Thursday, October 9, 2008

Esprit de Corps: FAIL

Usually, when a veteran runs into another veteran, they're pretty excited to connect and trade stories. You trade kernels of information very rapidly: your MOS, maybe your rank, where you were stationed and when you served, &c.

Today I went to Yom Kippur services at Mount Zion Temple in Saint Paul. Rebecca and I went with her sister's family. She said I didn't have to go, but I know how important the high holidays are and I don't want to be separate from what's important in her life.

We waited to collect hymnals (is that the right word? Prayer books?) and I saw an elderly man breeze by. He had hearing aids in each ear, a tan blazer, and a cloissonne pin that grabbed my eye. To anyone else it would've looked like the design on the thorax of the black widow spider, only done in black on a field of red. To me, though, it was home: it was the unit badge of 7th ID (Light). Excitedly, I asked him if he was indeed prior service. He confirmed he was and moved to grab a book.

I asked him if he was stationed at Fort Ord, CA, because I was 7th ID (Light) too. I was one of the last units there before the base was closed and sold back to the state, I said. He said curtly, "No. Korea," and started to leave.

I further explained that I was also stationed in South Korea and that got his attention more than anything else. He was at Camp Casey; I was at Camp Carroll, which he didn't recognize until I said it was 18 miles away from Taegu. "Oh, you were way to the south," he said, moving away.

"Sorry," I said as I backed off, "I just saw the unit patch and got excited." He laughed politely and left.

I looked at Rachel and asked if I'd done something wrong. "No, you seemed to handle yourself pretty well," she said, admitting surprise at his unwillingness to talk shop. "Why would you walk around with your badge on your lapel if you didn't want to talk about your military service?"

Exactly. I was genuinely surprised at how disinclined he was to connect with a fellow soldier. I've had better conversations with Marines.



Bill said...

I know you had better conversations with Marines. One of them was your roommate for a bit on college.

Christian said...

Yeah, he was cool, but I think he was exceptional. I wouldn't expect to befriend everyone at Camp Pendleton, say.