Sunday, October 22, 2006

Flashback- 1972

At this time in 1972, I was serving as a Security MP on Patch Barracks in Stuttgart-Vaihingen, West Germany, the home of the US European Command (EUCOM) and the headquarters for the US Armed Forces in Europe (HQ-USAREUR). I carried both a .45 semi-automatic and a 12 gauge pump to sit at a desk and check ID's of anyone wishing to enter the particular building. (Perhaps I should have become a public school teacher.)

It had been a tough summer. The Munich Summer Olympics suffered the massacre. The Baader-Meinhof Gang of terrorists had bombed and killed several American servicemen and directly threatened to bomb us. Race riots had taken place on several American posts so we spent many evenings dressed in full riot gear ready for action.

Morale wasn't too bad considering that many of our number were draftees. At least we weren't vacationing in Viet Nam. Several of us had drawn orders to go to Nam, but had them changed at the last moment. And the German beer was awfully good!

I also particularly remember three hit tunes that were commonly played, sung, hummed, and jived to. One was a tune by the O'Jays, 'Backstabbers', 'Smile in your face when all they want to do is take your place-- Backstabbers.' Basically a good FTA type song. Young soldiers are often like other regular people, accusing 'The Man' of regularly stabbing you in the back. Quite a bunch of whiners! (I was actively campaigning for George McGovern.)

The second of the 'Hit Parade' was Joe Cocker's 'The Letter'. 'Give me a ticket for an air-o-plane, ain't got time to take a fast train. Lonely days are gone, I'm a goin' home. My baby, she wrote me a letter.' Almost everyone had an accurate count of days remaining until discharge. (Perhaps I should have become an accountant.)

The third song, probably not a general favorite, but was one to which I personalized the lyrics. This was Bob Dylan's 'Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again'. The version I sang contained the lyrics, 'Oh, Mama, can this really be the end? To be stuck inside of Stuttgart with the Janesville blues again.' Of course, it was sung with my best Dylan-esque rasp. (I coulda been a contendah... had American Idol been around then!)

After returning to Janesville, I stayed for a couple of years and moved away for another 20. I left as a young, brash atheist and leftist and returned a mature, dignified Christian and conservative.

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