On this day in 1969 I walked out of the gate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, with my Army discharge papers in hand. What a glorious day for me. I didn't mind the Army for most of my hitch, but the last few months were terrible and fraught with trouble. When I applied for a hardship discharge in September of 1968 it was approved in two weeks. It took almost four months for the actual discharge to happen.
Oddly enough, I recently made contact with a guy who was the company clerk of my outfit in Nam, the 595th Engineers. To backtrack a bit, I was in Nam when I was notified there had been a death in the family. I went back to the states, applied for a hardship discharge, and was attached to the HQ COmpany at West Point. The people in that unit did a lot of idiot jobs on the post: worked the rifle range, drove brass around, and clerked in various offices. Not exactly a front line fighting outfit. I was there with about five other strays and we were given a series of lowly jobs which we screwed up as often as possible. Eventually we were called The Outlaws. None of us gave a damn about the Army by then.
Now, 38 years later, I discover that the reason my discharge took so long was that the people in charge of our 201 files--without which nothing administrative can be done--lost them. Not just mine, but the files for a whole battalion. Guys whose rotations were up were held over in Nam because their files were lost. There was a huge dust up, the Inspector General started an investigation, and when the files were eventually found in a mismarked conex the personnel officer was court martialed. None of which made my life any easier during that long, long time I waited to return to civilianhood and get my life going again. And of coutse Uncle Sam can't compensate me for messing up my plans and putting me through a couple or three months of agony, but after all this time I know the reason for that unconscionable delay.
I hope they shot that damn personnel officer.