What's in a medal? It depends

September 05, 2004|by James C. Haught

"Haught for President." When I wrote that, it had a good ring to it. I am thinking about putting my hat into the ring in 2008. I must admit that I am getting up in years, a bit senile and I need an hour nap each afternoon. My grammar is not the best. But the qualifications for being President of the United States are not too demanding anymore.

It seems that there is great emphasis on military experience. All of this information is in my 201 file. To learn about me, a person can look up that information. There is no need to ask people who served in the Far East during that time. I was in the United States Army from May 1955 until July 1957. I took my basic training on Tank Hill at Fort Jackson, S.C.

I scored expert on the M-1 rifle. With this and success with other weapons, I was scared they would put me in the infantry. But instead the Army sent me to clerk school. I received the same assignment as Radar on "MASH." I was also promoted from E-1 to E-2.


Next, I went to Fort Lewis, Wash. where I boarded a ship (General Walker) for the Far East. I was seasick for the next six days. I had vomited so much I could hold up a mirror and look down my throat to see if my shoes were tied. I would have gladly stayed in war-torn Inchon, Korea, just to get off of that ship.

But the Army sent me to Japan. I was assigned as company clerk for Company C of the Japan Engineer Supply Center. My promotions were from private to private first class, then to specialist 3rd class, and finally to specialist 2nd class. When my date for discharge came up I extended my service 90 days. I wish I could tell you it was for some great heroic reason. But my wife and I just wanted to see the Japanese cherry blossoms one more time.

I was mustered out of the Army in San Francisco. There I received my only medal: the Good Conduct Medal. Because of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, I feel I must make full disclosure. I am not sure my conduct was entirely appropriate. Shortly after I arrived in Japan, some of my friends invited me to go to the NCO club. At first I drank soft drinks, but the peer pressure convinced me to drink a CC and ginger.

That was the first time I ever drank alcohol. I know the Army does not frown on soldiers taking a drink, but my mom would have. Another time, I was in Yokohama with my buddies. I had now switched from mixed drinks to beer. (One sin always leads to another.) Some one yelled "the MP's." I didn't know we were in an off-limits bar, but I took the cue. I ran up some stairs, jumped out a window and shinnied down an electric pole. I disappeared into the night. I am not sure that these acts would have denied me my only medal. When you go to the polls you will have to be the judge.

I thought that the Army just lined soldiers up in formation and gave them all Good Conduct Medals. The Good Conduct Medal is the lowest medal a soldier can receive. Millions receive it. The Army Personnel Department examines each soldier's 201 file and determines who is qualified. Only qualified soldiers receive it.

The higher the value of the medal, the more research goes into awarding that medal. Master Sgt. Bernard Bell, who grew up in my community, was awarded the Medal of Honor in World War II. It is easy to understand why he received the Medal of Honor when reading his citation.

All of this is in his Army record. One does not have to ask a group of ex-soldier who happened to be in the European theater of operations at the same time.

I was never in combat. I have no idea what it is like to be shot at or to shoot at someone else. I spent my military time in an Army office typing reports and looking out the window at cherry blossoms and geishas. But when one is in the Army or the National Guard, one is always available for combat duty. I gave serious thought to that possibility. What would my battle comrades be like? Would I be a good soldier and would my comrades be proud to serve with me?

I have concluded that I would not like to be in a foxhole or on a swift boat with "Chicken George."

James C. Haught is a Hagerstown resident.

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