There is an odd ritual concerning loose uniform patches that led to losing one more member of Yo2.
OK…I get it that Corpsmembers are supposed to look professional at all times. When were we were issued our khaki shirts and given our CCC patches, those patches needed to be securely on your shirt when you reported to work the next morning. The left sleeve got the universal round CCC patch with your center’s name on a rocker across the top. Your right sleeve got your center’s logo patch. The patches needed to look professional. The nature of our work was pretty hard on uniforms, so it didn’t take long for the thread to start wearing thin and patches to start coming off. You were supposed to take care of things like that right away and report to work the next morning with your patches squared away. Some CCC centers, and some CCC crews, enforced this policy more diligently than others.
In the alleged spirit of enforcing this rule, sometimes a loose patch, or even a loose pocket, would be snatched by another Corpsmember and ripped completely off. The person who had ripped the patch off would say something like, “Oh, here. You need to fix this,” as he handed the patch back. (I think I can safely say he, not he/she. I think this type of behavior was mostly a guy thing. I don’t remember ever seeing a female do it.) Now the patch was in such bad shape that it couldn’t be ignored. The patch had to be back on the uniform the next morning.
I never did like this concept. As far as I was concerned, there was no legitimate reason to lay hands on another person like that. It was a totally chicken-shit, aggressive, and childish concern over spit-and-polish nonsense, and the point never really was to enforce the rule. The point was to humiliate the other Corpsmember and to show them up.
Well, on this one day at Vogelsang…
I’d had KP that day. It was another turkey day, the second time I’d had to cook one. The first time, I’d been sick as a dog and Vic had bailed me out. I was healthy this time, but I didn’t remember much from the last turkey I’d cooked. Vic bailed me out again, but this time he just talked me through. I did all of the work myself.
During the post-dinner wind-down and relaxation time around the camp fire, Vic spotted Glens hip pocket hanging half-way off. Glen was talking to Mark and Wayne with his back to the fire. Vic crept up behind Glen, snatched at the loose pocket, and yanked.
The pocket didn’t come off. It still held tight at the reinforced seam at the top. Vic had just pulled Glen backwards.
Several things happened simultaneously. Wayne, Mark, and I started to get up, saying, “Hey!” “Knock it off!” “Stop!”
Glen tried to turn to face Vic, but Vic held on to the pocket. With a wild gleam in his eye and a huge grin, Vic yanked at the pocket again. The pocket still didn’t come off, but Vic had pulled them closer to the camp fire and the two jungle cans full of hot water. Vic seemed oblivious to the fire behind them and readied to yank a third time.
Glen did see the fire. He kicked out with one foot and managed to knock Vic off of himself. Vic stumbled back but stayed on his feet. Fortunately, he had missed the fire and the boiling water. Vic was still unaware of the danger that he had put them both in. All he knew was that Glen had just showed him up and had made him look silly.
Glen turned to face Vic and stood with his arms wide open. Glen looked shocked and surprised and kept repeating, “I’m sorry! I’m sorry!”
Vic rushed at Glen and smacked him with a right jab to the jaw. Glen made no move to defend himself. He took the punch, head rolling to one side with the blow, and then looked back at Vic with his arms still open wide and saying, “I’m sorry! I’m sorry!”
Suddenly the lights seemed to come on for Vic. The CCC has Five Basic Rules. Violation of any one of them is cause for immediate termination. One of the Five Basic Rules is “No fighting.” Vic had just instigated this incident and thrown a punch. Vic stormed away from the camp fire. Glen kept repeating, “I’m sorry! I’m sorry!”
We Corpsmembers around the fire looked around at each other with “What the hell just happened?!” looks. I went to find Vic.
He was easy to find. He was in his tent packing his gear.
“What are you doing?” I asked.
“Oh, come on, Vic.”
“I just have to get out of here.”
“Let’s go for a walk and calm down.”
“No. I have to go. I’m going to get fired, anyway.”
“You don’t know that yet. Let’s calm down and talk it over with Moose.”
“There’s no point. I couldn’t stay, anyway. I’ve been humiliated.”
I could not believe I was in this position of talking someone out of quitting…again! Vic and I did not see eye to eye on everything, and we had certainly had our differences, but he was Yo2, and I did not want to lose another crewmate.
Vic had finished packing and was closing his backpack.
“Vic, I have one good reason for you to stay.”
He threw his pack over his shoulder, looked me in the eye, and said, “Oh, yeah? What’s that?”
“Who is going to help me cook the turkey next time?”
Vic wasn’t expecting that. He grinned and punched my shoulder and said, “You’ve got it down now. You don’t need me anymore.”
Vic walked out of the tent and never came back.
I went back to the camp fore and sat down on a round.
“Did you find him?”
“Yeah. He just left.”
Glen was still coming out of the shock. “I didn’t mean to do anything to him. He was dragging us to the fire. I didn’t have any choice.”
We all agreed with Glen. Glen had done nothing wrong. Vic had put him in a position in which he really had no choice. That didn’t make it suck any less that Yo2 had lost yet another member.
And he wouldn’t be the last.