I received an e-mail yesterday from an old friend who I went to officer candidate school with at Fort Benning Georgia. It was during those days that I stood as his best man at his wedding. We both went on our way as Army officers. Many of the members of my class ended up in Vietnam. A good number of my classmates did not make it back. But for those that did life went on in the many different areas that we all came from.
Every once in a while I get the invitation to go to a reunion of the remaining members of my officer candidate school class (OCS). And each time I get an invitation my friend makes a plea for me to join the rest of the group. I do not attend those functions. I feel that is time that I explained my actions.
Reunions are usually a gathering of people who experienced an event. The first one that comes to mind is a high school reunion. I did go to my 25th year anniversary of the class of 1965. And I left that event feeling depressed and disappointed. I think for many people high school was a great adventure. But for me it was a struggle. To begin with I was barely able to make a C average to graduate. My career advisor recommended that I not go to college and try to find some type of blue-collar work. I was not a popular kid in school and truly did not run with the popular kids. I was one of those people who played in the band, ran on the track team and swam on the swimming team. I participated in plays and speech contests. None of these activities were ever considered cool or fun. While I was at the reunion I was reminded of all those things. The beautiful people of this class seem to have gone on to good jobs and successful marriages. During one meeting with a group of my former classmates one of them blurted out, all the kids in the band were dorks “. I quickly reminded her that I was in the band and she hastily replied, “I did not mean you”. Maybe it was fun to see the people that were some of the good lookers at school who did not all turn out to be good lookers as adults. And maybe some of those dull dorks turned out to be beautiful people. All in all I found it depressing and disappointing to be there. I was not celebrating some great years of my life; high school for me was a struggle and many times a humiliating experience.
After graduating from college I would continually get invitations for reunions or get-togethers for the alumni of the college, in my case Pepperdine University. I do not go to these because while I was going to college I had a full-time job as a policeman and only attended the night and weekend courses to be able to get my degree. That too was a great struggle. I did not live in a dorm or in a fraternity and engage in all the activities that college students engaged in. I did not go to the games or get invited to the parties. That is because I had a full-time job, a wife and children to take care of. There was little time to have fun at the University; it was a serious effort on my part just to keep going to classes.
I also get invitations to reunions for those members of the Los Angeles police department who worked in the same divisions that I worked; the narcotics division. Even now most of those reunions are somewhere around Los Angeles there some of the detectives who worked there who now live in Texas. So every now and then I get an invitation to reunion somewhere in Texas of those men and women who worked for the Los Angeles police department when I did. I do not go to those because most of those people were never my partners during the time that I spent at work, there were over 9,000 employees. I worked for the LAPD during some of the most challenging times for a police officer. The growth of gang violence and narcotics use was rampant. And I experienced a riot in Los Angeles in 1992 where the police department just broke down and did not do its job. Most of my time was spent undercover where I did not associate with fellow police officers because I did not want to blow my cover. There were some exciting times, but I would like to leave those exciting times in California. It was also during those years that I began to abuse alcohol and I experienced a divorce that caused me to see less of my children, so I really don’t want to get together with a bunch of old fellow employees and relive the memories of my 20+ years on the LAPD. Many of the stories that would be told should be left alone. Once again not everybody that worked for the LAPD had a positive and glamorous experience.
The reason for this blog is to explain why I do not want to go to a reunion of my fellow OCS classmates. Just like school and college I struggled to get through the officer candidate school program. The program during those days was six months long. During that time I and my fellow classmates were treated like dirt. I was told this was done to make us ready to function properly under combat conditions. Not all of my classmates went to Vietnam. But I did. I did make some friends in the platoon that I was in while in officer candidate school. And even today I recognize their names when I get a message from them. But I hope they understand that I have wiped my memory of many of the experiences that I went through during the program. And the memory of my time there was one of stress and struggle. I know that many people feel a comradery when they have experienced such a program and survived. I do not wish to relive any of that. Going to a reunion I know that we will talk about experiences after the program. My experience was at that I went to Vietnam and witnessed some of the horrors of war. I also participated in the horrors of war. I like many soldiers who return from a war zone has some strong emotions about the experience. To begin with I feel guilty that I was not killed in Vietnam and many of my friends and the men I was in charge of did die there. I was also responsible for the death of a lot of people. This continues to haunt me especially in my older age. I do not want to relive any of those experiences. This is also why I don’t go to group therapy at the VA. I really don’t give a shit how many other men and women experience the same thing I did. I do not want to share my feelings or discuss my current mental state. This is why, with the medication and the visits to the psychiatrist, I still fight depression. Don’t get me wrong by working with the medication and the psychiatrist I’m doing pretty well right now. But I certainly do not want to get with a bunch of guys and start talking over old times and war stories. I do not know that I will ever want to share the experiences with anyone. I’ve had to tell my family members and I do not participate in many of the family events because I have difficulty doing so. Reunions for me are not fun. I would rather work on making new memories of a positive nature and just enjoying them as they happen. I don’t need to get together with a bunch of other people to do so.