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SHREWSBURY, Massachusetts – There are many times in life when things occur that you’d rather forget as quickly as possible, and other more pleasant happenings that you’d like to remember forever yet are all too quickly forgotten. If you’re fortunate, occasionally something happens that is so enjoyable it remains even though it was of little consequence. Just such an experience occurred 58 years ago that I still laugh about it though the other conspirators have long since disappeared.
While attending a 26 week military school I got the flu which caused me to miss a week’s worth of lessons, necessitating that I be pushed back to a different class and a different Army company. I had been with many of the same guys since Basic Training so leaving them was regrettable, but since my parting seemed a good excuse for a party, that’s exactly what was planned for an upcoming evening to be held at one of the lakes on post. The weather was fairly warm, so cases of beer were bought ahead of time and put into the water that morning to be kept cold, and the happening took place at twilight for hours of pleasant joking and storytelling around a roaring fire. Great fun, until a string of headlights were seen heading in our direction. You see, we were on the general’s private beach and the MPs were drawn to our campfire like moths to a flame.
We all scattered, grabbing what we could to hide in the woods and escape from being arrested. Wearing Army fatigue uniforms which were olive drab in color we blended in with the foliage, virtually impossible to be detected. I lay in a pile of debris as the MPs searched high and low with flashlights, and I could hardly keep from bursting out in laughter as I munched on pretzel sticks while the MPs futilely passed close by. It was like a war movie with the enemy trying to catch resistance fighters, except it was real and I wouldn’t have been shot if captured.
I knew that some friends were caught but after an hour the incident ended. Feeling safe, I arose from my hiding spot and merrily walked the mile or so back to my barracks only to discover that the MPs had already been there looking for me. Someone had evidently ratted me out, and I was to turn myself in to the duty officer at company headquarters. What could I do but wash, change into my dress uniform, and wait for the MPs to come and take me to the Provost Martial’s complex, ushering me into a building whose inside looked like a huge wood-paneled courtroom.
Now you have to picture this. There in front of an imposingly high and wide judge’s bench stood about 15 of my buddies all covered in dirt and leaves while I walked in wearing a nice clean uniform. As they turned around to see who had entered, the whole place erupted in laughter much to the consternation of the MPs who tried to maintain decorum while impressing upon us the seriousness of the situation. It didn’t work.
I really don’t remember much else that happened except that we were released and told to report to our respective company commanders the next morning for disciplinary action. We each received an Article 15 which is far less serious than a court martial, being only some sort of company punishment at the discretion of the commanding officer. The others in my old company got 2 weeks of extra duty, KP and the like, while I was only given a verbal reprimand, being told “don’t go there again.”
A youthful adventure that provided a lifetime of pleasant memories, the only downside being that the MPs confiscated all our beer.