Ain’t Released Me Yet
Memoirs of a REMF
Copyright© 2016 by Robert B. Martin, IV
All Rights Reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without express written permission from the copyright owner, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review or scholarly journal. I have attempted to recreate events, locales, and conversations from my memories of them.
The Shit Hits the Fan
“I thought a shit storm was coming, and I had no umbrella.”.............Barbra Annino
After I returned from leave, and before the party, I received two very official-looking pieces of mail. The return address on each was the Senate of the United States of America (see appendix for copies of the letters). The Georgia senators had responded to my letters in regard to the “State Flag Incident.”
The letter from Senator Russell was dated August 13, 1970 and the one from Senator Talmadge, August 12. Both of the senators informed me they were looking into the state flag situation. I did not know that their “looking into the situation” was going to ignite such a huge shit storm. It looked as though LTC Burke would be blindsided by at least two Congressional Letters of Inquiry. That could ruin his day. He must not have received his copies of the letters until after the big party or he would surely have said something to me. The shit was about to hit the proverbial fan.
I don’t remember exactly when I was summoned for my second trip to LTC Burke’s office, but the timing could not have been any better since I would be leaving Vietnam and the Army in just a few days. I was hoping to get out of Dodge before the dust had time to settle. I walked up the street to Battalion HQ and smiled at CSM Ojeda as he told me to report to the colonel. This time when I reported to the colonel, he did not give me an At Ease order. Instead, he kept me braced at attention and I just stared at the wall above his head and tried to turn my face into a stone mask. The tone of his voice told me he was not a happy man, and I was beginning to think I must have been nuts to have kicked over such a big bucket of shit. I had to keep reminding myself I had done nothing wrong, and I was completely within my rights, even though I was in the military.
The colonel was sitting at his desk, holding a letter in front of him. He informed me he had received Congressional Letters of Inquiry from the two senators from Georgia regarding his order to remove the state flags from display. He went on to say he was required by regulations to read each Congressional Letter of Inquiry to me and then to read me his response to each. In his responses, he was required to explain why he had issued the order and what, if anything, he intended to do about it. Regulations also required that each letter of response be an original. Form letters could not be used. Being as we had no personal computers back then, it meant each letter would be manually typed, but not by me. I was the H&HQ battery clerk, not the battalion clerk.
I don’t remember the wording of the letters and he did not rescind his order, but it was still a great victory for me as far as I was concerned. An E-5 enlisted man had challenged the battalion commander and gotten away with it. There was nothing he could do without being guilty of reprisal. I wanted to say something like “Gotcha!” but I was smart and kept my mouth shut. As I left his office, it felt like I was walking on air. I smiled like the Cheshire cat at CSM Ojeda as I left.
Let me explain something here. Every member of the military has the right to communicate individually with any member of Congress for any reason without requiring permission from his commanding officer. Commanding officers cannot limit this right or require prior notice or approval. I had done nothing contrary to Army regulations. The Constitution of the United States guaranteed this right.
Because of my urging others to write letters, there would soon be a line of soldiers outside of the colonel’s office, waiting to have their Congressional Letters and the colonel’s responses read to each one of them. I would be on my way to Danang and a Freedom Bird before he got to the end of the line.
In writing this narrative, I reviewed Article 138 of the UCMJ and its application to Congressional Letters of Inquiry. The UCMJ considered the letters I had written to my two senators a complaint, or grievance, in response to a perceived wrong committed against me. The UCMJ defines a wrong as a “discretionary act or omission by a commanding officer” that “adversely affects” the member personally. Several UCMJ examples of a wrong included the following two that seemed very similar to the “flag removal order.”
A wrong has been committed when an order is either:
1. arbitrary, capricious, or an abuse of discretion, or
2. clearly or materially unfair
It seemed to me that both of these examples described the “flag order” to a T.
Continued in Chapter 52, Paranoia….