Tuesday, February 11, 2014
Crime and Punishment
I cannot speak to the rules and regs that ran other military schools. I assume most if not all had an honor code. Break any one of the high ideals set forth in said honor code and there would be consequences.
The problem with Honor Codes, at least in my case, is that once accused, there was no recourse, reprieve, retrial. I felt I had been found guilty without even the chance to speak for myself. It happened my junior year and it was not until the day before I graduated over a year later that I found vindication.
"Skin" ran the military side of the school. As commandant, it was his duty to enforce the Honor Code. The Colonel was generally a fair disciplinarian. Demerits accrued never seemed to be given with any vindictiveness. I know. I received my fair share. I always owned up to the offense and took my punishment without complaint. I was no angel.
Even in a military school where every hour of every day is filled with some part of a schedule for the cadets to meet, there is still enough idle time for them to hook up with the devil and be the bad boys we all know all boys are.
One of the primary goals of the corps was to secure alcohol and drink it until unconscious or, at the least, until that first technicolor yawn. It did not have to be good alcohol. It only had to get us drunk. All sorts of methods were used to keep a good supply at hand or nearby. Cadets would often smuggle some in when returning from a weekend or vacation home. There was a black guy named Joe who lived in a shack just off campus who would often have white lightening for sale. And then there was the fake ID to use in the many liquor stores that were found in the area.
One Monday morning Assembly before classes started, the Skin wandered off his usual stream of announcements and warnings. He stopped and said, "Mr Macrum, would you please stand."
I was instantly ready to piss my pants, wanting to puke, and generally wishing my name was not Macrum. I stood up on nervous legs.
"Mr Macrum, did you leave campus without permission this past Saturday night and attempt to purchase alcohol at Fred's Liquors?
I could feel everyone in the assembly looking at me. I felt light headed. "No colonel, that was not me." I managed to look him straight in the face.
The Skin took off his reading glasses and gave me the stare. The stare that said he did not believe me. "Mr Macrum.......... Why then did the store owner identify you as the cadet who tried to buy liquor from him?"
I had managed to find some backbone. I was now angry. In a louder voice, " Sir, it was not me. I cannot tell you why he identified me. I was not there." I had forgotten about the 400 plus eyes staring at me. I had forgotten that the Skin was the commandant, All I could focus on was being falsely accused.
The Skin then did a strange thing. He placed his glasses back on his face, looked down at his clip board and said, "You may sit down now Mr. Macrum." And that was it.
Well, it was not over for me. The incident bothered me the rest of the time I spent at that school. A week before graduation, one of my fellow seniors approached me and started a conversation.. As he and I were not very close friends, I thought the encounter odd. But I exchanged small talk for a few minutes. The small talk finally ran out of steam and Jackson (not his name) stood staring at the ground. An uncomfortable silence ensued until I said, " Well, I gotta go. We got F Troop on extra drill practice for the commencement review."
Jackson said sure thing and turned to go his way. He stopped, turned back and blurted, "You remember that day Skin accused you of trying to cop liquor over at Fred's?"
I looked at him and did not say a word.
"Well, it was me. I just wanted to clear the air."
"Don't tell me, tell the Skin."
Jackson looked at me. "I can't face him. Sorry. But at least now you know."
"You asshole, I always knew it was not me."
"Well now you know who it was."
The Saturday before commencement I had an appointment with the Skin to iron out the demerits still pending in my file. Like I said, I was no angel. Some trouble earlier in the year had lost me my commission and there were still 30 or so demerits left in the demerit column. I was to meet with the Skin to figure it all out. I wanted desperately to graduate as an officer, not a buck private.
The Skin and I discussed what it would take for me to regain my officer pips and for him to feel that I had been appropriately punished. We agreed on 4 or 5 whacks with his paddle. I do not remember exactly because once the first one lands, any more after are hard to count because of the pain. The Skin had years to develop a swing that put every bit of his energy into the paddle part of the paddle. To simply say it hurt would be an understatement. We concluded our business and as I regained some composure, the Skin said, "By the way, Mr. Jackson stopped by."
I looked at him. "I told you I was innocent."
"And I believed you. See you at graduation Lieutenant."