Normie (part two)

Normie mirrorIn a part of his brain that he seldom communicated with, but fortunately, was ultimately in charge, he knew that the only way he was going to be able to live and support himself would be to join the Navy.  He had chosen the Navy because his father had been in it, and he wanted to try, at least once, to please his father.  He knew that the Coast Guard would have been a better choice for him, because their activities were confined to the coasts, duh, and he wouldn’t ever be involved in the Vietnam War, which he knew was going to heat up.  He had been mortified when he first heard about the draft, from the neighbor kids when he was 6 or 7.  That he might be forced to go to war, to kill and/or be killed, was a horrifying thought.  The other services were “out”, as Army and Marines are sometimes obligated to “take a beach.”   Even having a half million soldiers behind you in a landing party isn’t much of a comforting thought, when you realize that they are behind you.  “Nah, it’ll have to be the Navy, then,” he said.

But the Navy has “boot camp”, just like all the other services, and they do have to get you ready, if needed, for war.  They have to make you learn to “Obey,” as priority one, and “Obey without question, without hesitation” being priorities two and three.  American boys being the spoiled little brats they are, it takes a lot of beating down, as with a blacksmith’s hammer, to forge a fighting man.  Heat is applied, then pressure, rinse and repeat.  It tempers the steel.  If you screw up, the Company Commander punishes everyone, and he reminds them to thank you later.

It happened to some other guy first, while our boy Normie just watched.  They went to this guy’s bunk after lights out, threw a blanket over him, carried him to the showers, and gave him the standard issue “blanket party,” which consisted of being wrapped in a blanket and thrown in the shower, and guys with cloth bags filled with bars of soap flogged you with them.  And that was just for getting caught talking while “in formation.”  It happened to someone else when it was revealed that he hadn’t been taking showers, and the Commander had pronounced him a “scrounge.”  It was evident when the fuzz line of his T-shirt neck hem consistently failed inspection.  When Normie heard that this guy had gotten an “Undesirable Discharge” and sent home, he was very, very afraid the same would happen to him, and he would never be able to face his father again.

Well, he managed to avoid being the honored guest at a blanket party, but did manage to accumulate a lot of demerits in other ways.  One day, he was marching along, really letting his body carry out the orders, while doing a little talking to his inner self.  That’s something he had always done, this inner dialogue thing.  He failed to hear the order to “About - march!” (reverse direction), and his only friend and bunk mate got punctured between the eyes by the sight on his rifle.  He felt really bad about it, but much worse after the Commander got right up in his face and shouted all kinds of nasty things, and then handed down his punishment, something of interest to the entire company.

That was really the beginning of the end of his involvement in that company.  Nobody likes to take a 10 mile march, on top of everything else, just because some jerk-off screwed up.  Things snowballed, and he was transferred to MIC, Military Indoctrination Company, for further instruction and evaluation.  They were about to decide his fate, whether they would kick him out as an Undesirable.  The heat and pressure was immense - they broke him, but this was exactly the result they wanted, as they could now pour him into a new mold.  By every outer measurement, he became like everyone else, and he finally graduated from Boot Camp, 6 weeks after the guy he had joined with, under the “buddy system”.

He was assigned to attend a Class “A” School, to become a Personnelman, an office worker and keeper of enlisted service records.  While on leave between assignments, he first heard of the “Gulf of Tonkin incident”, and the wisdom of his choice of the Navy was apparent.  With the Army or Marines, even the Air Force, the likelihood of going to ‘Nam was extremely high.  His deal with the Navy called for him to spend his entire enlistment at a shore station, in Norfolk, Virginia.  Nice duty station, at the office where all enlisted men of the Atlantic Fleet were assigned sea duty billets, EPDOLANT, or Enlisted Personnel Distribution Office, Atlantic Fleet.

After his promotion to Seaman, he got married.  The less said about that, the better.  When he was promoted to 3rd class, he was reassigned to the office of CINCLANTFLT, or Commander in Chief of the Atlantic Fleet.  He was the only enlisted man in an office consisting of 2 Lieutenants, a Commander, a Captain, and CINCLANT himself, the Admiral Thomas H. Moorer, who later became Chief of Naval Operations, and then the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  Admiral Moorer congratulated him when his son was born, one morning after he brought the Admiral his coffee.  He did all the typing, and had a “Secret” clearance.  As “squared away” as a sailor had to be to work at CINCLANTFLT, he had no problems there.  His uniform was always crisp and clean, and he was always freshly shaved and showered.  No problems with his co-workers either, as they were all officers and gentlemen, and he was as servile as required.  He really liked the brand-new IBM Selectric they gave him to use, so much better than the clunky old style!

But the Navy reneged on their deal with him, saying that “current personnel requirements dictated that blah, blah, blah,” and they had to reassign him to a sea duty billet, on a ship supposedly going to Vietnam.  Well, he had only found out a few months before that he had a major back problem, they called it “scoliosis”, that caused him a lot of pain while sitting to type for hours on end.  When the Doctors told him that it had shown up in his initial physical, before he had actually joined, but hadn’t told him the results, it really pissed him off!  He told these Doctors that they could either fix it, or let him out.  They explained the procedure; that they would have to install rods in his back, he’d be in the hospital for at least 6 months, and he’d probably come out worse off than when he started.  That’s when he knew he “had” them - they weren’t about to offer that surgery, because if he spent 6 months recuperating, there wouldn’t be enough time left on his current enlistment for him to be sent to ‘Nam.  He spent the next year fighting for his second Discharge. (He had already re-enlisted once.)

When he got out, he rejoined his wife and 2 children, and finally got a job as a parts clerk at a car dealership.  After 6 months or so of that, his mother’s new husband helped him get a job at an iron ore mine where he also worked.  After only a week on the job, he got into a terrific accident, was lucky he didn’t blow himself up in a fuel truck crash, but after only 5 months of recuperation, returned to work, and continued working there for about 3 years.  It was there that a friend first “turned him on” to smoking weed, and for the first time since Boot Camp, he was able to find his way back to his inner self.  He began to remember who he was…


1. My real name is not, and never was, “Normie”. Mine was worse.

2. This is not to be considered an “autiebiography”. Large portions have been left out, and the author doesn’t guarantee that he didn’t take some “poetic license” here and there. More of an encapsulation.

3. It’s also not to be construed as any sort of encouragement of drug use, even by adults, but especially by minors. I believe it would be disastrous for a person who had not yet achieved a level of emotional maturity to try anything at all. There are real dangers involved in that scene, especially for one who might be seen by others as vulnerable.

Normie appeared originally at Comet’s Corner, and is reprinted here by permission of the author.

on 04/6/10 in Art/Play/Myth | No Comments | Read More

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