Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Showing my ass . . .

When someone leaves a team and moves on to bigger and better things, its more or less a tradition that he get some parting gifts - a token of appreciation from the team for his service. That's especially true for someone who has a long tenure on a team, or who's done an excellent job, or both.

Mark, the second team leader for my first team, had done both - he had been on the team for awhile - longer than most captains get to stay - and he had done an incredible job, getting good training pushed through the company and battalion for us, working hard to make the team a great team without a lot of chickenshit, and walking that narrow line between being a good leader and a good friend, which is so hard that most military training manuals recommend that you not even try it.

So, when the team sergeant took up a collection to buy him a few things, we gave willingly to get him something nice. Usually you get a plaque or a statue as a going away present - the Bronze Bruce was a favorite choice. (The "Bronze Bruce" is a replica of the statue of the prototypical SF soldier, wearing a beret and jungle fatigues, with one arm cradling an M-16 and the other stretched out behind him as if to take someones hand and lead them to freedom. The statue used to be used to be across the road from Kennedy Hall, the headquarters of the Special Warfare Center, until it was - literally - relocated in a middle of the night raid and emplaced at USASOC headquarters across Ft. Bragg, soon after USASOC - the United States Army Special Operations Command - was stood up as our parent unit.)

We decided to go for a slightly bigger token, since we wanted to let him know how much we appreciated his leadership and service on the team. So, we got him what every guy on the team would want to get as their going away present - we got him a gun. It was a pretty Colt Model 1911A1 in a green felt-lined wooden display case with a brass plaque thanking him for his time with the team. We also gave him a team picture in one of those plexiglass frames that sit on a desk or shelf and that bend backwards at about 45 degrees so you can better see the picture - and that's where the problem started. Both sides of this particular frame were of clear plexiglass, and the picture slid in between the two layers - from the back, the back of the photographic paper the picture was printed on was visible, but thanks to the frame's clever design, that wasn't a problem - you couldn't really see the back of the photo unless you canted the frame well forward. So, we took a picture of the team, in berets and BDUs, standing in a line smiling and facing the camera and slipped it into the front of the frame facing forward. We also took a picture of the team, trousers dropped and bent over, not facing the camera but still smiling, and slipped it into the back of the frame. The thinking was that it might be weeks before he discovered the second picture, and - with any luck at all - that he wouldn't find it himself, but rather have it pointed out to him by a visitor to his office who sat down across from him at his desk and noticed the back of the picture frame.

That's not how it happened. We had a little going away party for him and invited wives and girlfriends, close friends and family - Mark brought his parents and his wife. After a little eating and drinking, we directed him to the presents set out on the table. He was awed by the gun, but in true good-guy fashion, he directed his remarks to how much he had loved being on the team, and what the presents meant to him. His voice broke a bit and his eyes were misted over as he regaled our guests with how much being on the team had meant to him. At one point, overcome with emotion, he picked up the team picture and held it up above his head and looked up at it. As he continued to talk about the team and how he felt about us, I could see the shock or amusement on the faces of the guests, depending on their personality. Mark's mother gasped, his father chuckled. The longer Mark went on, the more people were looking at the back of the photo holder, and the more they were grinning and giggling. Finally, Mark noticed what was going on, flipped the photo over, and burst out laughing.

I visited him a few years later, and sure enough, he had the photo - both sides - on his desk.


Anonymous akyna said...

wanted to be the first one in - just in case you didn't see my last comment, glad to have you back!

1:33 PM  
Blogger Stephalupogus said...

any more stories?

12:20 AM  
Blogger Mental Meanderings said...

When you think back to all the times you "showed your ass" this one is probably the least embarassing.

3:09 PM  
Blogger Shamrock7 said...

Funny story man. At least it wasn't a picture of the teams "brains"

2:30 PM  

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