Write Again … Somebody’s got to do it

Published 12:07 am Tuesday, November 22, 2011

My 12-year-old grandson, Zach, was surprised that Grandpa served in the military. He needed to talk with someone about his or her military experiences for a paper he had been assigned to write. Sarah, his mother and our older daughter, suggested he talk with me.

Well, we didn’t exactly talk; we exchanged emails. I had no war stories to recount; no examples of Grandpa’s feats of bravery. Cleaning barracks (G.I. parties) and walking guard duty (even in bitterly cold conditions) don’t conjure up images of glory to a youngster. Nor did going on “police call.”

Did anything funny happen? Well, now. Perhaps funny now, if not then.

There was this:

It was growing near the time of the end of my enlistment in the Army. Now, only a former serviceman (person) knows that wonderful feeling.

Until you have those separation papers in your hands, you’re still theirs. I mean, they still own you, and don’t you forget it. As if they’d let you.

No one in my unit had pulled KP in a long time, well over a year. You see, the powers-that-be would subtract a nominal amount from our monthly paycheck (we actually were paid in cash) and put it into a fund to pay those local people who were eager to have a job (German citizens).

So … when we were informed that the “hired help” program was being discontinued (Why? That’s a useless question in the military.), we low-ranks were disappointed, because we knew who would then be pulling KP.

Well, I was a “short-timer.” A few more times pulling KP wouldn’t hurt. At least my unit was relatively small. KP in a consolidated mess hall is, well, an experience unto itself.

On with the story. I was assigned the job of peeling potatoes (this was, actually, the first time during my nearly three years of active duty that I had drawn this well-known chore).

Much to my delight I was told that the mess hall had acquired an automatic potato peeler. Just empty the potatoes into the large container portion of this wondrous gizmo, plug it in and turn her on. Voila!

So. I did just that. After observing that all was going well with this wonderful piece of technology, I eased out the back door of the mess hall, took myself a seat on the steps, and enjoyed a few moments of solitude and the sun’s rays.

Only a few minutes later — or so it seemed — I remembered the potatoes.

Oh, my. What greeted me? A large container of peeled potatoes the size of moth balls. Maybe marbles. I had let that sucker run too long.

What to do? With a bit of G.I. ingenuity I peeled another pile of potatoes — the right size, this time — then mixed the two piles together. The mess sergeant never said anything, nor did the cook, so things turned out alright.

Well, that’s my story for my grandson. Somehow, I don’t think he’ll see too much humor in it.

As to my military service in the eyes of a 12-year-old?

Well, we can’t all be war heroes. I mean, someone has to peel those potatoes.