As I attempted to inform a SGT. of the abuses committed against the poor here in Victoria and across Canada, he scoffed at me.
A few minutes later, as I sat under a tree playing my guitar for smiles...it began to rain and continued to do so until shortly after the parade ended and then it stopped...Of course, being under a tree while playing music, I was kept dry.
I even asked some of these soldiers later, as they walked by me, if they understood the irony of GOD raining on their parade...NO!
They did not!!!
P.W.O.R. stands for "Princess of Wales Own Regiment", of which I was once a member and even received an AWARD for "Best Section". (Me so vain).
It would be a lie to say I was on the front lines of any battlefield, but it would be safe to say I was in the trenches in the war of Pride & Prejudice.
It would also be a lie to say I was ever in combat against another nation or race of men, but it would be safe to say I was in continual combat with those who would strip you of your 'free will' and 'thinking for yourself'.
In the spirit of all this worldwide war-mongering, and the constant bombardment of "War Stories", I felt inspired to share one of mine own.
This story has no fancy title as it is just a faint re-collection of a past life, (Based on true events).
It was 05:30,(5:30 am) and we were preparing for P.T.(physical training). Everyone was geared up to go because today we had a day off. The last few days of training had been grueling, but today, after breakfast, we were free to go.
Everything seemed to be going accordingly. Even the guys who usually lag behind, and you hope you don't get paired with because you know you'll end up carrying and trust me, they don't lag behind because they're light & skinny or in shape...But you don't leave a man behind, period.
Yes, even they had an extra bounce to their step that kept them off our shoulders far beyond where they usually rested. Even still, things are not always as they seem, for unbeknownst to me, a far greater burden would soon befall me. A test of 'self', valor and virtue.
The surprise came after breakfast, we were informed another unit would be joining us for the next few days, and volunteers would be needed to help put up extra bunks in the barracks. Now being the helpful kinda guy I AM, I join the first few meagre volunteers, which would be an apt description of the quantity, if not the quality. That is until the Sarge(SGT) reminded everyone that more will make it quicker and 3/4 of the unit now stood with us...Plus a few "EXTRA" volunteers who first laughed at the thought.
Then the shoe dropped.
"Clown, since you were so quick to volunteer, you are now in command of these men. Is that clear?", he barked.
"Yes SGT" I barked back.
"Good, now get over here.", he ordered.
It was a good number for the space and work required, more would have made it clumsy and crowded. Most of the guys, even the ones who didn't like me, didn't mind me being in charge because I didn't play favorites or spare myself from the task at hand. I rebuked those who deserved it and rewarded those likewise, so any loyalties I'd earned were never taken advantage of...So I double-timed it (ran very fast) over to him as he walked away. After a few paces he stopped to face me and in a quieter voice, gave me my orders.
"Now Clown, listen up. All the bunks have already been off-loaded at the barracks. The mattresses have been piled in the open corner inside and the frames are stacked outside."
Then the other shoe drops.
"The first thing that gets done is a complete dismantling of the Rec. area you have in the back corner. Is that clear?" He asked.
"Yes SGT" I begrudgingly replied. I knew this wasn't going to go over well.
"I mean it Redford", he continued with his stern look.
He called me 'Redford' because every one of us 'grunts' had been given nicknames until we earned our place. Most, like the short guy with a seemingly long neck who was tagged "E.T.", or "B.J." the guy with big lips, were not so complimentary. However, I'd made it known that the only reason I was joining the military was so I could get money and training, so I could then afford to get out of my little village and go to collage to study being an actor/stuntman. So when they tagged me 'Redford', I was very aware it wasn't meant as a compliment, but rather a stab at my dreams. Standing beside "Pottsy Webor" however, I accepted it with honor and a shot of determination.
"I want to make sure we are clear about this", the Sarge's voice taking on a more serious tone. "There will be no creative ways out. From this point on, that Rec. area is completely dismantled, FIRST & FOREMOST. Now are we clear about this Redford?"
The reason he kept asking, was not because I'd shown a tendency to not follow orders as they were given. Quite the opposite. In fact, I would break down those orders, so that they were followed to the 'WORD'. This caused them great pains in wording those orders so that I would not be able to bend them to my will.
"Crystal Clear SGT." I replied, letting him know the job would be done.
"Excellent Redford. That's what I like to hear." A bounce returning to his speech.
"Now get those men in there and outta there, so they can enjoy their day off...no screwing around, they've earned it." He turned and walked away.
I had a mission before me I was none to happy about, but this was the military, not "Mission Impossible". There was no choice here, just do it. So I rallied the men around me, which also consisted of a few women, but in this man's ARMY, we are all called men. Any comparisons to ladies is completely derogatory. Not that I'm trying to give the impression they are a bunch of macho, sexist, bullying conformists. That's just the way it is...or was anyway.
All that aside, I gave the men the 'Bad News' about the Rec. area first & foremost. Hoping that after being dis-heartened, because we scavenged and built it ourselves, I could still use our 'Day Off' to re-inspire and motivate them.
