I was standing rigidly at attention in front of the academic director in his bandbox office hidden in an obscure corner of the Judge Advocate General's college. "At ease," Colonel Green ordered as he perfunctorily waved a paper. I studied Colonel Green carefully. Tie properly knotted to the top of the new lime green shirt, crease sharp as a razor down the leg of his uniform pants, but as he lounged in his chair with feel flung up on his desk, he probably didn't take the complaint very seriously.
I fought the urge to try to read the complaint before Colonel Green. Presumptive self defense was not wise in my position.
The Colonel muttered to himself, "We get a new uniform. The Vietnam War is over…everyone wants to forget…the Army fights when there's a war…we in the JAG Corp fight every day, peace or war."
The Colonel looked up to see if I'd react. I strained to show no emotion.
I looked out the Colonel's window to focus on a flag drooping from the pole on the Quadrangle in front of the building. Puffy clouds loitered lazily in a light blue sky. The flag sagging from the pole was the only indication that there was a small military contingent on the grounds of a civilian university's campus.
"An instructor claimed you have appeared," Colonel Green looked at the complaint in his hands, "in improper uniform. You're still wearing the old poplin shirt during your stay here at the refresher course."
There is a natural urge to defend oneself which I restrained. I was not called on for an answer. I had learned from defending an indelicate case the virtue of waiting for the accuser to state the accusation, before taking the occasion to respond.
Colonel Green sighed and shook his head. Was he relieved or disappointed? Colonel deliberately paused before speaking, "New instructor doesn't know the old uniform won't be abolished until June. You're validly in uniform as far as I can see." The colonel dropped the memo to his desk.
The Army may have wanted rid of the old uniform to forget Vietnam, I thought to myself. But I had no reason to share my views with the Colonel.
"Yes Sir," I replied.
Country Music Night Before Christmas
Here's Your Sign
speaks to the many silly expressions in polite conversation.
* * *
* * * I had a flat tire, I pulled my
truck into one
of these side-of-the-road gas stations, the attendant walks out, looks
at my truck, * * * went, "Tire go flat?"
I said "Nope * * * I was driving around and those other three just swelled right up on
Here's Your Sign
is available on the
Blue Collar Comedy Tour
Here's Your Sign
asks the question:
Why can't they get the picture? Why don't they understand?
We're not dealing with the planet of apes, we're talking about the
So you people with them itsy bitsy teensie weensie tiny minds...
Here's your sign. Here's Your Sign
"At least you're consistent, the old poplin shirt, the old grey rain coat." Colonel baited me with an evil grin.
I fought the urge to retort that it was unlikely that I'd last in the Army beyond the wear-our period for the old uniform.
Leaning forward to write a reply on the memo, Colonel Green grimaced. "I'll tell the instructor ah-I told you to get a haircut-and honor is satisfied all round eh Captain- "A serious look came over the Colonel's face: "Make sure you pass your course and get out of my hair next week."
"Roger that Sir."
I came to attention and gave the Colonel a square salute.
"Get out of here," the Colonel replied waving his hand toward the door.
I hadn't wanted the attention. I knew I was on the skids with the wrong client in a tough case, one that can't be lost yet would never be won. I was sent to the spit and polish JAG school for a refresher course with only six months to go in the service.
Before class, I would trudge up the hill from the billets. Occasionally as I rounded the bend from the civilian law school to the Judge Advocate's school, just as I came in sight of the flag, I would find that female student in the white sweater heading a jeering mob. I ignored them and passed on.
The Colonel was right, the Army lawyers in the JAG Corps fought a battle of a kind everyday.
I looked toward the flag pole. I never saw the enlisted men who posted the flag. Fortunately, I thought, looking back at mother cat, my pet name for the female law student, there wasn't much of a flag raising ceremony in the morning. No bugles blared here at the JAG School.
The Army had put the JAG School on this particular campus in the Southland to place it in a more patriotic milieu. Mother Cat, the jeering female in the white sweater, and her friends from the law school evidenced the passing of pretensions to a connection with the Heroic Age, I muttered as I ignored them. The Vietnam War was over but the anti-heroism lived on.
