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You're in the Army Now
Part One – Fleeing the Fleas
by Don Drewniak

It was June 6th, 1968, my nine-month “anniversary” in the U.S. Army. Three months to go before becoming ineligible to be sent to Vietnam as I would have less than a year left of service time. I was stationed at Fort Gordon, Georgia in the 385th Signal Company. Approximately half of the 385th had returned from Vietnam and were counting days until being discharged. The rest of us woke up every morning hoping not to get orders to go there.

I rented a small trailer five days earlier, one of four in a wooded area some two miles from 385th headquarters. I planned to spend the weekend in the trailer drinking beer and watching one of two available stations on a small black-and-white television.

Next on the agenda was a one-week leave beginning on the 13th and a flight back home to Worcester, Massachusetts. My wife, Dolores, had all but wrapped up her teaching for the year. We planned to stuff as many of her belongings as possible into our 1964 Mustang fastback, and with our Siamese cat, Phaedra, leave on the 15th and drive in straight through to the trailer.

At the end of my duty day on Friday, the 8th, I changed into civilian clothes and walked to the PX where I picked up a six-pack of beer and a small amount of food. It was off to the trailer and away from the barracks (or so I thought).

The trailer was located in Hephzibah, which abuts Augusta. It consisted of a combination kitchen/living room, one bedroom, a bathroom and a second floor. A second floor? Well, sort of. It was accessed by a wall-attached ladder. The sole contents were three twin-sized mattresses. The only way to access them was to crawl as the distance from floor to ceiling was less than four feet. Daytime temperature was consistently over one hundred in the room.

Upon entering the trailer, I put five of the beer cans into a small refrigerator and one in the freezer for a quick chill. I turned on the air conditioner only to find out that the air coming out of it was no more than a few degrees cooler than the warm air in the trailer.

The one saving grace was that the trailer was surrounded by trees and was in the shade for most of each day. I stripped down to just a pair of shorts, turned on the television, grabbed the beer from the freezer and plopped down on a two-seat couch located below the a/c. Because of the short length of the couch, I rested my head on one end of the couch and dangled my feet over the other end. Ah, peace and quiet!

I was working on the third beer when my feet and ankles began to itch and burn.


An army of them was feasting on me. I brushed them off and after gathering my clothes, stepped outside and shook each piece until I was certain the fleas were gone. I ran back to the PX and bought two bottles of rubbing alcohol. Back in the barrack, I spent the next four hours or so rubbing my feet and ankles with the alcohol while cursing the owner of the trailer. On a “positive” note, I provided entertainment for the few guys who hadn’t gone into Augusta to one of the local bars.

It was back to the PX by eight the next morning where I bought another six-pack of beer and two cans of Raid. Once at the trailer, I opened the door and blasted away with both cans.

Take that you rotten…

It was back to Gordon. I returned to the trailer mid-afternoon. After opening all the windows, turning on the a/c fan and leaving the door open, I sat in a chair sipping beer in a small, screened-in porch attached to the front of the trailer for two hours or so before going back inside. The smell from the Raid was faint. I spent the better part of a half-hour sweeping the floor and then wet-mopping it. After wiping down appliances, walls and anything else that had a solid surface, I brought sheets, pillow cases, towels, etc. outside and pinned them to two clotheslines. Finally, I left the windows open and walked back to the fort.

I enjoyed a quiet day at the trailer on Sunday reading the voluminous New York Times in the morningand watching television in the afternoon. Religious programming ran all that morning on the two TV stations. One for blacks and one for whites.