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Yarmouth Port, Massachusetts, United States

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Living Quarters

He requested his next station be on the East Coast of the U.S.A.
So they sent him to the Third Armored Cavalry Regiment,
Based at Camp Pickett, deep in the piney woods of Virginia,
But within easy driving distance of Richmond and Petersburg.

He took command immediately of "B" troop of the regiment,
Staying at a spartan Bachelor Officers Quarter until
New housing for families of the regiment could be completed,
While she and their two little boys stayed with her parents in Michigan.

Almost two months elapsed before they could move in to their new home.
Her parents were anxious to off load the young family,
So they drove straight through to Camp Pickett,
Dumped them out, then returned immediately to Birmingham.

The houses were prefabricated with exterior walls
Like an extra thickness of gypsum wallboard.
The rooms were tiny and sparsely furnished.
A kerosene heater took up space in the middle of the living room.

All the houses in the area were located close together.
What they were living in, then, was a trailer park.
Officers of all grade up to colonel, and senior non-coms,
Had exactly the same kind of units to live in.

The regiment had very little to do except classroom
Training and maintenance, not even firing their weapons on the range.
They camped out a few times, and rumbled around the post.
Then out of the blue, the whole regiment was to be transferred to Fort Meade.

He had followed up on his request for graduate school
By calling Career Management for the Armor Branch at the Pentagon.
He was told that his application had been tabled
As only field grade officers were being given that privilege.

During the cold winter in Virginia of 1953-1954,
He and others turned off their heaters in the evening, because
They were afraid of carbon monoxide poisoning,
Or the possibility of the whole unit going up in flames.

One morning, he got up and found the boys missing.
There was an emergency door in their bedroom
Which the older boy had figured out how to open,
So both were playing on a swing set in their sleepers.

That same week, a directive came down from the Pentagon
Announcing that all persons who had fulfilled their obligation
For service during the Korean War could be released.
He put in a request to resign his commission and leave the Army.

Follow Up

He felt a measure of guilt that he had missed the Korean War,
When so many of his classmates fought and died or were wounded.
He would have had plenty of war later in combat tours in Viet Nam,
Probably serving with and advising the South Viet Nam armor.

Within a year or two after his separation, the policy was changed
To encourage any regular officer to pursue a graduate degree.
In fact, he was scheduled to be sent to the University of Pennsylvania
To obtain a Master of Arts in English and teach at the academy.

She would have loved living in Philadelphia and West Point.
But to those officers who did, it was a career buster.
By keeping them out of active duty for five or six years,
They never recovered a place in advancement.

Camp Pickett became Fort Pickett
And was turned over permanently to the Virginia National Guard.
The "trailer park" was bulldozed off the area.
No quarters for military families exist on the post today.

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