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Memories of a colder time

“Specialist Fleck, grab your coat and come with me,” the General ordered in no uncertain tone.
To his face, everyone addressed him simply as sir, as in “Yes, sir!” Behind his back, we called him Crazy Eddie. The only thing worse than a loose cannon on deck is a loose cannon wearing a general’s star, and that was General Edward O’Conner.
His staff feared and dreaded him.
One of his more capricious ideas, a whimsical notion that became reality instantly by way of coming from a general grade officer’s mouth, was to fix an uptick in the number of soldiers going on sick call. The major in charge of the medical dispensary made the mistake of mentioning it during a staff meeting, breaking a protocol developed in the short time after the general took command: don’t offer information on anything unless you are specifically and directly asked. But the good major forgot this that morning, and offered the statistic by way of saying the flu was going around since the beginning of January. As a result, a new procedure was put into effect for soldiers going on sick call: anyone seeking medical attention had to first take their own temperature. This may not seem too extreme until you consider where the general ordered said temperature be taken, namely, in the rectum.
The major protested, saying the vast majority of thermometers on hand were designed for taking temperatures orally and were prone to snapping off if used otherwise. But the general scowled and told the major to follow orders or else.
So I grabbed my coat and got in line with the various aides and toadies following the general as he made an about face and marched out of the building to a waiting motorcade. The convoy took off with me in the second vehicle where I quickly learned what was happening.
The general’s appointment secretary, a friend named Royce, made the mistake of doing his job too well. He read in my newspaper, the one I was in charge of, the general was to meet with the Mayor of Bamberg earlier that morning.
I remembered the news item. Another buddy, Ger, in the public relations office, submitted it, and I ran it without question on the front page. The appointment secretary noted the story, and seeing it was not entered in the official appointment book went ahead and entered it. That morning, the general set off in the motorcade only to encounter a bewildered city staff and an absent mayor. Later, I’d learn there was supposed to be a meeting but the date got changed after the news release went out and no one bothered to tell me. That very moment, I learned the general was livid because of the inconvenience, and no one tried to dissuade him when he decided I was to blame.
The motorcade proceeded to the airfield where I was put on a helicopter and sent to Grafenwoehr. Graf, as we called it, was and is the largest military training area in Europe. An annual war game, called Reforger, was being held there with thousands of soldiers divided into a red army and a blue army.
The reason I’m thinking and writing about this is the cold weather we’ve been having the last week. The low temperature was only about zero in Germany, but its impact on me was much worse then the negative 20 recorded on our front porch recently. The other soldiers had a full array of cold weather gear. I only had my coat, without liner, and a baseball cap. I spent the next three days shivering outside and nights doing the same in a tent without a sleeping bag.
Also, I’m thinking about it because I suspect the way we felt about Crazy Eddie is similar to the people who wind up working for a Commander and Chief like Donald “Tweet Stormer” Trump.
God help us all.
To add insult to injury, when I finally returned home to base, I felt the onset of flu symptoms. Luckily, nothing broke off you know where. I survived.
I pray our country survives, as well.