Colonel: (n) an army officer of high rank
Many, many years ago, my younger brother decided to join the Army.
Of course, in his mind the logical thing was to join the military and bivouac himself with thousands of other confused young studly types.
I tried to talk him out of it. He insisted I was against the country and had no patriotism.
Now, I knew my little brother real well. For example, he was not only afraid of spiders, but once peed himself when the word was mentioned–no actual hairy-legged threat nearby.
So in my mind’s eye, the possibility of him becoming a killer infantryman or a marauding marine was not only implausible, but a threat to our nation.
He mocked me. He rejected my counsel. Off he went.
In forty-eight hours–nay, forty-six hours later–I received a phone call from Oklahoma. A desperate wisp of a voice gasping through the receiver, “Get me out of here!”
“Here,” of course, was basic training. And the reason they call it basic training is that you are going to train, and basically, that’s the end of the discussion.
The worst part was that he threatened suicide.
Now, I’ve always heard through the clumps of wisdom that come from the grapevine that you should take it seriously when someone threatens to do himself in.
So I got on the phone. I called the base.
I was connected with a colonel. I shall leave his actual name out of this essay due to respect for his service to the country, and also the fact that he was being harassed by an older brother who had no idea of protocol.
I shall therefore refer to him as “Colonel What the Hell Are You Talking About?” or “Colonel Please Don’t Call Me Again,” or my favorite–“Colonel We Are Going to Come and Arrest You.”
Apparently, by some rule of his job or position, it turned out that he had to take my calls. He was not permitted to dodge them. Therefore, we got to know each other real well. (He has a dachshund named “Scottie.” His wife likes tulips but doesn’t think the word fits them.)
After he interviewed my younger brother, who had huddled himself in one of the bathroom stalls in the barracks, he agreed with me that this young man had no business being in the Man’s Army whatsoever. Matter of fact, we agreed that he had no business being in the Women’s Army.
But the Colonel insisted that his “hands were tied.” I must have heard this phrase a thousand times.
I did not know when to stop. It seemed to me that the only time to cease and desist was when my little brother was back at home, trying to figure out how to borrow money for repair on his beat-up car.
For after all, he was a young, confused fellow whose main concern should have been his frequency of masturbation.
Suddenly something changed.
I don’t know what happened. I don’t believe it was anything I said, but “Colonel I’m Sick of This and Ready to Move On” started to work with me instead of against me.
Two weeks later, my brother was standing back at home, wearing his army greens, sitting around a table of fried chicken, trying to tell his “war stories.”
I took in a deep breath, smiled inwardly, looked over at him and thought to myself, “Thank God you’re home, you miserable little twerp.”