Sunday, April 18, 2010

Hey soldier, can I buy you a drink?

We just got back this evening from a lovely Rev War event at Battersea Plantation in Petersburg, VA. We unloaded and set up most of the canvas on Friday night, shared a bottle of claret, shot the breeze, and turned in for the night. We woke up to an unexpected but light (and thankfully brief) rainfall on Saturday morning. As we scrambled to get a fly up so we’d have a dry area to prepare breakfast, a half dozen AIT students came running over to help. I looked up and they were everywhere. Ft. Lee is a stone’s throw away, and it’s where the Quartermaster Schools are located. There were at least 30 there for the weekend providing support. This was a first – I’d never seen them at this site before, but it was great to have there. Some were Parachute Riggers, there were a couple of Dental Techs, and a slew that were training for Mortuary Services. Apparently the tools of the trade haven’t changed much in 225 years.

On Saturday afternoon I went to one of the concession stands to buy some root beer, and saw three AIT students standing around deciding who was going to get what. I saw one guy digging in the pocket on his sleeve and overheard him saying to his buddy, “I don’t have any cash.” As nonchalantly as possible, I offered to buy all three of them a root beer. They thanked me profusely, but declined. Shorter Half, was more direct. “I know what your paycheck is. Can we please buy you a root beer?” Seeing as how he had identified himself as a former Drill Sergeant to them earlier, I was hoping they’d be intimidated into accepting. They were polite as hell, but still no dice. I walked up to the Root Beer Guy and handed him the money instead and said “The next three trainees that show up to buy root beer – they’re on me.” And I walked off. I enjoyed it so much, I went back with two more cash infusions over the weekend to keep the tab going. It was not one bit altruistic of me as I got way more enjoyment out of it than I would have spending it any other way. It’s PB&J for lunch for me all week as a result, but at least it’s not an MRE, and I’m not complaining.

I was talking to the class Platoon Sergeant (or equivalent) this morning and commented that it was so good to see them back again today. She looked at me a little funny and said they don’t often hear that. We talked a bit, and she made an off-hand comment about well-behaved women not making history. We chatted a bit more, and she mentioned that she had enlisted at age 40. I looked at her and said “God bless you, ma’am. You’re a better man than I, Gunga Din.” Another woman in our unit pointed out that I’d had Sweet Daughter at age 40. I corrected her and said “42.” The Platoon Sergeant’s eyes got big, and said “You’re CRAZY! I can get out in four years!”

Hmm. Hadn’t thought of it that way.


  1. Giving things they need directly to strangers is just about the most fun thing you can do without breaking a sweat.

    And do you know about the Gratitude Campaign?

    That sergeant is lucky, they wouldn't take me at 40.

  2. Worse -- she's a PVT E-1 trainee, too. She's the CLASS platoon sergeant/Platoon Guide/whatever they're calling them this week. . .

    A 40-year-old E-1. Either married or engaged, judging by the ring.

    (One neat thing about the new Digi-Feldgrau uniforms. (Hey, with all the money they spent for the ACUs, there has to be SOMETHING not-bad about them.) All that darned Velcro fuzz gives them a handy way to hang "student" rank on someone so it's instantly noticeable and still impossible to mistake for actual rank. They just add Velcro hooks to the back of a set of stripes for the old green Class-A blouse. Of course, I kept thinkong of Beetle Bailey cartoons everytime I saw full size full color stripes worn on the arm. . . )

  3. SH - I *am* familiar with the Gratitude Campaign. We started teaching Sweet Daughter sign language when she was little, and I'm always tempted to just sign "Thank you". But if you don't know what I'm doing, it looks a little bit like a Italian insult. A child signing "Good morning" looks almost exactly like an Italian insult.