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By Jack Hackley,
One of the first things you learn in the army is never to volunteer for anything. After four months of infantry basic training at Fort Riley, they put us on a troop train and we headed to Fort Lewis, Wash. to wait for a ship to take us overseas.
Fort Lewis had a steam system for heat in all the barracks. In order for that steam to get in the pipes to go to the barracks, someone had to put coal in a furnace to heat the water.
When we arrived in Fort Lewis, the first thing that happened was a master sergeant told us what to expect while we waited on our ship, which might be one week or three weeks, and they needed volunteers in the furnace room who would work eight hours and be off 24 hours for the duration of our stay.
Everyone else would be required to work every day at everything from KP to common maintenance. My of two best buddies said, “Come on, Jack, let’s volunteer. That way we will have 24 hours off to do whatever we want, and we’ll not have to work every day.”
I told them I would take my chances, but they went ahead and volunteered.
It ended up our company wasn’t called on to do anything, and every morning a some of us took off and explored Seattle, Tacoma and several other towns on the coast. We also went fishing in a beautiful lake surrounded by pine trees not far from the base.
A taxi driver who had befriended us let us use his boat he kept on the lake for the rest of our stay. It was the best two weeks I ever spent in the Army.
Every night after their eight-hour shift, my best buddies would come in completely covered with coal dust, cussing the Army, saying it was the hardest job they had ever had, shoveling coal all day into the furnace, and they would never volunteer for another thing again as long as they lived.
Jack can be reached at PO Box 40, Oak Grove, MO 64075 or firstname.lastname@example.org.