Guard Duty? Who, Me?
One of the advantages of being the PX Clerk of the 155 Howitzer battalion I'd been assigned to was that I never had to pull any "special" duty. So I was quite surprised when I saw my name on a Guard Duty roster one day.
Well, I reported to the Officer of the Day and was told to be at a remote location alongside a road leading into our encampment at 0200 hours. I would be armed with an M1 rifle and a walkie-talkie and would relieve the soldier who had been there for the previous four hours. He would fill me in on anything special I needed to know.
It would then be my job to challenge anyone I might see coming in our direction and to make him identify himself, etc. If a situation appeared to be dangerous I could call for help with the walkie-talkie.
Beyond that, one was expected to observe the rules for performing guard duty he had learned in basic training - not the least important of which was staying awake. (Anyone found sleeping on guard duty was subject to court-martial and severe punishment, including the possibility of death or life imprisonment if it happened in a war zone.)
I was praying that I would stay awake, because I've always had the ability to fall sleep just about any time in any place - especially if I'm bored. And, as I approached the guard post, the soft grass around it looked like a great place for a nap - especially at 2:00 in the morning.
Well, staying awake turned out to be the least of my problems.
I could see two people in the moonlight, as I got closer to the guard post. One was standing, holding a rifle, and facing me. The other was a couple of yards behind him, sitting on the ground. The one standing gave me the regulation challenge and I identified myself. "Okay," he said, as he lowered his rifle.
Even before I could ask about the person sitting on the ground, the soldier who had spoken said, "I've got a patient for you. You need to take care of him."
"A patient?" I asked. "What's the matter with him?"
"You know," he replied, "he's a gook - just keep your eye on him." With that he picked up his field pack and headed up the road.
No, I didn't know. The impression I got was that this fellow had some kind of injury or illness (a "patient") and that he had come here looking for help. And since we presumably wouldn't be able to speak each other's language, I should just keep my eye on him - probably until sunup, when I could get a better look at things.
The only thing I knew for sure was that I didn't like the word "gook" (just as I've never liked any other derogatory ethnic name).
Well, it wasn't till four hours later when I found out what my predecessor should have told me. Here's what he should have said: