During the 80’s, I was a medic stationed in Germany. I was about 21 at the time. I took the medical part of my job very seriously, but the military spit-and-polish thing, I had no interest. Eventually, I started to resent the structured military lifestyle and began acting out, doing outrageous things, like climbing a tree in the running section of the PT test for 45 minutes- so I would fail the test. I even verbally dared them to throw me out. Like the Klinger character on MASH, I got yelled at, dirty looks, but no effort was made to discharge me.
My best friend in the Army was a medic on a helicopter crew, Joe. He was a great guy. Good at his job, laid-back attitude, and managed to be quite a ladies’ man without being a jerk about it.
Eventually, the rebellion became despair and I began to withdraw. After duty, I would stay in my room in the barracks, door locked and lights off. This fugue culminated in four consecutive nights with no sleep. Lying in the dark, I would lie in my bunk, absolutely seething; I hated my life in the military, and I hated myself…hating everything.
After days of this, Joe stopped my room, and opened the door. I sat up in bed as the daylight streamed in behind him, blinding me. His silhouette told me, in a quiet, calm voice: “Bill, I love you. Now come out into the light.” And I did- like nothing was ever wrong. I crawled out of my bunk as if it were just another morning. We resumed our normal GI activities, never needing to discuss what had happened. We were pals, drinking beer on the Fußgängerzone, watching the girls walk by.
Spec. 4 Joe H., of Lake Elsinore, CA, if you ever read this, thanks. I will never forget your extraordinary gesture and I’ll always be grateful to you for it.
—Photo The U.S. Army/Flickr