I knew I couldn't afford some type of incident with civilians. The JAG Corps would pounce on me. With that case haunting me, I could never be right even if I wasn't wrong.
My mind was more focused on my class and its dry boring subject matter. Could I stay awake long enough to pass the course? I feared the retribution I would face for failure more than these heckling hyenas.
As if I need to be reminded, Colonel Green, mean Green we called him when I came into the Army through the Judge Advocate's college, pleasantly whispered as I entered the building each morning, "The exam Captain, I expect you to pass it. Whatever your problem is needn't become mine."
At least the Colonel was neutral in my battle with the Corps. I looked him square in the eyes. Were they really red as a wolf's pouncing on his prey as failing new JAGs threatened with sloshing in the infantry had claimed?
I knew Colonel Green would be my executioner if he had to; if I gave him an excuse.
"Sir," I replied, "Army lawyers fight everyday peace or war."
The Colonel glared and nodded at the door for me to enter.
I had stood my ground; correctly, this time at least.
Yet if I could not advance a justification for my defense of a client the Army detested, I couldn't retreat from it either. In the Army one stands one's ground.
As I trudged down the hill in the afternoon past mother cat and her chorus of hecklers, cars of other military students in the refresher course whizzed by. My position in the Corps was weak. They could not offer a lift and I would not endanger their standing by begging a ride. I put mother cat, the heckler in the white sweater, out of mind and continued on my way nonplussed.
I studied the dry subject matter of the course all night before the exam. And I was up and ready to trudge up the hill. As each day had shrunk in each autumn, sunrise was just a little later, I noticed, as I started up the path up the hill.
I reached the bend in the path and there in front of me were the hecklers. Beyond them on the oval in front of the school, the colors were being raised. I came to attention and threw a salute.
Cars of fellow students, the instructors, and even the commandant passed by. They should have stopped, popped out of their cars and joined me in the salute. They did not.
I had to be perfect I said to myself as I watched the red taillights disappear into a puff of smoke.
Mother Cat's heckling intensified as the flag reached the top of the pole. The hecklers drew into a semicircle around me. I would either have to retreat or march through them. I was trapped. The only way out was retreat.
Mel Gibson brings to the screen the last hours of the World's
Greatest Rebel Jesus Christ.
Some call it The Gospel According to Mel!
Now playing in the theatres. Sunrise showings in some places.
I turned to the hecklers and saluted them.
Peace or war, stand your ground, I had been taught.
Mother Cat, the woman in the white sweater, turned breathless rouge. Nothing came from her mouth. Did I detect fear? I didn't care. I held the salute.
A man in a scraggly beard next to the white sweatered girl, keeping blue eyes cautiously on me, tapped her on the wrist. "We came early to study; let's get inside," he said as I held the salute.
Mel Gibson Hollywood Rebel
Long before Mel Gibson picked up the story line of the World's premiere
rebel, Mel had been drafted to portray a rebel on the screen.
The hecklers vanished into their own school. Each to their own tents, I chuckled to myself as I continued on my path.
Colonel Green was at the door with the daily reminder, "I hope you studied. I want no part of your-battle, soldier."
"No guts no glory, Sir," I smiled, "The JAG corps battle everyday nonetheless."
The exam given in a large lecture hall was moderately difficult. After it was completed, I was told to report to Colonel Green.
I dreaded the walk down the dark black tiled corridor to Colonel Green's office.
Colonel was lounging behind his desk reading a complaint. "I have a complaint-or maybe just an inquiry-from the law school next door…A soldier, one wearing the old rain coat and a poplin shirt saluted a law student at reveille."
"Saluted a student, sir? I asked.
"That doesn't," Colonel Green remarked, "Seem to be anything particularly wrong in that, does there? Saluting civilians is not as common in our army as in the British one." Colonel Green paused for a reply.
"Indeed sir." I agreed. "We drink coffee, not tea.
The Colonel looked at me suspiciously without comment.
"I'll send back a request for a clarification of the complaint, Monday or Tuesday…"Colonel Green thought aloud, "if I think of it.
Colonel Green looked at me carefully before he continued. "You passed your course. Process out in an hour."