Last week one of our lawyers was in Lawton Oklahoma to meet a client whose husband is stationed at Ft. Sill. On Instagram, Rachel posted a cool picture of herself at the top of Mt. Scott which is nearby. I had suggested that she check out the artillery park at Ft. Sill, but I cannot really fault her for heading to the wildlife refuge to fill that bit of downtime all of us have when traveling. Looking at old cannons is not everyone's idea of fun.
Hearing of anyone going to Lawton made me think of my own days there in 1978. A couple of years ago we had a case in Lawton and on that trip I did walk through the artillery park. I even found on my phone a picture I had taken there [insert picture]. And, yes, I thought that the artillery park and touring the museum were great fun. I have fond memories of my time at the Officer Basic Course at Ft. Sill, as well as my time with the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky. However, I have to recognize a basic truth: I was not a very good lieutenant. I served my time and did a decent job in the positions I held. Even being math impaired, I was skilled at running a Fire Direction Center, computing firing data for the guns. However, I lacked a certain martial character and bearing. It just was not me and it was pretty obvious.
My last job on active duty was as the battalion adjutant. Those who were in the Army have some idea of what this means, but essentially I was the unit's administrative officer. You could get to the battalion commander only through my office or that of the Sergeant Major. Literally, the door to his office was through either of the two offices. The battalion executive officer (XO) had his office right across from mine. The battalion commander and the rest of us were really right there on top of each other. The Sergeant Major was a scrawny and tough little guy. As the Field Artillery branch apparently lacked senior NCO's at the time, this man came to us from the Infantry where he had had three tours in Vietnam. The XO was a former Green Beret, also with several tours in Vietnam but he was destined to retire as a major. The major was sort of a soldier's soldier. He just totally looked it. They were both reasonably tolerant of me, but at least once a month the major gave me a serious chewing out. Usually it was deserved, but sometimes I think it was done just to keep me on my toes. Let's just say the language was colorful and I recall him one time offering a number of expletives to the effect that my mother must have committed horribly unnatural acts to have produced such a stupid man and poor excuse for an officer. However, with about the same frequency - and sometimes in very close proximity - the major and I would find ourselves having a few drinks together - and often more than a few. Shortly before I left the Army to go to law school, the major and I were enjoying a beer at a local watering hole. Unexpectedly, the sergeant major walked in and he ended up joining us. After we had been there a while, the sergeant major told me that it was a good thing I was getting out of the Army. He said he liked me because I could get stuff done - often by bending the rules - but I was "no soldier." He called me a "natural born civilian." At the time I recall being a bit offended, but with that perfect vision of hindsight I have to say he was right. As an Army officer, I ended up being a really good civilian lawyer.
I am glad I served. I often tell people that other than marrying my wife, I did two other smart things as a young man: First, I went into the Army. Second: I got out of the Army. Now, after practicing law for almost 33 years I find myself doing something I really love; helping veterans and military families. At times it is a challenge and, like anything else, there are more than a few frustrations. Growing up around the Navy (my father was a Navy officer) and serving in the Army imbued me with a desire to help those who have served. I am so grateful to be able to do so. I wish we could do more. Often we cannot help those who come to us, but when we can help the rewards for us are not just financial.