This is a true story. It is a kind of “war story." “Basilisk’ asked me to tell you this story. We were out wandering around the Virginia countryside in the rain yesterday. “Harper” joined us for lunch at a country inn. We have those.
In the middle of the Vietnam War, I was in an Army school for captains and majors. It was a long course, nine months long. There were about 100 officers in the class. Nearly all had already served one 12 month “tour” in the war. They were all intelligence officers but as lieutenants or captains they had served with infantry or other combat arms battalions, or in SF or so far out in the “boondocks’ that what branch one belonged to did not matter much.
They were all going back to the war as soon as they graduated and were not very tolerant of people they thought of as “REMFs.” (rear echelon mother-fuckers- this is necessary vulgarity) they had seen a lot of death, had inflicted a lot of death and were going to do it again. There were not a lot of West Point grads in the group.
They were difficult students. I have a couple of examples:
We all had very high security clearances because of the material being taught. To make it easier for the MPs to screen us for admittance into the classroom in which the whole class sat, we wore photo badges that had a green stripe down one side. After a few months of listening to the mainly REMF faculty lecture us on things they only dimly understood, the class decided to give an “a-----e” of the week award to some worthy soul who had tried to teach something beyond his reach and without any real humility in the matter. The award was presented on Mondays after weekend consultation in some saloon. The honored person was presented the “elements" of the award by a committee of officers, usually in his office but occasionally on stage in our classroom. I remember one poor soul begging to be forgiven rather than be honored. The award was one of those Thai or Filipino wooden statues of a nude man bent over forward so far that his head had disappeared in his anus. A vertical green stripe encircled his body. This was, of course called the “HUYA” award. We were repeatedly lectured about this by the school commandant, a full colonel. The response was to give him the HUYA Award at the end of one of these speeches. He took it and did not return.
On another occasion, the Chemical Corps REMFs came in to give their preening lecture and demonstration about what they did to try to justify their existence. There were three of them in white lab coats with jungle uniform pants and boots sticking out underneath. There was the usual boring catalog of their “accomplishments.”
In the middle of the stage was a large wire and wood cage containing a white rabbit that sat looking at the strange crowd and at times looking up at his REMF “friends.” In other courses we students had all seen the Chemical Corps demonstration of the lethality of VX, a nerve gas that kills mammals within a minute if as little as a single droplet is absorbed. The chemical REMFs loved to kill rabbits this way for the wonderment of a captive audience. They finally got to that point in their “dog and pony show.” The chemical instructor approached the cage with his vial of murder. He was wearing long black, rubber gloves and a gas mask.
The rabbit looked at him.
One of the guys in the class was a white captain from Alabama named "Smith." His affectionate nickname was “H. Rap.” He stood up and said, “Colonel we have all seen this demonstration and know that VX will kill the rabbit, or any of us… Please don’t kill the rabbit.” He stood there waiting for a response...
The colonel ordered him to sit down and reached for the door in the top of the cage.
The class stood as one and a kind of animal sound ran around this room full of killers.
The Chemical Corps colonel took a step back and made a few weakly threatening statements. He finished and stood on the stage, confused as to what to do. He finally stammered that they would not know what to do with the rabbit if they did not kill it.
Another “student" said that his children would want the rabbit. He walked up onto the stage, took the rabbit out of the cage and returned to his place among us, holding the animal in his arms. We were all still standing.
The chemical people left and we all went to lunch.
The rabbit went home to the children.
We were lectured again and threatened with punishment. Someone in the back of the room replied that the school would have to punish us all. Another asked what they would do to us, send us back to the war?
Nothing more was said about this incident. In fact, the Army desperately needed men with the brains and skills of this group and we knew that.
We graduated and went back to our war where some of us died, some were mutilated but all could nurture in their hearts the memory of a white rabbit that we had saved, together. Pl