Dodging the bullet

A couple of months ago I was staring at my computer waiting for my muse, The Inspirado, to strike. (If you don’t know, it most often comes in the form of my fourth beer.) While waiting, I was reading all these articles about how our military was having a hard time reaching its new recruitment quotas. The story went that most branches were missing the mark by a whopping 40 percent or so and were thus resorting to more modern, hip and in-tune techniques to lure young meat into what is an uneven deal at best.

Curious as to what these hip, new recruiting tools were, I visited the Army website ( I was greeted by a loud, video game-looking site with a soundtrack built on what could have been marching feet or dropping bombs. After finding out how to shut off the noise, I found a button to request an information packet. Still waiting for Inspirado, I filled out the form (fake name, natch) and chuckled that I would soon get my free Army hat and DVD. “This story will kill at cocktail parties,” I laughed. Soon after, my Inspirado hit, and I forgot all about my “Stripes”-like dalliance into the armed forces.

Last Monday was, by all standards, an idyllic day. Sunny, calm, warm – all the things that make for that sort of day. I was futzing around the house, when, outside, I heard my daughter being chatted up by someone with an alarmingly male voice. Reflexively, I swarmed the front porch and said, “Sara go inside, now.” Addressing the interloper I asked, “What do you want?” I said this before fully realizing I was talking to a mammoth, bruiser of a dude dressed in full military camo topped by a very smart beret.

He says, “Do you know a Tad Winslow? Does he live around here?” While he asks his questions, I survey the scene and realize that his nondescript, gold Ford Taurus has three other like-dressed militia inside. “We got a note that Tad Winslow was interested in the armed forces,” he says.

My head is swimming. I know I’ve heard the name Tad Winslow before, but I have no idea what that has to do with this dude and his three henchmen parked in my driveway. As I calmly explain to the large Army man that no one in my house, or on my block for that matter, is interested in enlisting, it all comes back to me. Then I start getting angrily amused.


Think about it. All I did was fill out a simple online form for a free info packet, and a month later four uniformed thugs show up at my house? I’m wondering to myself how an innocent request for information could result in a visit from the armed forces version of the Gambini family. I mean, I can’t be the only person who just wanted a free hat. Is the Army so desperate that they’re chasing down every Hugh Jardon or Oliver Closoff that asks for more info? And shouldn’t these four dudes really be hunting Bin Laden instead of Tad Winslow?

As the puzzled GI leaves my porch I can’t help myself and say, “By the way, I’m pretty sure Tad Winslow is a character from a TV show called ‘Petticoat Junction.’” He bristles but doesn’t turn around.

Yesterday, Tad Winslow finally got his info packet. I was paranoid to open it thinking it might be some kind of trap but my wife, Cari, who hadn’t seen our driveway full of military personnel, scoffed and ripped inside.

There was a brochure promoting the positive virtues of adventure and a free education but made no mention at all of the Middle East. The desert-cammo safari hat is ill fitting, but at least it gives Army hopefuls an honest glimpse of their future. I turned off the DVD as soon as I realized there was no blooper reel.

Truth is, the Army doesn’t want me. I’m old, fat and if somehow drafted, I would make Corporal Klinger look like George Washington. I’m more worried about the curious recent high school graduate who sees the same gold Taurus pull up in his driveway. Me, I dodged an easy bullet.

– Mike Sheahan



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