Tuesday, June 23, 2015

See The World

TigerBlog has heard his father talk about his Army days ever since he was a kid.

It wasn't until two days ago - Father's Day - that TB actually thought to ask his dad what it was he actually did in the Army. The resulting conversation was pretty fascinating.

FatherBlog had the good fortune of being in the Army from 1956-58. It was basically the midpoint between the Korean War and the Vietnam War.

In fact, if you go from Pearl Harbor (Dec. 7, 1941) through the end of American combat in Vietnam in 1973, then you have basically a 32-year stretch. During those 32 years, America was at war in 16 of those years, or obviously half.

It was FatherBlog's good fortune to be in the peaceful half.

TigerBlog had two uncles who were in the combat half, one in World War II and one in Korea. They both survived, and neither speak of word of the experience to the day they died.

As for FatherBlog, he was a kid from Brooklyn who found himself on a plane to Colorado for basic training and then a boat to Germany for a 16-month deployment. The year was 1956, which was also when the Soviet Union put down an uprising in Hungary.

As FatherBlog said Sunday, there was talk of sending U.S. troops into the situation. Instead, the U.S. sat that one out.

The result was that when FatherBlog went home to Brooklyn in 1958, he was able to give the Army back a rifle that "was perfectly clean, brand-new, never used." The bullets he was given? He never even loaded the weapon.

He was in the supply division for the engineers, possibly because he knew how to type. He was there with three other privates - one from Louisiana, one from Pennsylvania and one from Wisconsin - all of whom shared one room in a barracks.

He hated the food. Especially creamed chipped beef on toast. 

Mostly, he spent his time in an office typing up requisitions for supplies that may or may not have existed. He also got into the car business, buying cars and then flipping them to soldiers for small profits.

And traveling.

With little to actually do, he found himself with a lot of free time. And with a commanding officer who was amenable to giving him weekend passes, he was able to see most of Western Europe, as the Iron Curtain was still preventing him from getting to the East.

In fact, he told one story about driving from Germany through Belgium and towards Dunkirk, the site of the famous coastal evacuation during World War II of British troops.

TigerBlog was struck by the image of a young American soldier on a scenic, serene drive, one that 15 years earlier or so had been a torturous march in the other direction for thousands of young American soldiers, many of whom would not make it all the way through the war's end.

The trip to Colorado for basic training was the first time FatherBlog had ever been on an airplane. He said that his lifelong love of travel had been formed when he and some friends drove around much of the U.S., but his experience in the Army certainly advanced it.

Since then, he has been everywhere, from China and Japan to Australia and New Zealand to countless trips to the South of France and Brazil, as well as all over Europe. Curiously, he has had very little interest in traveling around this country.

He spoke the other day about an experience when he visited Normandy and participated in the folding of the U.S. flag after it was taken down for the day. That was, he said, incredibly moving.

One of the best parts of the Princeton Athletic experience is the ability for the athletes to make one international trip in their four years, as NCAA rules allow. TigerBlog, who is as happy at the Jersey Shore as anywhere else, has made two such trips with men's lacrosse, to Spain and Ireland in 2008 and Costa Rica in 2012.

There are currently two foreign trips underway, with rowers at Henley and the men's and women's track and field teams in Cuba.

To TigerBlog, the trip to Cuba is exactly what these trips should be about. It's an opportunity to go to country where few if any of the Princetonians would ever go, with the opportunity to experience the educational side of that experience coupled with a chance to compete in two meets.

Coming soon will be a trip by the men's golf team to Ireland and England, and the men's squash team is off to Italy as well. The fencing team is headed to South Korea.

Off the top of his head, here's a list of some of the other countries to which Princeton teams have traveled: Australia, Malta, Senegal, France, Spain, South Africa, Argentina, Nicaragua, Japan, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Germany.

There are definitely a bunch of others. TB can't think of them off the top of his head. Well, Canada, but that counts too.

The trips are great for team bonding, extra practice and competition, sightseeing, culture, education, all of it.

Come to Princeton. See the world.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

In 2007, the men's and women's track teams went to China.

Steven Feldman '68