Offspring is officially an adult. An adult who graduated a whole semester early and signed his soul away in service to our aging alcoholic uncle, Sam.
All of which has got us telling lots of military life stories around here. I’m currently about 14% nervous that my mother-in-law found this blog and will tell my father about it, so we’re going to skip the time my mother told a 3-star General what she really thought about the Marine Corps—or the pair of idiotic MP’s who got chased out of our yard by what they later swore was a bear—and stick with what we’re good at here: Husband’s Army stories.
That’s right, it’s Story Time!
I wanted to tell you about the beginning—Husband’s first contract and his escape plan, which sadly did not involve wearing a ballgown—but that got me thinking and now I’ve decided to tell you about our favorite deserters.
Back in the magical land of 1993, Husband had just raised his right hand and promised to defend ‘murica against zombies and space aliens and leaky drip pans (or whatever goes wrong on a Bradley… I should really check with him before hitting Publish) and was waiting to be shipped off to that kettle of horror known as boot camp.
Which reminds me—we can’t be too mad at how Offspring went about it, since Husband told his parents he was just going to MEPS to “hear them out” and learn a bit more about his options (from the nice man who offered him bags and bags of money for college) then came home and gave his dad an enthusiastic sales pitch about the many opportunities he’d have as a Bradley Fighting Vehicle System Mechanic and how future employers of a mechanical engineer would look favorably on such experience. His father—whose actual lifelong dream was to sell used cars—listened patiently for a bit before commenting, “So… it sounds like you’re interested.”
“Interested?” exclaimed Husband, who was probably born an asshole, “I’m enlisted!”
Husband’s friends, who knew all about his massive comic book collection (even though they’re not the ones who had to catalog it years later, are they? No, that was me, and now I know way more about goddamned Spiderman than I should have to, so don’t ever doubt that my hatred of that spandex-clad pervert is genuine and well-informed) and his strenuous job as a lab assistant, figured there was no way he’d survive a “training” program designed to break people. The warrior class of our ancestors dedicated the whole of their peace-time brain capacity to devising barely-legal methods of torture, and these have been refined over generations on billions of other warrior-types, about half of whom break.
They’d forgotten about Zach, apparently.
Zach was Husband’s friend from high school who’d enlisted straightaway after graduation—as opposed to waiting a year acquiring some student debt, like Husband did. And Zach went in as a cavalry scout—the fighting walkers. Zach hadn’t been anything particularly tough or impressive, and had never been a serious sort of individual, but from all reports was doing very well down in Fort Hood (Texas). Husband figured if Zach could do it, he could do it, so he ignored the warnings and well-intentioned mockery of his friends.
Plus, there was always the matter of his feet.
At the requisite physical, Husband had been told that he had flat feet. This was not considered much of an issue since they’d never given him any trouble in his scrawny 145-pounds-soaking-wet life, but the Army physician informed him that if he ever complained of his feet hurting he would be sent home. You cannot be a Professional Walker if you’ve got bad feet.
So the (secret) plan was for Husband to join up, do his best, pack on some muscle and learn some of that discipline stuff (everyone swore it was useful) and at some point they’d either decide he wasn’t cut out for Army life or he’d whine about his feet and they’d send him home. The movies had to be an exaggeration, and M.A.S.H. looked okay… how bad could it really be?
Then, shortly before Husband was due to get on a plane to Fort Knox, Zach came home.
After two and a half years of being a professional walker, young Zach had had enough of the whole gig. So he got in his car and drove 32 hours straight (at least, we assume it was straight-ish, based on the timeline… he might have made a few extra pit stops and just sped through Pennsylvania to make up for it; goodness knows I would) to come home.
No, he did not stop to ask permission or schedule leave. He just… went home.
Zach moved back into his old room and put away his uniform next to his cap and gown and other useless things from his past and set about building a new life.
Eventually, the Army mailed him a general discharge along with a letter from his CO expressing regret that Zach had been so unhappy he felt the need to leave without at least talking to him.
Husband took this as yet another sign that Army life wasn’t anything like either Full Metal Jacket or MASH; Klinger totally would’ve just walked away if that was an option.
He also thought he’d met his one and only AWOL soldier—which is hilarious, considering just how far outside his theater of operations he once went for a pair of glasses—and so was surprised almost exactly four years later to find himself on Fort Hood when his department received a phone call from Fort Lewis, way up in Washington. They had a HEMTT fueler with no vehicle number—usually painted on the back bumper, indicating the unit and designation—parked on a service road next to a range out there. Having checked the chassis and finding a serial number there, they ran it and put in a call to ask the parts department at Fort Hood two very important questions:
- Does the truck with this serial number belong to you?
- Is it missing? Because we have it…
If you’re thinking the second question was sarcastic, you’ve never worked in government. It is entirely possible for two identical HEMTT fuel trucks to roll out with the exact same serial number, even though that is a thing that should never ever happen.
It is, however, not what happened in this case.
What happened was the fuel truck’s driver didn’t report in for a few days. Nobody had reported him missing because, frankly, nobody missed him—it happens sometimes that soldiers go off where they’re not supposed to be, but they usually wander back and take their slap on the wrist like big boys.
They do not, typically, take a 10-ton government fuel truck and 9500 liters of fuel—this guy wins style points for figuring out a way to avoid gas station bathrooms while making his crime so much bigger than fucking AWOL.
We don’t know what happened to Fuel Truck Guy, but we can guess that MP’s showed up on his doorstep one day to explain that he was being charged with a variety of crimes, all of which he probably pled down and got off with a simple dishonorable discharge. Probably.
Unless he did something stupid when they showed up… but really, what are the odds?
 They sat him down to watch Apocalypse Now (a little over-the-top, but still a good film) and Full Metal Jacket, which actually turned out to be useful; he ended up so focused on not laughing through boot camp, whenever drill instructors spewed lines straight from the film, that nothing else seemed all that serious.
 He now admits it totally is, and recommends both of those sources for anyone thinking of enlisting. Also Sgt. Bilko and War Machine, both accurate in very different ways, and Renaissance Man. If you’re looking for a good Navy movie, we recommend Down Periscope, which is Sgt. Bilko but on a submarine and with dick tattoos.
 Fort Lewis has since been merged with McChord, which is probably a better fate than being shut down due to an impassible excess of fuel trucks.
 Also, can we talk about the fact that apparently Texas is so godawful that even people who are literally paid to be there and know their stint is only temporary are willing to break the law in order to flee? What the fuck, Texas? A dishonorable discharge is a thing which will—to quote Kevin Bacon—be stapled to every job application you ever fill out. That shit follows you forever, and you are assumed to be the worst sort of criminal. Both of these young men were willing to risk it in order to get out of Texas. Think about that, Texas, and get your shit together. Get some weather or something.