Sunday, March 20, 2011

Rocha's Curtain Call

He worked in Supply most of the time I was in the unit. Hermerejildo Rocha, called Herman, was a Spec-4 with a laconic manner and a steel plate in his head from a recoilless rifle injury in Vietnam. He had waived any disability claim in order to re-up in the Army for a six-year term. When asked why, he shrugged. 'In business back home, they don't pay any attention to you when you're my age.'

Home was Garden City, one of the most depressed regions of the nation then or now, and, even were there some sort of economic miracle possible, it still would be in Kansas.

He and a buddy from his home town had remained together throughout their enlistments. The buddy was also disabled in that war, with a rifle wound to his foot ... from his own weapon. "It was bad over there," Herman admitted, "but ..." and he just shook his head. The buddy seemed always very depressed, spoke in a quiet voice, had a pretty wife who danced for the boys in one of the many go-go grind shops along the main street of Lawton, OK.

I had a very soft time in the Army during those horror years for some troops. I was able to drive home most weekends. And one Sunday night or Monday morning I came back to the post to discover the laces missing from my dress shoes.

I lived in NCO quarters, though I wasn't one, and neither was Herman, my roommate for the period just before his ETS to another post. Our boots and shoes were displayed under our beds in the two-troop rooms, and mine were bereft of ties and Herman was gone. I guess he was just short a pair for his dress green traveling uniform.

Why not just requisition from me? He'd never see me again, so why even bother with a note? He was probably too busy with packing to even wonder about somebody already a ghost.

Rocha just walked into a dream, leaned on a bureau in his uniform, looking just as he had way back when. I didn't speak to him because of distractions in my dream, and I regret it now.

I wanted to ask him about the laces.

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