combat writing badge C O M B A T
the Literary Expression of Battlefield Touchstones
ISSN 1542-1546 Volume 02 Number 04 Fall ©Oct 2004

The Bivouac Burial

"You'll repay Uncle Sam's generosity by taking good care of your weapons and equipment ... better than yourself ... so it will survive you; and perhaps save another soldier's life!"
platoon sergeant's admonition

What the dumb doughfoots never realized about their sadistic drill instructors was that every lesson contained some concealed truth ... most of which would spare lives and ensure mission accomplishment. So when the hairy-chested sergeant found a cigarette-butt in the squad area during bivouac, he assembled a burial detail to dispose of the fallen comrade, insisting upon a regulation gravesite and full military honors. After the squad had grunted and sweated for hours, changed uniforms, and attended to their task, the sergeant would then inquire if the newly buried cigarette-butt had been field stripped ... knowing full well that it had not, because it had been buried in a match-box coffin! The squad would then excavate the grave, exhume the coffin, and rebury their fallen comrade in proper fashion ... humming taps while marking the interment. The point of all this good training, or (alternatively) abusive harassment, was not the supplemental ceremonial practice, was not the additional physical conditioning, was not the acquisition of an essential attention to detail, was not the policing reinforcement, was not even the admonition to quit smoking ... the point was simply that whatever one member of a unit does affects every other member, and that they must learn to function as an integrated team. It's a lesson that too many hairy-assed troopers miss in their predictably preoccupied detestation of all systematic authority.

by Pan Perdu
... who is a former soldier and VA counselor; this work has been excerpted from Fragmentations, a book in progress.