I’m a veteran. I spent nearly four years in the U.S. Army from January 1972 through August of 1975. My last duty station was Okinawa, Japan.
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.
– Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities[/box]
Normally I wouldn’t whip out Dickens to compare my circumstances on a small Pacific island nearly forty years ago to the alcoholic attorney, Sydney Carton.
Still, it fits. It was the best of times and most certainly the worst of times. By bits and pieces I was beginning to kill myself in slow motion and didn’t even know it.
I arrived on the island around July of ’73. At that point in my life I hadn’t been to too many places outside the deep south. Beyond my ‘Summer of Love’ excursion to Atlanta and my last duty station in Tampa, the world was my oyster and I was looking for a Pearl. I was 19, married with a young son and had the maturity of a circus clown. It was not a good mix for the likes of me.
The next few months were pretty much a booze filled blur. I had some good times on the island. I got into Scuba diving which was incredible in the crystal clear blue waters surrounding Okinawa.
As they say, all good things must come to an end. My extracurricular activities got worse and I ended up divorced and in my first treatment. Looking back today with the benefit of vision, I didn’t have a clue how bad it had gotten for me.
The Army decided I was a lost cause, not a good candidate for rehabilitation, and in August of ’74 sent me home with discharge papers. I look back on my military service with mixed emotions. I was the beginning of a journey without end, an ongoing odyssey that continues even to this day. With sober eyes I have been blessed with the vision of where I went wrong and where I went right. Some days it’s a curse. Other days it’s a blessing beyond measure.
I’m not the man I would like to be but thank God I’m not the man I used to be.
“I am a disappointed drudge, sir. I care for no man on earth, and no man on earth cares for me.”
— Sydney Carton – A Tale of Two Cities