Sunday, September 05, 2004
To Be Fair to My Dad:
"My Father, His Son"
Sgt. Kowasch Visited Me In My Dream Last Night
Sgt. Kowasch visited me in my dream last night
in his strack uniform and cap pulled down exactly
two fingers above the bridge of his nose. I happened
to see his black on green name tag, KOWASCH,
the toughest drill sergeant at Fort Lewis.
I will never forget the way he ran, arms at his side,
fingers curled, thumb and fore finger touching,
upper body still. He could run for mile after mile
after mile, and we could too, after he was finished.
We ran in full field pack, rifle and spit-shined black
combat boots with a white dot, every other day,
on the heels. That small white dot kept us busy every night
polishing one of our pair of boots. We used that same shoe
polish to make the center aisle in the barracks gleam
like quiet water. Sgt. Kowasch trod that still water at 5:00AM
Sgt. Kowasch, I called. Mike Landfair,
you were my Drill Sergeant at Fort Lewis in the sixties.
Can I buy you a drink? He pulled up a chair and ordered
a Bud. What year were you there, he said. January, 1966!
I remember my three months there like it was yesterday.
My first night at Fort Lewis I pulled fire duty for an hour,
had no coat yet and outside it was snowing.
(I had heard so many stories about Army life. I feared
what was coming and yet my father had said “The Army
will make a man out of you.” I feared Viet Nam more.
I just knew that terrible things awaited me over there if
I didn’t avoid the draft. My other choice was Canada,
never to see my friends and family again.)
Kowasch remembered our company, made up of mostly reservists,
remembered how we had excelled at training and remembered
how hard he made it on us for avoiding combat. We talked
for awhile about those times, while he drank his beer.
I reminded him about the sand bags we filled under the barracks
and low crawling to the other end while dragging them; we laughed
about Peacock who would wake in the morning and yell “Vagina Mucosi”;
and the sparring partner for Cassius Clay, who said he would kick our ass
if Simonson and I stopped running; how I spent my first wedding
anniversary sitting on the washing machine in the latrine;
how we all could run 6 minute miles and fire M50s and M60s and field strip
45s under pressure; how we were stripped down as individuals and built back as a unit.
One thing I shared with Kowasch was how the Army had helped me. I found
that when things got tough in life, as they do for most of us, I could look back on my experiences and have confidence that this, too, I could get through.
As we reminisced, a slightly overweight and soft looking kid
hung on our conversation. If war broke out tomorrow with China,
he interjected, what should I do? I remembered my father’s words
to his anxious son, which seem more true today:
“Go into the Army”, I said, “The Army will make a man out of you.”
Sgt. Kowasch looked at me and winked.