It worked. The 'Day Off' was so highly anticipated it over-shadowed the loss of our make-shift recreational area at the back of the barracks. Though to be honest, I think they were also surprised we'd been able to get away with it this long, so it was also to be expected. I had no idea me real test was yet to come. Again, they would try to break me.
Regardless, everyone was still pumped and things again seemed to be working smoothly. The Rec area had been dismantled, first and foremost, giving us the needed space. There was no grumbling nor in-fighting, no bickering nor cheap shots...Because just like in hockey when cowards attack, the ref doesn't see the action and judges the re-action as the aggression.
Today, all that had been put aside and everyone was working as a single, harmonious unit. We back filled the now open area. Pushed the existing bunks closer together creating more room at the front, where our dwindling mattress supply lay as a disappearing barrier to freedom.
Things were progressing in a most expeditious manner, when someone from the outside decided they wanted to throw a wrench into our plans of escape. A Master Corporal (MCPL) comes into our barracks all full of vigor and demands to know;
"Who's in charge here."
As I AM, I say; "I AM."
He notices I'm a private (pte), and questions me;
"There are corporals in this unit private, why are you in charge?"
"Because I AM." I respond simply.
He then informs me, that although we are over 3/4 of the way done, the orders have been changed and these bunks are now to come back down. He then looks me straight in the eye and asks me;
"Do you understand these new orders?"
To which I replied; "Yes Master Corporal."
"Good" he says with a certain smugness.
"Then get these men to work and get it done."
This is when I did something you just don't do, I said;
"No, Master Corporal."
Everybody froze. Nobody moved, spoke or even breathed it seemed, for the silence was deafening. Everybody heard me, except the MCPL I guess, because he asked me to repeat myself.
"What did you just say?" he asked incredulously .
Now that I had his FULL attention, and to make sure I was clear, this time I looked him straight in the eye and a little slower said;
"No! Master Corporal!"
This set him off.
"Now you listen to me PRIVATE," emphasizing my lower rank. "I have been sent here from H.Q.(headquarters) and I'm a MASTER CORPORAL, giving you, a private, and your men, a direct order and I expect it carried out, or are you having some problem understanding me?"
At the end of this, he cocks his head to the side bringing his face up real close to mine, eyes glaring, nostrils flaring.
So I slowly cock my head to the same angle and again speak slowly;
"I think it is you who is having a problem understanding, Master Corporal."
With that he straightened up and pulled back in disbelief, (as I mentioned earlier, this kinda thing just isn't done), and I continued;
"So I'm going to explain it to help you." At this, I started moving and gesturing points home.
"This is the men's Day Off and they are here on a volunteer basis to get a job done, and I have been put in command to see that it gets done. You are a messenger from H.Q. and I don't care what your rank is, you are supposed to deliver that message to me...not my men. I have received that order, and I have said 'NO'."
"Now you can take a return message to H.Q. - If they have changed the orders of the day, they can change the men carrying them out, because my men didn't volunteer to be jerked around on their Day Off."
This put the MCPL in a stasis of shocked silence, so I continued.
"We can either finish the job, or I will dismiss the men." I told him, "Since there's some confusion about what's happening here, I AM, ordering the men on break until you get back. You want it done quick, you'd best BE quick."
At this, he tried to go around me and order the men directly, but I cut him off by saying;
"You do not have command of my men, I do. You have delivered your message and I have told you what to do with it, now get it done."
A last ditch, "I said, MOVE IT" came out of him.
I don't know if everybody was still in shock, or the ones that liked me, stood with me and the ones that didn't figured this would just get me deeper into...trouble, shall we say...Whatever it was, nobody moved.
The MCPL's eyes grew wide as his face flushed, his mouth became all screwed up and puckered, he then turned sharply on his heels and slammed the door behind him.
The sound of the door slamming echoed and hung in the air. Everybody was just looking around at each other, nobody was sure what to say or do, or what was going to happen next. Finally, one of the guys put voice to the question that was on everyone's mind, and with it, all eyes turned to me.
"What do we now?" he asked.
At first I wasn't sure what to say, until an amusing idea jumped up in front of me, so I shared it.
"Well I don't know about you guys, but I've ordered a break." I began walking to the front corner. " And I notice this pile of remaining mattresses are only about 6 feet away from those bunks." I begin pointing as I speak. "Which are now all closer together, and with enough head clearance to allow for some fun while we wait."
The men started to again look at each other, eyes widening, smiles spreading, as they caught on to where I was going with this...and they liked where I was going.
"Since I AM, in command, I will go first to test this theory."
I walked back about 5 bunks, climbed up top, and proceeded to run across them to the end, where I dove out into the air and landed with a loud 'FLUMP' in the pile of mattresses.
I barely got clear before the next 'FLUMP' was heard, and then the next.
As I got clear I could see the entire group was lined up for a 'GO'...and 'GO' we did...over & over again.
