by Tim Gilmore, 8/15/2016
“I was an asshole,” Mike says. He was stationed in South Korea in 2002. “You know what I’m getting’ at, Gary?”
One bearded lantern-jawed man leans toward the other and says, “It’s the best story there is. It’s got to be the one.”
At the on-post golf course clubhouse, Gary and Mike won “a shitload of money” from a slot machine.
Mike says, “My girlfriend left me for some Air Force fuck nerd when I was over there, so I would go on these two- to three-day drinking benders on the weekend, because—well, because…”
Gary says, “Because Korea,” and Mike agrees.
The two old Army pals are drinking Budweisers from cans in the back of the American Legion canteen. The conversation among the dozen or so other veterans drinking here is as loud as theirs. Gary’s in town for the weekend, visiting his old friend. They’re reminiscing about their time in Korea before Mike went to Iraq and Gary went to Afghanistan.
“I spent all the money on liquor,” Mike says, “and on paying these two soldiers to get naked and wear these elephant-trunk-dick thongs and streak through several heavily populated places, including this heavily attended intramural softball game.”
“It was so good,” Gary says. “We treated it like an op, whereas we had dudes in the infiltration and exfil sites with backpacks to either collect clothes or re-clothe our nude infantry warriors.”
The whole canteen is filled with raucous laughter and cherished memories of similar bacchanalia. Gary says he visits his American Legion bar in Oklahoma every now and then, but Mike rarely drops by over here. He hardly drinks anymore, though he still blacks out drinking for a few days at a time every few months.
Gary and Mike started drinking first thing this morning. They’ve been laughing all day, but quieted down to enjoy today’s lunch special, the “fish and shrimp basket.”
Post 129 calls itself “the friendliest post on the East Coast!”
Beneath the clip-art American flag on a Xeroxed flyer taped to the wall reads an admonition and a request:
“Our nation’s flag is not to be trashed! There is a special way to dispose of them and we are here to help you retire your aged flags honorably. We retire thousands of local flags each year and we do it with the dignity and honors our National Ensign deserves.
“Do you have a flag to retire? You can drop it off at the post and we will ensure that it is disposed of the correct way with dignity and honor.”
Gary grunts gutturally, then resumes: “I’ll give you that $200 back if you can name both those black-ass soldiers we paid to do it! Fuck! I’ll give you $2000 if you find the tape we made!”
Mike roars into laughter and shouts, “No recollection of any names, Alpha Company scum! Bulldogs, motherfucker!”
Gary leans in laughing. “How about drill sergeant saying where the fuck is our motherfuckin’ ass? God love you, brother!”
Then Mike remembers the second part of Gary’s bribe and says, “Covert op, Fuckface! All recordings were destroyed!”