
“Thanks,” I said, and then I read the orders. They told me to report to the 90th replacement company, Bien Hoa, Vietnam.