On Saturday, we had a parade of fencing professionals come over to give us an estimate on replacing out aging, wooden fence with a vinyl fence. In case you were wondering, fencing is expensive. The last guy who came remarked that we were supposed to have an alarm on our deck that would sound when people exited our house and entered the pool area. He also noted that our new fence would have the “pool lock”. I think he thought we were knew to our home. In any case, he knew his pool codes better than we did. Andrea later researched the alarm code and read from a website, “Pools kill 700 people a year.” Which, given that Saturday was the “March for Our Lives” for gun control, the irony did not escape us. 700 pool deaths and I’m supposed to have a special lock and an alarm. Gun reform? Pffft.
Anyway. Speaking of guns*, I was recently preparing to a trip to Illinois so I could lay eyes on my old lady who was having cataract surgery to eye number 2. Andrea said, “OH! Grab your basic training video tape while you’re there! We can convert it to a DVD!” I think Andrea views this tape as party entertainment. I can’t say as I blame her. The entire video is riveting and hilarious. It’s like the highlight reel of basic training with a male narrator intoning about “DUTY (dramatic pause for effect). HONOR (dramatic pause for effect). COUNTRY.” The tape shows recruits stumbling out of the gas chamber, rappelling down Victory Tower and other delights, such as bayonet training. The bayonet training section is Andrea’s favorite part of the video, but not for any reason you’d guess. I had told Andrea how, following bayonet training, my platoon and I returned to our base and we’re turning in our M16s and bayonet’s when a fellow recruit realized in horror that her bayonet was no longer affixed to her weapon*. She had clearly been issued one and signed it out for the training. She had no choice but to tell the drill sergeant that it was missing. This news was met with all the rancor you’d anticipate and one of our three drill sergeant’s promptly marched us up to our barracks where she proceeded to “smoke” us for hours. “Getting smoked” means that you’re being made to do some kind of serious physical activity. Thank God no one knew about burpees back then. One person lost her bayonet but the rest of us “ate up, private’s!” failed to make this observation so we were all in big trouble. While we got our asses kicked, another platoon was bused back out to look for the bayonet. While getting smoked, someone began to laugh a nervous, titter of laughter. I too have this awkward tendency to laugh when nervous and certainly, the situation was a bit nerve wracking. I didn’t laugh in this case - - probably because I was too busy trying to breathe and keep up with the “smoking”. Of course, the laughter only served to enrage Drill Sergeant Blockton. Mercilessly, dinner finally arrived and we got a “break” while waiting in line at the chow hall and silently eating our dinners, after which, we got smoked some more! What a surprise. Actually, the only surprising part is that no one vomited. The bayonet was retrieved from the field and the incident was never forgotten (by me at least). Years later, I recounted this story to Andrea and we then watched the video together (my platoon getting smoked was not captured on film – they probably figured we’d remember it without the benefit of film and they were right). Andrea shrieked, “Oh my God! There’s the missing bayonet!” I hit pause, rewind, play. And there it was, or, wasn’t: A bayonet-less rifle, thrusting and jabbing. Interestingly, bayonet exercises aren’t even taught in basic training in this manner anymore. Bayonet reform?
*No one in the Army would ever say “gun”. It’s weapon or rifle.