The Army gave him a stay of execution by sending him to Fort Jackson, South Carolina, before deploying him to the war in Vietnam. There he served as one of the cadre in my Advanced Infantry Training Company.
I don't remember making Sergeant Rambo's acquaintance until after we had graduated. It's strange when I reflect on the fact that I don't remember any of our training cadre from that school. I remember everyone from Basic Combat Training clearly, even their names. I remember all four members of my training squad, though I can't remember one of their names. The other three were Mort Beech, Bill Downey, and, of course, me. The fourth, as I mentioned earlier, was a Harvard Graduate. I wish I could remember his name. He is the only Ivy League graduate who I ever met who had an ounce of common sense.
Harvard (I'll call him that unless I can come up with something better) drove the sergeants crazy. He always did exactly as he was told. Think about that: “Exactly what he was told to do.” He was once told to put a crate of one pint milk cartons and a block of ice into a cooler. That's what he did, and he crushed the milk cartons under the weight of the ice. (He didn't do it gently.)
“Boy, what's the matter with you?” the sergeant screamed. “Don't you have any common sense.”
Harvard looked at the sergeant with all the guile of a cocker spaniel puppy.
I was prepared to observe, of course he doesn't. He's an Ivy League graduate. However, I learned that there was a method to his madness. Within a week or two, the sergeants never asked him to do anything. They were afraid of the consequences. In fact, the only consequence was that Harvard never had to do anything while the rest of us worked. I wish I could find even one other Ivy Leaguer that smart.
I digress. We graduated. The four of us were awarded Zippo lighters with the Army coat of arms and engraved to announce that we were the top squad in the training cycle. I had three weeks to wait before Infantry Officer Candidate School began, so I hung around Fort Jackson for one of them. I had already taken two weeks leave between Basic and Advanced Infantry Training, and could only take two more for the year.
There wasn't much to do. The Army was building a replica Vietnamese village at Fort Jackson for training purposes, and layabouts like me were regularly dispatched there to work on it. But, one morning I was called out of formation by Sergeant Rambo along with Harvard for a special detail. Rambo took us to the PX and bought us coffee and donuts. We sat around for an hour, smoking and drinking, and listening to Sergeant Rambo's premonitions of death in combat. Mostly, we were wondering why we were there.
An hour later, Sergeant Rambo glanced at his watch and said it was time to go. He drove us to a barracks building where he borrowed a floor polisher. We loaded it into his truck and he next drove to one of the laundries.
The PX system maintained a variety of shops on the base that were leased to civilians who operated them. This laundry was leased by a German woman who had married another soldier who was then deployed somewhere overseas. Sergeant Rambo had been looking after her in her husband's absence. The Inspector General was due to inspect her shop later that week and we were being loaned to her to help prepare for it.
We spent about three hours cleaning up her place and waxing the floors before Sergeant Rambo returned to pick us up. I remember I had a pleasant time with her. I was able to practice my German (I had been taking an Army correspondence course), and she treated us to homemade strudel (best I ever had).
After we dropped off the floor polisher where we had borrowed it, Sergeant Rambo took us back to the PX for another round of coffee and donuts. There we were admonished to tell everyone that we had been working at the Vietnamese village that day.
In return for his kindness, I offered Sergeant Rambo the wisdom that I had learned from Sergeant Dunne in Basic Combat Training. Dunne was a fatalist. He told us, “If there is a bullet with your name on it, there's nothing you can do. It's fate, and there was no use worrying about it. However, we should do everything we could to avoid all those other bullets marked 'To Whom It May Concern'.”
Somehow, I don't think that Sergeant Rambo was comforted.
Read Jack's novel, Rebels on the Mountain, the tale of Nick Andrews, an Army spy, who has Fidel Castro in his sights but no orders to pull the trigger. The mafia as well as the American business community in Cuba will pay a fortune for Castro's assassination, but Nick has his career to consider, his friends to protect, and a romance to sort out in the chaos of a revolution.