Airman Tyko, Where’s Your Name Tag?

May 20, 2007 at 9:17 pm (Life & Death)

In September 1965, the war in Viet Nam was escalating at an alarming pace. I received an invitation from Sam for a pre-induction physical. Within three months, the chances were I’d be marching off in khaki with a future in fodderdom. This thrilled me not. By than I was tokin’ along to Bob Dylan and Phil Ochs. All I knew about the military at that time came from watching Sgt. Bilko, listening to radio personality Jean Sheppard wax nostalgic about Lt. Cherry and reading books such as “The Manchurian Candidate,” “Catch 22,” and “Soldier in the Rain.” The Air Force recruiting Sarge had moving lips [an indication that he was lying] spewed and promises of technical training. Tech School gave me training to input data in an already obsolete computer.

Almost every working day during the nearly three years I spent at Travis Air Force Base, my Capy-tan, Robert L. Woods, would ask me about the whereabouts of my name tag. “Back in the barracks, sir,” is the way I’d normally answer. His pasty face would turn red as he spewed his nonsense [to me] about conformity. One day, in a premeditated attempt to stroke him out, I told him that it was my wish to go incognito from then on and that, for security purposes, I wanted to be addressed by my serial number, not my name.

He told me that day that because of my attitude he wouldn’t recommend me for overseas service. I had to spend the rest of my “Air Force career” in California. I asked that he reconsider and not put me in the “briar patch.”

He just wouldn’t relent.

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