Thursday, August 07, 2008

Loosing Touch and Loosing It

Since I did not hear from Ronnie for a week after the phone call about his orders I called his recruiter, Sergeant Powell. Before his orders for Germany came in he was expecting to come home for Recruiter Aide duty. He knew where he wanted to buy a townhouse and had so many things planned out. He really didn’t think he would go to Germany. After all he didn’t receive orders for Germany when his roommates did.

Apparently, Ronnie’s orders were delayed while the recruiter and commander fought over where Ronnie would best serve. It was finally decided that the need in Germany was greater than the need for recruiters in our area. Shortly after Ronnie was deployed to Germany Sergeant Powell left the recruiters office. Not only did I loose Ronnie but the only local military personnel with some sort of link between us.

There was a replacement for Sergeant Powell and he didn’t like me coming into the office at all. This particular recruiter’s office was not just for the Army but all branches of the service. Some of the other military recruiters in the office told the “new guy” that I was a regular visitor and a civilian which meant I should be shown some respect. To the “new guy” I was just wasting their time. Needless to say I stopped going into their office. Once in a while I would see the Marine recruiter outside the mall on my way in or out of work. He always asked about Ronnie and how we were handling things. He told me to keep my chin up, gave advise and always a smile. Even that little bit of support went a long way in my book. Eventually he too was transferred somewhere else.

After Sergeant Powell and the Marine were transferred and I hadn’t heard from Ronnie, I lost it. One night I called the number we had for the A School and asked for the number for the commander. I actually called and left the commander a very angry, crying, screaming and somewhat threatening message. The threatening part was to call his superiors all the way up to the President and tell them to fire him or at least bust him down to private. This falls under the definition of fully distraught and delusional. At the time you could actually call the operator (by dialing "0" not 411) and get a number to the White House (if you knew which department to ask for). Of course it wasn't the President but they sounded very official when they answered the phone (no voice mail) during my late night phone call. The commander did not just laugh this off. He called me back the next day and in full drill sergeant manner told me off.

I did finally hear from Ronnie. There are many rules in the military. One is that if you do not hear from your soldier someone will make sure they contact the family or the base will do it for them while they are facing some sort of punishment. After feeling like a complete fool for calling his previous commander and the White House I found out it did some good. Ronnie was willing to forgo the punishment but he wanted to call me instead of his parents. His new commander agreed after Ronnie assured him that his Mom and I always talked after he called. (I would never recommend doing what I did. I wish someone would have been willing to tell me what the rules were and how to contact the right people. I would have let Ronnie's parents make the right calls to the right people but after Sgt. Powell was gone we lost any links as to what to do.)

He was physically ok but he was a bit depressed. We had everything figured out and then the rug was pulled out from under us. I was raised as a military brat and I sort of expected some things to not go as planned but I was still taken aback by it all. I was all sunshine and happiness on the phone but nothing seemed to be getting through to lift his spirits. I remember he told me about the protestors “They come out by the fences dressed in black hooded cloaks with their faces painted like skulls. Someone yells bomb then they all fall down. It makes you feel sorry for them the first few times you see it. We have to take classes to deal with this too. The times there are no protestors it’s hours of marching around watching worms crawl out of the ground. Heather, that’s all I do now.”

I told him over and over again how much I loved him and even asked if he still had the photo from the Cozy. Now, I was very hesitant to send that photo out through the mail when he was in A School. I wrapped it up in paper and in a separate envelope. I even made him promise never to show it to another living soul. For me to mention that photo was a huge deal. Ronnie only said “Yeah, I brought it with me.” He was so down and there was nothing I could do to help him. I was completely helpless! I hated that feeling! I asked him if there was anything he needed and he sadly muttered “just you.” I blushed a bit and said “Well, you already have me. Forever even. Remember Germany isn’t forever.” Solemnly, He gave me the APO address to send mail and a list of things to tell his Mom not to send since they were not allowed. When we got off the phone I felt like someone had just given me a sedative. Like the phone call didn’t really happen. It was just a dull dream and soon Ronnie would really call.

I called Ronnie’s Mom and told her about the phone call. We were both worried about him. His Dad said not to worry. Ronnie would be fine. He needed time to adjust. His Mom and I both cried. Why was the Army making him like this. This wasn’t how he was.

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