Step-by-step we were directed to place the forms on the shelf below us, sit down, remove the top form only and place it in front of us, fold our hands on top of the card, and not write anything until we had been instructed on the proper method of providing our name, date of birth, Social Security Account Number, and home address. After three recitations of these instructions, we were allowed to proceed with those items only. Annoyed at being treated like an idiot, I took my pencil in hand and began to comply. Feeling the eyes of others on me, I looked to my right and found the person there looking confused and following my every action. I often wondered if he even copied my information rather than providing his own. To my left, another man was holding his hand aloft to ask a question. Then and there I came to understand the Army and its ways.
One of the forms we filled out that day was the request for Home Town Releases that would allow the Army to provide stories to our home town newspapers whenever we completed training, were advanced in rank, or deployed to a new unit. We quickly learned to rescind this permission when anti-war activists began harassing the families of servicemen and women whenever one of these stories were published.
The most insidious form of harassment came in the form of official looking but counterfeit notices of death that were sent to the families of servicemen and women stationed in Vietnam during the war there. Thus, a program designed by the Army to create good will for them turned into a nightmare for our loved ones.
I never denied the right of anyone to dissent with the policies of our government, but I would gladly harm anyone who abused our families in this manner.