In the office, Staff Sergeant Whitmore chews Cophenhagen and spits the residue into a, former, tall boy 24 oz Monster can. He does this every day in the office. He chews, spits, and watches New York Ranger hockey highlights from the year before; occasionally he screams out “fuck, shit,” whenever something bad happens or a missed shot plays over the screen. Four tours in and a current TRADOC assignment has turned the thirty year old into the husk of a fifty year old man. He resembles a professional wrestler past his prime. Instead of going on tours or appearing on movies however, he sits on a black office chair and reclines from eight AM until six PM, waiting for the big Army to let him go and from there he’ll figure it out.
He has nothing to do until the next big task comes along from on above, so for now he sits and watches the Ranger’s get cheated out of a win while he envelops sugary sodas. It’s not his fault he ended up here, a few hundred miles of ruck marches could break most men. The sergeant marched one too many and took to many explosions that the doctors had to write up the slip that stated he was on profile. Or broke. Whitmore didn’t feel like he was broke and in between waiting and watching he told his stories to those who would listen.
“You could get away with almost everything,” he told over lunch. “I mean everything. And they’d still let you in.” Whitmore, while doing nothing most days, provided services the others NCO’s never got enough of: stories that led to debates. The kind of stories the Military Times would push on the press to cause widespread enlisted panic, or like what The Post does to the naive New Yorker.
“Back then, the budget was big. Hell, you could get a D.U.I one night, suffer a few consequences like lose a month’s pay, and still end up deploying a few months later. The war years were the high times.”
I wouldn’t know but I smiled and asked him other questions. When Patriot missiles rained down on Saddam I was playing Poke’mon and listening to Eminem mix tapes with thoughts of becoming the next big ‘thing.’ The staff sergeant told alot of stories and I’d catch a few faint traces of past situations and stupid mistakes. Talk of the fighting season and the blue on green attacks or this, or that. I’d listen about war rather than participate in it. In my life, I joined too late to ever have to worry about IEDs. The only problems I faced were poorly made PowerPoints for the brigade commander and lack of printer paper.
Still, I listened to him. Somber and mind adrift.
“Ain’t like now though. Cutting people left and right for almost everything. Don’t you worry though. Friggin Iranians, or North Koreans, or some poor stupid sonofabitch in Syria starts shooting Americans and then things will be good again,” he spits a muck too big for even him and some of it spils over his lip. Without stopping, he continued, “the money will come back and things will be alright. Once they start shooting it’ll be alright.”