I was beseiged this afternoon with emails asking if my joke posting for today was all I planned on putting up. Well, not exactly. That space was supposed to be occupied by a long story with photos of Butch Long getting his long-overdue medals and most especially, his Combat Infantryman’s Badge. This time the Army Board of Corrections of Military Records (ABCMR) was the grinch who stole the show.
The ABCMR is still our same old Army but with a more laid back “the day after” Army mentality. A cattle prod couldn’t spark them up any more than a U.S Congressman. We tried. This began in June of this year along about the time the corn went in.
The Real Story
I told you of my neighbor Butch Long who was short sheeted by the Army at the time of his discharge in 1970. I was asked to help after Butch had been promised this about five or six times over 40 years and no one ever followed through. We’re talking VSOs stepping on their neckties here. Perhaps I was just the right guy in the right place with enough brains to figure it out. Please – no X files music. Unfortunately, once apprised of the mistake, the Army again took their sweet time and made us present evidence that Butch wasn’t just some PX Ranger looking for a good deal on military insignia. Hey. Guys do that. It’s embarrassing to be a man when you see it happen. If you’re a combat Vet, it pisses you off. Being gentlemen and bred better, most refrain from bodily harm or summarily “repossessing the illicit paraphernalia”. I’m sure it happens but I am equally sure you gentle readers would never partake. Emasculating the hoser with verbal acrimony is far more satisfying. You and I could never become masters of it like women in a vicious, ferally-worded catfight, but you get the idea.
THE CORDUROY FIASCO
Butch was to receive his regalia (to which, by now, he has been entitled to for forty five years, nine months and 21 days) this afternoon by our distinguished Congressman Derek Kilmer (26th District). Derek’s a real cut up. When he was trying to pin my medals on me through that corduroy sports jacket, we discovered why you never, never, never want to wear corduroy anything at an awards ceremony. His paraphrased comment was along the lines of:
“Man. I haven’t had this much trouble since Prom night.”
Derek didn’t expand on that cryptic comment nor did I venture to ask for clarification. Fortunately he was far enough away from the microphone. He is always available and is a Veteran’s friend. He ramrodded this through as soon as I began the quest with his VA interface Nicolas Carr. The Army was more than willing to throw in a Purple Heart based on the telegram notifying his parents that his face, right eye and upper body had been remodeled with a 60 mm mortar several nights previous. How this managed to escape the Army medal clerks then bears remarking on. Commanders and the REMF Paper Faeries around them never lose their own myriad commendations and medals requests. How could this have gone AWOL for half a century? One thing became apparent though. No CIBs were going to be awarded without documentation.
To add insult to Butch’s injuries, the ABCMR, knowing full well we were up against the clock for Veterans Day, let this sit in the out-basket for a week after the 24th of October before mailing. Considering they are located at Fort Meyer in Arlington Virginia, they had far more faith in the USPS than I do. Sure enough, when Nick Carr called them to politely ask if we could still expect to plan our presentation on Veterans Day, he discovered that someone forgot to put it in the mail. But, with any luck and a tailwind, it (might, could, could oughtta, quite possibly, with a high degree of probability, conceivably) [pick one] be there by Monday. As of yesterday’s mail we were still skinny on paperwork or any colored ribbons bearing the likeness of George Washington.
Which was okay. I was prepared to either run down to Fort Lewis and play PX Ranger myself or have to temporarily requisition my Uncle Jay’s medal box for his CIB and Purple Heart. As for the rest, I had all the RVN “I was there” stuff from Derek’s presentation to me. Hell. They were still New In Box. Bruce “Mac” McCartney (no relation to Paul) from our Eastern outpost in Midway Georgia provided a period 1969 Army Commendation Medal. Bruce, for all of you who do not know him, is super in his own right. I’d have said he was an idiot for doing four tours as a combat Dustoff medic back then (1968-1972) but now I’m merely in awe. He’s living proof of how you can dodge almost all the BBs. He has also come out of retirement to show us all ILP and how to obtain greenhouses.
Fate was just not on our side. The house of cards finally fell down because Butch’s daughter Carol, who was born while he was in-country, had to work on Veterans Day. I mean they were not going to budge on this. That’s worse than blowing a red light right in front of a cop on your way to your own wedding and you’re already ten minutes late… And you have a warrant out for, like, a gazillion parking tickets. I’m familiar with that scenario.
Carol, if you remember, is the one who told Christine about Butch’s plight. Christine’s light bulb went off at the KP Vets monthly meeting when the President announced the Air Force Board of Corrections of Military Records (AFBCMR), after sixteen long months of Ouija work, had finally acknowledged my medals. There’s method to this madness.
NEW DATE FOR PRESENTATION
Congressman KIlmer has graciously agreed to set family time aside and come out on Saturday, the 6th of December around the middle of the day to present Butch with a small tribute of what our Country owes him. Fortunately we didn’t have to water the Tree of Democracy with his blood on January 18th, 1969. We will celebrate that miracle and certainly remember the other two who did. Their testimony from the grave is the only reason why Butch will get his CIB. Pretty cool, huh? It’s like Buddy Letters from Heaven.
Personally, I think it’s one hell of a story. You can’t make this shit up. Well… unless you’re a PX Ranger.