General George Patton almost lost his career over an incident where he slapped a solder. If you are not familiar with the incident, the General was visiting a hospital where he encountered a soldier sitting on a hospital bed with no visible wounds. When asked about the situation, the General was told that the soldier just "couldn't take it anymore" and was in the hospital for evaluation, recuperation, etc.
The General blew up, slapped the soldier across the head with the riding gloves he always carried and screamed at the soldier....thus erupting the famous "Patton slap" stories and increased concern for shell shock, PTSD, post-battle symptoms, etc. The incident almost cost Patton his career, and he had to stand and publically apoligize to the hospital staff, the soldier, his command and anybody else that Ike thought needed to hear the apology.
I was tempted to go off on a soldier the other day. I was standing in line in Kuwait. I was the last in line ready to plead my case that I did not want to be in theater any longer and would get my own flight home on the Air Force rotator (which I did...thank you AF!).
After standing in line for a while, an NCO brought two soldiers to stand behind me in the line. One soldier was a Private First Class and the other had not rank, which means he was a Private (E-1) or as we say, "E-nothin.'"
"Stand here and give the lady this paper when you get to the front of the line" was their instructions.
The line moved slowly and the E-0 talked quickly. The two were from the same Division, by the patch on their shoulders, and I assumed were from the same unit, since they came together and had the same NCO escort.
E-nuthin was talking from the time the two of them got into line. "I am ready to go home. All I want to do is get home. I need to be home." But something was weird about the guy.
As it turned out, the E-3 was going home on R&R, well deserved rest from his time in combat. Judging by his worn uniform and the look in his eyes, he needed the rest. The other soldier was just "going home." To be an E-nothin' here means you probably lost rank. By the time a soldier gets through all the training required and gets to a unit, they should have enough time in the military to have achieved at least one advancement in rank. (The Army does not call the first two advancements "promotions" because there is nothing required of the soldier other than breathing and showing up for work. After PFC, then the promotions are deserved).
E-nothin' would not shut up.
I did not want to hear it.
"I just want to go home...," he whined. "I saw the Psychiatrist. I am not homicidal. I am not suicidal. I just want to go see my baby. My boy is 18 months old and I want to be with him. I know that he needs me..." The babble continued....incessant...whining...begging...trying to convince the other soldier (or himself) that he was justified in his decision to get out of theater and go home.
After a while, the soldier left the line to go to the bathroom. He wasn't supposed to leave the line without an escort, but who cared?
Then it dawned on me that this punk was being busted out of the unit and sent home for failure to perform. He had become a problem child, lost his rank, would not do his job and was being sent home for discharge.
I turned to the PFC and asked if he was the escort. "No, sir. I am just in line." The soldier was tired and worn thin. "You can tell Private nothin' that he can be quiet. You don't have to listen to him whine adn I don't need to hear his noise."
The soldier shrugged. I don't think that he thought it worth the effort and it probably would not help quiet the whine. He was respectful, because I was a Lieutenant Colonel, but I could tell that he had lost his incentive to change anything about the other guy.
As I stood in line, I began to think about the E-nothin.' He showed the typical symptoms of obsessive, self-absorbed, intrusive thought patterns. He convinced himself that it was for his baby's best interest for him to get home to see him. He obsessed on that thought until it became the primary focus of his life and all that he could think or focus on. Nothing else in his life would fit until he got home to his baby. He stopped working. He stopped functioning. All he could do was whine until he got his way.
Then I got mad.
"Who will carry his ruck...fill his spot...do his job when he went home to his baby?" Every person here came for a reason and a job and when one is gone, then someone else has to do extra work.
"Does he think that he came here for nothing and that he can just go home, like cutting class?"
"How much grief has he brought his unit?" He has been busted in rank, which means he is a problem child. He requires escort which means that some NCO who came to fight a war and make a difference is being paid to be a babysitter.
"What kind of drain is this on the command to take care of this baby?"
"Does he think we don't miss our family? our babies? our lives back home?"
"How self-centered/obsessive/idiotic is this punk to bring this kind of grief on the command who is trying to run a war and keep soldiers alive?"
I was feeling very un-Chaplian-like at the moment and I began to empathize with Patton. I was wishing that I had a pair of riding gloves.
The line was shorter. I was next to be called. I stepped forward and handed over my paperwork. I was told to head to another building and take care of my flight myself. I turned to leave. There was a Staff Sergeant standing next to E-nuthin' as his escort. I shook my head and pushed through the door, mumbling under my breath, "let it go and go home."