Today my wife and I made some home improvements purchases at Lowe’s, over $1000 worth. I was happy to get a 10% discount because I am a veteran, which saved me some money.
I had to show my DD214, and those of you who were in the military will recognize that as the discharge form. It proves I was in the U.S. Army for two years. It has been 49 years since they handed me that discharge, but by god, I still have it for the occasional benefit being a veteran brings to me.
Looking at the DD214 after many years in my files, something caught my eye, something long forgotten.
The box above shows my “medals” from the firing range. My last time shooting at a target to qualify with my weapon was about two months before my discharge. Former soldiers will remember the three degrees of shooting achievement: Expert, Sharpshooter, and Marksman. Even a lowly Marksman has to hit the target 23 out of 40 tries, so it is a passing grade. A Sharpshooter does a bit better, and the Expert best of all. I never got an Expert badge, but then I was the kind of guy who was satisfied with a passing grade.
Shooting the M-14 rifle earned me a Sharpshooter badge, but firing the .45 automatic pistol got me a Marksman. The odd thing is I am sure I missed the whole target when shooting the .45. I was unfamiliar with the pistol, had never fired it until someone handed it to me on the range and said, “Here, qualify with this.” As I recall I was humiliated when examining the target that I had “boloed” — a word that meant I had zero hits.
Imagine my surprise to see that whomever scored the targets for the purposes of the qualification saw fit to give me a rating as Marksman. Fortunately, that happened to me more than once on tests during my two-year Army career.Someone would give me a pass when I didn’t earn it. In retrospect I believe it had to do with orders coming down from the top: No one must fail on the firing range! It makes us look bad. So a bolo like mine would be changed to the minimum, yet still passing Marksman.
All these years later it doesn’t matter, but if someone looks at that part of my DD214 they will surmise, “That guy did okay, not great, with a rifle, but only the minimum shooting a .45.” That is, if anyone cares at all, and I am sure they don’t. I am just lucky I didn’t get sent to Vietnam, where I might have encountered an enemy running toward me shooting. If so, my name would be on that memorial wall, and I would not be telling you this story.