The following is a letter of appeal I wrote in response to an incident that occurred while I was stationed in Germany. This serves as a good example of the thought processes and composition skills I possessed back in 1974. It is agreed, they are not impressive. (Some would say they remain so today!) The events are hazy as I attempt to reconstruct them from this distance. What I remember is this:
I pulled guard duty one time only while I was stationed in Hanau, Germany, which lies about an hour's drive east of Frankfurt. It occurred on an extremely cold, windblown night in the midst of winter, with a foot of snow on the ground. I didn't have to stand in the snow, however. This guard duty was served inside a small shack about 15' x 20' with a wood stove occupying its center. The fire was of minimal value since the walls were not finished nor insulated. In the early evening I was dropped off at this relatively isolated setting, an entrance to what I believe was an ancient warehouse complex. I don't really remember what it was I was supposed to guard. But I was definitely alone, and would be until the next morning around 6 a.m.
Having no radio, no reading matter, and being very tired, I found it impossible to stay awake after being there a short time. I had in the back of my mind "they shoot people for sleeping on guard duty, don't they?" It was already dark out when I arrived which made slumber more enticing. And sleep I did. I huddled as closely as I could to the stove for some warmth and kept nodding off all night. In fact I was awakened the next morning by the truck coming to pick me up and drop off an unfortunate replacement. Upon returning from the long drive back to base in the back of some military vehicle, as the duty was pulled some miles from my barracks, I hit my own comfortable bed for some real sleep. As my letter below states I was under the impression that because of my duty I had the day off. Seems logical, doesn't it? Stay up all night long and sleep through the next day. Well, since I didn't report for the morning muster I was deemed AWOL. Yep, AWOL in my bunk, in the barracks. That's the Army for you.
I had hated my entire Army experience, though I did enjoy a lot of the friendships I made and destinations to which I was called. But anything having to do with the authority of rank I chafed at. You may get that impression reading the following letter written in a state of near cross-eyed passion. I copy verbatim, spelling and grammar as is, ending just as my copy does. It may not surprise you to hear nothing ever came of my appeal--that I can recall anyway.
By the way, SOP means Standard Operating Procedures, FTX is Field Training Exercise, ETS is Elapsed Time of Service, and I don't remember what the "excessive punishment" was. But you may get some sense of what my parents may have been reading in those few letters I actually wrote and mailed home. See my mom's letters around this time frame for their state of mind as they wondered what I was doing "over there." Sad, sad, sad.
31 January 1974Commander
I am witting this appeal for several reasons. First, my Commanding Officer, CPT Atkinson is unfairly discriminating against me. He is trying to burn me, it seems, at any cost.
I was charged under Article 15 with being AWOL from duty Friday afternoon 23 November 73, the day after Thanksgiving.
I pulled Guard Duty for the first time in my 18 months of my military career. (The following day) on Thanksgiving day. The following day I had off as a result of pulling this guard duty, or so I thought!
I had been in this company for a little over one month previous to having Guard Duty, consequently I knew little of Company policy short of what information I had picked up from new acquaintances. And from talking with people it became common knowledge that one had one day off after pulling guard duty or CQ. What else is one supposed to realize when his peers are off one full day after duty and nothing is said to him at all!
Sir, this is routine even today. Many people I know are still taking a full day off after this type of duty, and it upsets me a great meal to see CPT Atkinson and his staff ignoring all other incidents identical to mine.
Well, I found out pretty fast that the SOP decrees to give a man one half day off after guard or CQ, however, people are still taking a whole day off. I know this to be fact from personal observation.
I had first rejected the Article 15 as unfair in favor of the Court Martial under somewhat faulty advice and it wasn't until a month later I'd finally been able to consult with my own lawyer who told me because of a technicality I would have no chance in court.
CPT Hancock, my attorney, suggested that if the convening authority would agree to drop the Court Martial in favor of the Article 15, would I sign it? Well, sir, hearing what a bad chance it would be to go to court, I agreed.
Now, sir, previously, when I initially rejected the Article 15,first Sergeant Lane told me "Schneider, I don't see why you didn't accept this! If you had, you wouldn't have gotten much out of it, and that would have been the end of it." After I had signed he said this.
But now, CPT Atkinson realizes I have no other choice but to sign it and he wants to get as much out of me as possible. He has deemed this vicious crime horrible enough to subject me to the maximum punishment allowed under Article 15.
In all honesty, I have lost complete respect and faith in this man. He has demonstrated to me and to all in "A" Company that he lacks the integrity and good judgement that is essential to any commanding position.
He has demonstrated to us all his incompetence in leadership and has shattered all faith in his command. Talking with many of the people in this company it is obvious most feel the same.
This company holds to the policy: guilty until proven innocent, which is usually the way it is with Article 15's anyway. But, there is no reason for this excessive punishment, when, in fact, the mere knowledge of this SOP concerning Guard Duty is enough to safeguard against further infractions by me, but not necessarily by others as I've explained.
My immediate supervisor, SGT George LeFlore, I asked to be a witness on my behalf in court testifying that people hear have and still do take a full day off work after this duty.
Sir. If this is any indication of justice, if this is fair and honest judgement, then all I've been taught and all that Christ lived and died for has been in vain.
Sir, I am not a "foul up" as CPT Atkinson would have told me so constantly. I work as hard for Class I as anyone. Warrant Officer, Mr. Poole, who heads Food Service, knows this as I've worked with him during this last FTX. He knows how hard a person must work delivering rations. In my job one just can't avoid back breaking labor working on an S&T every delivery day.
This April 23 will be the anniversary of my second year in the Army and is the day I ETS. Al I am trying to do is to get through, by far what is the roughest transitional periods I will ever encounter, in one piece. This is not to say that I am trying to get over as much as possible before finishing my tour, for I realize the Army can destroy lives with the mere flick of a signature.
Sir, to be completely honest, I am being driven, and have just about reached the end of my rope. These people are driving me literally out of my mind. I can't keep on trying to cope with these people constantly on my back driving me down.
All of my peers and NCO's realize that CPT Atkinson is out to burn Class I. They have said to us "We are not trying to harass you people, we are trying to help you". But speaking from experience, one would have to have quite a healthy imagination to believe this.
I for one can't even begin to see where this extreme punishment could even remotely resemble "helping one".
But it seems that justice, true justice just doesn't come with the EM's paycheck around here.
As I've said before I'm reaching the end of my rope. Never have I encountered such hostility in the form of authority since I've been in. It is with despair that I write this letter. I pray somewhere, someone has a sense of justice. I know one would be hard put, to find some in figures of authority in this company.
Sir, I say these things in all seriousness, for I don't view this situation lightly. It is said with the deepest sense of human dignity that I write this letter. Is there no way for me to let you know how seriously I view this intolerable situation short of seeing you personally? If it takes that I would be happy to comply.
Some things in this content may seem humorous to you, but I assure you, sir, I take them as serious as life and death. I realize my inadequacy as a orator, however, I feel I must try my best.I hope you will review this situation very carefully in your mind, sir. And
And so the letter ends, if there was another page it is missing. Too bad page 1 isn't!