Until many 'GO's later, the door to the barracks opened again. This time it was followed by a loud "Ten HUT"(attention), given by the first one who noticed our new guest. Everybody quickly snapped to attention because this one didn't have stripes on his sleeves, he had bars on his collars...Two of them, both solidly the same size.
Again the demand for the person in charge was put forth and again I answered the call.
"Yes Captain, what can I do for you?", as I stepped out of line and to the front of the pack.
"What can you do for me?" he repeated, as though he couldn't believe my casual attitude.
"How about following the orders you were given?" he asked.
Since he asked, I answered.
"No offense sir, but NO sir."
Again with the "NO". As I mentioned, this was unprecedented in our unit. I may have bent a few orders in the past to fit my will, but nobody, not even I, had ever FLAT OUT REFUSED an order, especially coming from an officer. Here was a 'grunt', not even through basic training, telling a Captain; "NO".
This Captain, did not appreciate it one little bit. He tore a verbal strip off me and then continued up one side and down the other. I simply stood there at attention, staring straight ahead taking it, while the others were glad they weren't me.
He too finished off with; "Have I made myself CLEAR?"
"Perfectly sir", I replied. "Now I shall attempt to do the same."
At this point I physically move into an "at ease" position and make eye contact. A move I did not ask permission to make, but did anyway. He noticed my assertion and frowardness, causing him to take a step back. The men also noticed.
"These men are under my command." I stated as a matter of fact. Then over my shoulder, in a loud commanding voice I did give an order.
"At ease men." Again, without first asking permission.
I didn't know for sure if anyone would listen. I was hoping that with what we had already been through together, that if I stood by them, they would stand by me. If they didn't, it would be all over right then and there...But they did.
In the same unity we had worked with all morning, they simultaneously moved into a position that gave justification to my assertion.
"No disrespect meant to you sir." I continued. "But these men volunteered to help on their well earned day off and I refuse to abuse my men when they deserve to be rewarded...all because of a military SNAFU, or someone feels like power-tripping."
"Now if you ask any of my men, they will tell you I don't like to repeat myself, but as I'm not trying to be disrespectful and you haven't heard it from me yet...for you, I will." Then I did.
"I will give one of two orders to my men...Either to finish the orders they volunteered to do...Or, I shall dismiss them for the day, thank them for a great job and apologize to them for having the better part of their morning wasted on a lack of military intelligence. Then you can deal with me when I return from my leave."
A look of shock and disbelief covered the Captain's face. He was struck silent, so I continued.
"Now, you can take those options back to H.Q. and share them with whomever you deem necessary. I only hope you make it equally clear, those are the ONLY two options available. Until then, my men shall remain on break."
"Oh, and Captain" I added, "I have sought to be frugal with the men's time...I would appreciate if you observe the same courtesy."
The Captain was now taking on the expression of the MCPL just before he left. Eyes bulging, nostrils flaring, he too turned on his heels, but paused at the door, turning back to say;
"I'll be back in fifteen minutes and I better see some work being done and those bunks coming down...or else!!!" Then he too, slammed the door as he left.
Leaving as well an ominous feeling behind him, one of the guys pipes up a little sheepishly; "Now what do we do?"
"Deal with him when he gets back", I say this time. "We're on break remember?"
Then I peel through the crowd toward the launch bunks crying out; "I'm first."
Quickly followed by the others, the continual sound of "FLUMPS" shattered any ominous feelings remaining, being replaced by the sound of 'JOY'.
Sure enough, about 10-15 minutes later, who can tell how long exactly, with all that "FLUMPING" going on, another guest arrived...But it wasn't the Captain returning. It was a Corporal.
He said he'd been sent to inform us we were free to go.
With that bit of news, I gave a loud; "DISMISSED" and you have never seen a building emptied so fast as that day.
When I did get back from leave, my SGT. pulled me aside and told me I had been officially written up on my permanent record as having a "Bad Attitude" and "Not Respecting Authority" by the Captain, and that this would follow me for the rest of my life.
He also told me; "Officially, I'm supposed to reprimand you, but unofficially I've also spoken to some of the men and I thought you should know, today you gained the respect of your men, even the ones who didn't like you...That's not always easy to do."
Then he leaned in and said seriously; "Now listen close Redford."
"Yes SGT." I acknowledged.
"You were a 'BAD BOY'." and a smile broke across his face, "Now consider yourself reprimanded."
"Yes SGT." I said smiling back.
"Now get your butt back to the unit." he ordered.
"Yes SGT." I said as I double timed it out of there.
I chose this story for many reasons, most are self-evident...One being, that since I had this permanent mark on my record, some people might be interested in the story of how and why it got there. Please, keep in mind as well;
"Do not follow my example, merely the inspiration to follow the example as set by 'CHRIST'."
Here's some even greater reasons
to follow my orders and
"Refuse to Abuse"
to follow my orders and
"Refuse to Abuse"