72 hours to Paris…
Island … that is.
November, Veterans Day, The US Marine Corps’ birthday, Thanksgiving and radio stations around the county playing Arlo Guthrie’s Alice’s Restaurant arlo (click on arlo then YouTube) has come and gone another year.
Arlo Guthrie has been singing this song for over forty years. If you have never heard it … do yourself a favor…it is 18 minutes and 34 seconds long and is based on a true incident in his life that began on Thanksgiving Day in 1965. Apart from the chorus which begins and ends it, the “song” is in fact a spoken monologue and is considered his most prominent work. He first performed the song in 1967 when the Vietnam War was getting very hot and the draft even hotter.
The song brings back memories…some good… some bad…
I graduated from, what now is UMASS-Dartmouth, in 1967 and was biding my time working in Boston waiting to be drafted.
I was soon notified to report to the Military Entrance Processing Center in Boston. Anticipating the next day to be a long one and coupled with a pending departure to some unknown Army training facility, a night of light drinking and early to bed was in order.
Much to my surprise, I was temporarily rejected for high blood pressure and was instructed to return in 3 months to be tested again. Thinking, while on the bus ride home, that if a few beers could raise my blood pressure to levels unacceptable for military service what would a night of pure debauchery do for me.
The night before my return engagement (April fools day) my “girl friend” invited me to dinner The pre dinner cocktails , coupled with other intoxicants and numerous drinks over dinner produced quite a “package”. As an aside, I still remember a song that was playing on the radio after we left the restaurant…Classical Gas by Mason Williams. Every time I heard it, it reminds me of my 72 hours to Paris Island.
Mason Williams – Classical Gas (Acoustic) (click here)
Most of the bars closed at 1:00 am and it was now past that time. We decided to stop at a bar in Fairhaven that was known to serve after hours. The bar tender took one look at us and said he couldn’t serve us. My lady companion then told him in no uncertain terms that if he didn’t get us some drinks she was going to drag me up onto the bar and “fuck the shit out of me”…we had several more and left around 2:30 am.
I must have gotten a few hours of “sleep” that morning and vaguely remembered the bus ride back to Boston.
Still drunk and blood pressure so low they had to keep taking it just to see if I was alive.
Standing in a room that included my best high school friend and best college friend with about 300 other men, we were instructed to take a step forward upon hearing our name. The process went through about 100 men being named and selected by the US Army. Then they called Daniel N. Carney United State Marine Corps, I almost fainted, wait a minute I’m going into the Army with everybody else. Not so, a Marine Sergeant called out as he selected two others.
Standing in another line, an administrative clerk told the three of us that because the Marines hadn’t drafted since the Korean War, he didn’t know how to fill out the paperwork for us. Oh that made me feel so wanted. The Marine Sergeant quickly intervened.
My two friends were drafted into the Army and soon disappeared into the crowd and a few hours later, I, along with the two other “chosen ones”, were escorted onto a train headed for Washington D.C. I was no longer drunk but in total shock.
Someday I would like to take a train ride across the United States because this ride has been erased from my memory. I do remember that we spent a night in Washington D.C. and the next morning packed into a bus with other guys that actually joined the Marine Corps. We made several stops along the way picking up more recruits and hours before we were to reach Paris Island, the Marine Corps Recruit Training Depot (April 4, 1998) the bus driver announced that Martin Luther King had been shot and killed. The bus driver and most of the bus erupted in cheers. This act alone assured me that the next 13 weeks would be horrific.
72 mind numbing hours … and then deposited into the “caring” hands of Drill Instructor Staff Sergeant Robbie ‘one who hated Yankees (the New England kind), college graduates, and those that did not choose to join his beloved Marine Corps’ Robinson.
Two years later, I was honorably discharged from the United States Marine Corps with the rank of Sergeant. I was stationed at Headquarters Marine Corps in Arlington Virgina, Henderson Hall and was assigned to the Joint Planning Group, Joint Chiefs of Staff, under the command of General Leonard F. Chapman, Jr. Commandant USMC.
During those two years I had some interesting experiences and will share some of them with you if asked.
After Army basic training, my two friends were deployed to Vietnam…one came back alive.
RIP Henry Anthony Chevalier KIA Vietnam 1968