Memorial Day always brings back memories of my service time. When I was in the infantry, every morning when we were in camp, everyone would fall out in formation for roll call, which was called reveille. It was early morning, sometimes still dark, and one of the most fascinating things the Army did. Here we were a thousand men in this big field and it was like a musical chant as each Company Commander would report in to his boss, the Battalion Commander, who was at one end of this field standing on an elevated platform, such as “Able Company, all present and accounted for, sir.” Then Baker Company Commander might report “Baker Company one man AWOL, sir.”
It was not unusual to hear a Company Commander to report “One man hanging in the latrine, sir.” Suicide was very common in the military overseas. The soldier may have gotten a “Dear John” letter or simply not been able to “take it” any longer.
There were three classes of soldiers in the infantry. One was called “EM,” which meant enlisted man, the private, private first class, and corporals. Then there were the “NCOs”, non-commissioned officers, which included sergeants. Then there were the “officers”. No group mingled with the other groups.
There was no lower form of human than the EMs, to which I belonged. We were called “dogface”. Our ration cards did not include several things the NCO’s and Officers could buy in a PX. In particular, no EM had a stamp in his ration book that allowed him to buy whiskey, which could be bought by the NCOs and officers for $1.60 a fifth. We all knew the sergeants who did not drink and we would beg them to give us the whiskey stamp out of their ration books.
Explain it any way you want, but no soldier overseas in the infantry who drank ever committed suicide.
Jack can be reached at PO Box 40, Oak Grove, MO 64075, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out www.jackremembers.com.