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Thursday, September 27, 2012

Campus Life Changes

The weekly contact with university students at the IVCF meetings, created in me the desire to return to my Pre-Med studies. At last, we worked out a schedule whereby I could take classes in the daytime and work at the hospital in the evenings, as I had done in the autumn quarter. The only problem was that we had one car and two people needing it. When I worked days at the hospital, Curt just arranged his classes to be finished in time to pick me up from work in the late afternoon. Plus, Curt had signed up for a Radio communications class that would require him to be in the studio at times when he would, normally, be picking me up from the hospital.

There was really only one solution for a newly-wed couple on a tight budget… move closer to campus. The spring quarter would begin soon, making housing pretty scarce near the university.

I hated to bid our first little nest adieu but, alas, it was time for change. We were allowed to rent an apartment in the married student housing, only about six blocks from the Health Sciences Building, where I would be spending a lot of my time. The second floor apartment assigned to us had a flight of wooden steps to our front door, kitchen appliances and, well, that was it. The married student apartments were not furnished.

I don’t recall just how the furniture actually got to our apartment; perhaps Curt’s parents brought it in a truck. I do know that the double bed my parents had used since I was a tiny child, found its way into our bedroom, complete with matching dresser. They had moved into my older sister’s room when she got married three years earlier so their old bedroom set wasn’t being used. A bit of living room furniture had been removed from the little summer house behind my parents’ single car garage, and it was serving us well. Since we planned to have a family, the university let us rent a two-bedroom apartment. The smaller bedroom served as a study room, furnished with only my wooden typing table and chair… also brought from my parents’ home 386 miles away. Not nearly as roomy as our first little home but it would do.

I loved the brisk walk to school each morning… early morning classes back on my schedule. When I had a bit of free time I walked over to the studio. It was such fun to see Curt as he prepared for his time on-air. His radio voice astounded me; I hadn’t known he was working on developing one. I wouldn’t have recognized him had I only heard the voice over my radio and not seen him speaking at the mike.

Then, a change we had hoped would never find us… the military draft. The government decided to give lottery numbers to the men over eighteen. When their number was drawn, they would be drafted into the army, pretty much guaranteeing them a ticket to the war in Viet Nam. Of course, when Curt received notification that his draft number was twelve, I did what any newly-wed bride would do… I panicked and phoned my father. Dad had been in the military so long, I just knew he’d have some good advice for us.

“Well, Honey, they aren’t really interested in calling up the officers who are still in training so one possibility is that Curt could sign up for ROTC there at the university. That way, he would get to finish his degree, at least. If Curt’s number did come up shortly after he finished, or if they decided they needed to take the officers in their final year of training or something like that, Curt would, at least, be drafted as an officer not a foot soldier. He’d stand a better chance of not being sent to the front line straight away.” Dad still advised us to give it some serious thought; he didn’t want to be making the decision for us.

My own father had been an officer my whole life so I thought his advice was good. Curt wasn’t that sure he wanted to join up now instead of just waiting and taking his chances. The Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) was never a blimp on the radar of his desires; that’s for sure. I must admit I did press him more than a little on this issue. A huge mistake on my part, as I look back over that scary time in the lives of all those in the range of the military draft. Perhaps, it was that low number, twelve. Curt signed up and carried his new Sergeant’s uniform home.

“What am I gonna do, Sojourner? I can’t be a Sergeant! I haven’t a clue what I’m supposed to be doing; how can I be a Sergeant? I don’t even know how to salute!” I was as shocked as Curt was.

“Why did they make you a Sergeant? Don’t they know you just signed up?”

“Oh yeah, they know all right and are just pleased as punch. I’m a Sergeant because I have enough university academic credits to be a third year student. That makes me a Sergeant, period. The Quartermaster issuing the uniform wouldn’t listen to reason. All he said is that he had his orders and ‘Welcome to this man’s army, Sergeant Curt!’”

Oh my, poor Curt. Had the role been reversed, I would have known just what to do. My sister and I had played Army all our childhood. My father had seen to it that we did it right. “Don’t worry, I’ll teach you how to salute.”

That’s just what I did right there on the spot. He practiced those forty-five degree angles in front of me and then in front of a mirror. Forty-five at the elbow. Forty-five with the body axis as the fingertip hit the right place on the head or cap. Snap that hand down and see that the middle finger rested on the seam of the pants… or strip if you had one down the side seam of the pants, as the officers always did.

Of course, there were also specific things to know about standing at attention, responding to “at ease”, and assuming parade rest. I told Curt all I knew about these things… when to do it and not just how. The kind of things the first-year Reserve Officer Training Cadets had already learned.

Next, I taught him to march and make the proper turns. The smartly done quarter-turn to the right was not a problem. A little more for the 180-degree reverse. The tip of the right toe was in the correct place but, somehow, spinning the body around didn’t always result in a perfect line from where the body began. The turn with the maximum difficulty was the three-quarter turn and I just never understood why the military couldn’t just let the guys do a quarter-turn to the left. Oh, no. They wanted that soldier’s body to always be headed to the right no matter where it was he should end up at attention. Some spills on the living room carpet and a lot of laughter, but, at last, Curt got it and looked very smart going through his paces.

“Well, I can report that I simply stunned my captain today!” Curt was so happy; I had heard him bounding up those wooden steps before he shot through the front door.

“So, things went well at your first ROTC meeting then?”

“Better than well. My captain thought he’d have to teach me all that stuff himself and I had the feeling I would be paying for my late joining of his group. Ha! We fooled him good! I knew everything he threw at me. Reluctantly, he had to admit I really looked like a Sergeant!” What a fabulous return on our living room training time! Oh, God, may Curt never have to use this knowledge outside of this university parade grounds. So many young men were losing their lives in that awful war so far away.

****One After-Shift Miracle… Next Post

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