“I’m a very patient person,” I often say. “I just hate waiting.”
For five days last week I wore my ACUs for the first time since September. For you civilian folks, the ACU is the Army Combat Uniform. I’m 23 pounds lighter than when I last wore them, so they fit better than ever. I took pride in my look as I reported to my new Army Reserve unit at Ft. Gillem, GA near Atlanta.
I showed up the first day about 15 minutes early. There’s that old Army saying about showing up 15 minutes early or you’re late. I’ve never been a fan of that. I just like to be there on time. So, on the second day, I showed up 15 minutes late. I just wanted to balance things out.
The first day was spent filling out paperwork. They must’ve cut down three trees just to have enough paper to collect my information. The paperwork was followed by more registration online, but I could do only so much due to the expired certificates on my common access card. For you civilian folks, that’s my ID card, which is inserted into the computer for access.
I was unable to get very much accomplished due to the lack of the aforementioned access. I called to make an appointment to have a new ID card made, but they couldn’t see me until August 10. I just shook my head and wished I had a bracelet on my wrist with the letters WWPD. We’ve all seen the What Would Jesus Do bracelets, but mine would be What Would Patton Do. Seriously, how would one of the greatest leaders in our nation’s history feel about our dependence upon computers?
All in all, it was a good first day, but it was a long first day. The unit pays for a hotel room during our drills or as they call them in the Reserves “Battle Assemblies.” I still call them drills, thank you very much. I got to the hotel room, and my room was not paid. I didn’t think to get any numbers from anyone in the unit during the day, so I was not a happy camper. I needed to go home to retrieve some paperwork anyway, so this was just the Good Lord giving me some guidance.
I still felt dejected. I was also starving to death, so I went to the Cracker Barrel across the street before heading home. Since I’d not been able to check into my hotel room, I was still in my uniform. My food took seemingly forever to cook. The manager came out twice to apologize for the delay. I showed my patience and put on a happy face but was still dejected. Once the food arrived, things got better.
A few minutes later, a rather large, bearded gentleman stepped over into my space and extended his hand. The first thing I noticed was the ball cap on his head. He was a Vietnam Veteran. In his other hand, he held the ticket for the meal I was eating. “Thank you for your service,” he said. “I got this.”
I was down in the dumps for very minor setbacks throughout the day. I couldn’t help but think of all the terrible days he experienced in that land so far away. Although I served a total of 34 months in Iraq, nothing I did or saw will ever compare to his experiences.
The Vietnam Veterans were treated so unfairly upon their return and have every reason to be bitter for the unjust treatment; however, most of them bear no resentment towards their country. Their patience with our nation should serve as an example to each of us. I am extremely grateful for this gentleman and for all the other Vietnam Veterans who served this nation so admirably.
As for the remainder of the weekend, it had its ups and downs but ended on the highest of highs. On Sunday, my wife, daughter, mother-in-law, and sister-in-law woke up at the crack of dawn so they could be in Atlanta at 9:00 to witness my promotion to Major. The best part is that I didn’t even tell them about it until early Saturday evening, yet they still did what they had to do to be there.
Actually, the best part was having my wife pin on my oak leaf. In a perfect Army, I would’ve been promoted two years ago, but had that happened, I would’ve missed out on this amazing memory. My patience paid off.
Jody Fuller is a comic, speaker, writer and soldier with three tours of duty in Iraq. He is also a lifetime stutterer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, please visit http://www.jodyfuller.com.