Chapter 13: Another Regret
“It’s not whether you get knocked down, it’s whether you get up.” – Vince Lombardi
When you initially enter the Army, you have to go through two phases of training. First, there is Basic Training, which is approximately 10 weeks. Next, is Advanced Individual Training, which is usually known as AIT. All soldiers go through the same basic training. When they graduate, they get shipped off to different forts for AIT depending on their Military Occupational Specialty, known as “MOS”.
In my case, I was shipped off to Fort Huachuca, AZ for my AIT. Only one person from my platoon in basic training came with me to Fort Huachuca.
PFC Cloud was an 18 year old male from Louisiana. While he wasn’t very bright, he had that southern accent and was married at the time to an 18 year old girl. I met her at Basic Training on graduation day. She seemed like a nice girl, and they looked happy together. I was very wrong. I only saw the tip of the iceberg.
At the beginning of basic training, the drill sergeants advised us to keep a separate direct deposit bank account from our spouses. PFC Cloud did not listen. He shared his bank account with his wife, who was still living with her parents.
At the very middle of my four-month stay at Fort Huachuca, I got a phone call from Cloud. He told me to meet him up on the Physical Fitness fields one Friday afternoon under a sunny Arizona sky. I immediately jogged over there and saw him sitting on a bench. He looked very somber, and there was a slight glaze of tears in his eyes.
“What’s up, Cloud?”
He said nothing, so I sat down next to him. Then he said, “Ravindra, she took everything. She spent it all on alcohol, and some guy she’s been cheating on me with.”
It turns out that Cloud didn’t create a separate bank account. I had no idea how much money he lost.
“Cloud, you have to take everything that’s left and move it someplace else. You have to move on. ”
He started to tear up. He said, “I don’t know what to do.”
Cloud had been slacking on his duties. He was performing poorly in AIT. He had no motivation to go on. He would surely be discharged from the Army with “other than honorable” conditions if he did not improve.
“If you ever need anything, I’m a phone call away. Your life is here now. You signed up to be in the Army. Leave the past behind, and begin a new life. This is the best place to start.”
Cloud looked at me and nodded. Then he got up. I yelled after him, “Don’t do anything stupid! I saved your ass in basic but I’m not in your platoon anymore.”
He promised me he wouldn’t do anything stupid. A month later, he was caught intoxicated during fireguard (a duty where two soldiers stay up at night for 2 hour shifts at a time and keep a headcount on the people in the barracks to ensure no one sneaks out). He was given UCMJ Action (Uniform Code of Military Justice). He was to be discharged from the Army for “failing to adapt”. I tried so hard to make sure he stayed in line. During Basic, I would stop him from doing stupid things, and make him think twice. But since he was stationed at another company, there was very little I could do to watch over him.
I saw Cloud a week before he left. He told me he wasn’t ever going back to Louisiana. He was too ashamed to face his parents. Instead, he said he was going to South Carolina to stay with some friends and see if he could find some work there. I tried calling him when I graduated AIT, but his phone was not in service anymore. I have no idea what happened to him. I tried to look up his parents in a directory to see if I could get their telephone number, but I found nothing.
Some people think that you should live without regrets. I still feel like I could have been a better friend and helped Cloud avoid a discharge from the Army. I already picked up some regrets, and I’m only twenty years old. It’s a burden, it really is, but if you learn from them, they’ll only make you stronger.