File puptcrit/puptcrit.0803, message 404

Date: Wed, 26 Mar 2008 03:45:36 GMT
Subject: [Puptcrit] military memories

I served in 3 different armies: the 3rd, 4th & 5th. As a result, the oxymoron of "military intelligence made an impression on me three times over.

While at Ft Leonard Wood, MO, among other things, I worked in the neuropsychiatric ward (where I met some of the most intersting people in uniform) and the stockade ward---both were locked wards, and we carried BIG keys, just like the wardens in old prison movies.

Earlier experience as a babystter proved to be helpful.

Two weeks before I was assigned to work the NP (nut) ward the head nurse there went off her rocker and became a patient in another facility, so I never met her nor found out what the problem was. I still wonder though.

I decided not to worry about my own sanity while working there.

One day we got a new patient, fresh out of the first week of basic training. He was sent to us because he just laughed when Sergeants or officers yelled at him, so they figured he was nuts and we got him.

The first day on the ward he found to be interesting. He smiled a lot.

The second day was a repeat of the first and he smiled less.

The third day was more of the dreary sameness, and he was depressed. You could almost SEE a dark gray cloud hanging over his head. Curiouly, HIS depression proved contagious to the other patients.

We had a problem.

The previous weekend I had found a cheap oldstyle "made in Japan" Teddy Bear hand puppet in a St Louis, MO ten cent store (yes, it WAS a long time ago when there still were ten cent stores and puppeteers visited them for all sorts of useful purchases)

I left the ward, got the hand puppet from my foot locker in the barracks which was close by. Back in the ward, I had the Teddy Bear peek around a corner and wave at our new patient. The dark cloud of gray vanished instantly.

Next thing you knew, patients took turns playing with the bear. One in particular had the bear doing obscene acts with a door frame. Whatever works! The gloom was gone.

We found out later that the patient was not nuts. He did not speak English and had no idea what people were yelling at him. It took two (TWO-count them-TWO) translators to unravel his story. He spoke a blend of Russian and Polish, he originally came from a small Polish town where the boundary line shifted in his lifetime. That's why it took a speaker of Polish and a speaker of Russian to garner his tale. The mystery is WHO filled out his draft Board papers and got him to Ft Leonard Wood in the first place, and who filled in all the other forms once he got there.

Earlier when I went through basic training at Ft Ord, CA we had a guy in our group who arrived on crutches. Oh the wonder of it all!

At Ft Leonard Wood, one of my commanding officers told me "You're no soldier but you are intelligent" and I thanked him for both compliments.

I still have that Teddy Bear in my puppet collection because I think he has an interesting history to tell.

I had not told that story for a long time. Thank you Mathieu, for reminding me.


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