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Visiting Hours are Over
By Chuckie Finn
Monday, August 16, 2004
Rated "G" by the Author.
It takes all kinds to make a world
Hurricane Gloria, a dangerous class four storm had already wrecked havoc causing millions of dollars in property damage from Miami to the Carolinas. Weather experts back then, had predicted that residents in the Northeast should brace for one of the worst storms in several decades. In view of these ominous warnings, our Governor declared a state of emergency and the National Guard was placed on alert status. To look to our south from the beaches along Narragansett, Rhode Island, it was seemingly
incomprehensible that a storm of this life threatening magnitude could be racing toward us at an alarming rate of speed.
Receiving the mobilization activation alert call from my commander at my residence, I reported to my battalion command unit to receive further orders. There were ten men under my direct supervision at my reporting station. Our primary function was to procure and disburse 50,000 sand bags to cities and towns as directed by Federal and State Civil Defense Coordinators.
Pvt. Percy Cummings was attached and assigned to my outfit at the time and to be as politically correct as possible to describe his proficiency in carrying out orders, he was “intellectually and logically challenged.” To put it mildly, he could very well have been the inspiration for the TV show, Gomer Pyle and he was all mine to deal with. My Excedrin headache number one.
Percy was thirty-five years old single and still lived at home with his folks. He bragged that they repeatedly failed in their eforts to evict him years ago from their residence and finally gave up. His reason for residing in the same room as where he grew up was because as long as his parents were footing all household expenses, he was able to purchase huge gold chains that he wore around his neck that resembled Mr. T starter kits. In his eyes, he had found the Mother Lode and it would take a hand grenade for him to relocate. He never married because he informed his prospective bride she needed to be fully and gainfully employed in order to pay the bills she may incur during their union together. The only pet he owned ran away. Percy placed the blame on forgetting to feed it enough. Besides being in the National Guard the only employment Percy ever knew was gathering run away shopping carts at one of the local food markets.
Lt. Fielding ordered me to select one of my men to take one of our stake body trucks over to the Supply Depot and procure the sand bags. My orders were once those personnel at that faciltity had loaded the vehicle, the truck was to return so our unit could start filling the canvas bags with sand. A light stinging rain had begun to fall and the wind had just started to increase in velocity. A special weather statement was read over our radio informing us we only had a short time before we would experience the first significant signs from the storm.
The Governor broadcast on public service television and radio a plan of evacuation for those residents who required or asked for emergency assistance. The focus of safety was mainly concentrated on the elderly and for those Rhode Islanders residing in low lying areas prone to excessive flooding. In view of the fact I required all of my most qualified field personnel on station at Command Post 57, to partake in other assigned duties, I selected Percy Cummings to drive the stake body truck to its destination and to procure the sandbags.
The south county regional beaches were relentlessly hammered by mountainous grey waves when our command post station's portable radio came to life with a static filled transmission.
“Command Post 57, this is Unit 2040. Come in please,” Percy transmitted from the stake body truck.
“This is Command Post 57. Go ahead with your message, Percy,” I replied leaning toward the radio receiver.
“Chuckie, I have the sand bags loaded on the truck you wanted and I am on Route 24 southbound. It's not raining too bad out here yet," Percy bellowed into the open microphone.
I could hear the low hum of the engine and the rhythmic slapping of windshield wipers against the glass.
“Good Job, 10-4 Percy. Now get that truck back here on the double so we can have the men fill them up with sand!”
“Sir, may I confirm one more thing?" Percy asked. "I understand from the radio broadcast I heard earlier that the Governor has asked us to check on the elderly, is that true ?” he asked with a bit of apprehension.
“Yes Percy. That's correct,” I answered furrowing my brow wondering where this conversation was leading.
“Well Chuckie, my grandparents are alone and I haven't seen them in a while, so may I go and check on them and say hello? It’s on the way back to Base Command and I have to go right by where they are. I promise will only stay a few minutes and just say hello,” he continued with a pleading voice.
In view of the facts that he did have the sand bags on the truck, and according to him, he was close by to where his grandparents were at, I weighed the situation carefully. I released a heavy sigh and contemplated his request. Seeing he did not have to deviate from his direction of travel, and of course, with the priority instructions from the Governor to assist and check the elderly; Based on those facts and using my best judgement, I verbally approved Percy's request to visit his grandparents for a very short time. After all what possible could go wrong? My imagination failed to realize that Percy Cummings was involved.
It was approximately thirty minutes later I received a call from Lt. Fielding. He was adamant in demanding to know immediately from me why Pvt. Percy Cummings was operating a military owned stake body truck which was fully loaded with sand bags and knocking over headstones and grave markers in the Lady of Angels Cemetery. I swallowed hard and before I could even fabricate a feasible explanation, we were both hurriedly on our way up to Battalion Headquarters to face the Adjutant General.
As the Lieutenant and I entered the room, Private Cummings was seated there beside the desk with a few other high ranking personnel. There were no cordial exchanges of greetings from anyone. Adjutant General Spaulding removed his saliva soaked cigar and banged his fist on his desk and addressed me directly.
“Staff Sargeant Richmond, I have a question for you. A rather simple one. Did you give Private Cummings here permission to go into a cemetery with a class four hurricane on our doorstep?”
Bewildered and confused I answered. “No Sir. I gave Private Cummings permission to check on his elderly grandparents.”
Percy clapped his hands together like he had just won the four corner card at Bingo. “See General, it is just like I said. The Sarge said it was okay. I told you so!” Percy exclaimed happily jumping up from his chair and grinning from ear to ear! "I’m clean now. Not a courtroom in the country can convict me now! I have witnesses,” he yelled in celebration throwing his arms into the air.
Pivoting sharply, I glared at him gritting my teeth.
"Percy, I gave you permission to visit your grandparents to check on them because you said they were all alone and you wanted to say hello for a moment!”
“Well I did! They are alone! They died three years ago. You said it was okay to visit to go to say hello to them and that's exactly what I did.” He pressed his lips tightly together and nodded his head in deep satisfaction.
Percy turned and salute the General and thanked all of us there for letting him go see his grandparents and left the room. I believe we remained motionless and speechless before the Adjutant General finally told us to get the hell out of the building.
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|Reviewed by Shirley Cheng
|LOL!!! It does take all kinds...|