The legal office was located on a half floor overlooking the main lobby of the Bethesda Naval Hospital. My lawyer was not that much older than I and had just entered the military. I would be his first case since graduating from law school. After reviewing my story, he told me that in a civilian court, anything they obtained from me after I asked to see a lawyer would be inadmissible, however since we were in the military, those rules did not apply. I would be tried on the confession they obtained from me regardless of how they got it.
“Does that mean I’m in trouble?” I asked.
“Yes! A lot of trouble.” he responded. “Our only option is to go on your military service record which on the surface appears okay. Is there anything in it they can dig up that might hurt your case?”
I had enlisted in the military at the age of 20, which made me 2 years older and just a little more mature than most of the other enlistees. For that reason they usually elected me to be a spokesperson if there was a problem. When I was stationed at Cherry Point, North Carolina, I worked at the small base hospital in the supply room, considered to be the best job to have. It was boring for me but did include a three-week trip to Veagus, one of the Virgin Islands where the military practiced firing missiles. I had just returned from 3 weeks on the beach to find the dormitory in perfect order, just like boot camp. I had to ask someone where my bunk and locker were and when I finally found my bunkmate, I asked him what was going on.
“Man, we got this new Chief in that thinks we are all a bunch of maggots. He’s been on us for the past 3 days, making us stand inspections and do calisthenics. He’s the one that ordered us to change this place.”
“Did you talk to the Captain?” I asked.
“Not yet, we were waiting for you to do it.”
“Is everyone in agreement that they don’t like things like this?” I asked. There was a unanimous shout of affirmation. “Okay, in the morning I will go and ask the Chief for permission to see the Captain, but I better have everyman behind me.”
The following morning, I went directly to the Chiefs office to ask permission to see the Captain and he asked me what for. I told him it was about the barracks and he said there was no reason to bother the Captain because he was aware of the change. I insisted that I still wanted to see the Captain and he said NO! I returned to the unit where the guys were getting dressed for inspection.
“He has refused to grant permission!” I announced loudly.
“So now what do we do?”
“Well, we either live like this or we refuse to go to work until we see the Captain.” I respond.
“That could get us in trouble, couldn’t it?” one of the guys asks.
“Only if we don’t stick together. They won’t do anything as long as we are a group.”
“Let’s do it than!” someone shouted and everyone went to sit on their bunks.
We didn’t have very much time to think of the consequences because while we were talking the inspection had started and by the time we decided to sit on our bunks, the Chief was already on his way to the barracks with two Marine guards.
“Who the Hell is in charge here!” he shouted as he burst into the room.
“I am not in charge Sir, but I think I can speak for everyone.” I said, with a slight quiver in my voice.
“Then would you please tell me why no one showed up for inspection!”
“Because we want to see the Captain first.” I respond.
“I already told you No!” he responded.
“I know that Sir, but we feel we have a right to see him.”
“Well you don’t!” he responded sharply. “Now I want every one of you out for inspection immediately!”
I looked around at the guys and they were shaking their head no and so I put my hands to my stomach and said, “I am sorry Sir but right now I am sick and need to lie down.” The others all started moaning and went to their beds.
“This is mutiny men! I will have you all arrested.” he shouted, as his face turned beet red. “Guards! Secure this door and don’t let anyone out of here!” he ordered as he left the room.
The two Marine guards snapped to attention until he was gone and then relaxed, but snapped back to attention when the Chief returned a few minutes later with the Captain. “Attention on deck!” the corporal shouts.
“What seems to be the problem here men?” the Captain asks as he enters the room.
“The quarters Sir,” I respond, “We are men and if we were married we would be entitled to base housing but because we are single we must live here. We had it arranged so that we each had some privacy but the Chief made us rearrange it to look like this. Would you want to live this way Sir?”
“This is the military men and things must be kept orderly but I don’t think I would like to live like this, would you Chief?”
“Maybe not Sir.” the Chief answered quietly.
“Then I don’t think there would be any problem if they changed it back, as long as it was kept orderly, right Chief?”
“Right Sir,” the Chief answers, “as long as it is orderly.”
“We all went to our stations and the incident was dropped.” I said ending my story. “I doubt they would keep records on that would they?”
“I hope not,” my lawyer responds, “is there anything else I should know?”
“No I don’t think so.”
“Maybe if we could get some good recommendations from people who know you it would help our case.” he said thoughtfully. “Do you know anyone who could write something favorable?”
Tower nine in Bethesda was a contagious disease ward and so we saw all ranks of military personal and at times foreign dignitaries. There was even royalty who wound up on our unit, a King from some small country and the Queen of the Gypsies. We cared for Civil Service personnel as well and even had the Director with us for several weeks. It was always cluttered with Isolation racks and washbasins and had never passed an inspection, until we took over. It started one Christmas when we got our Standard Military Issue Artificial Christmas tree with 12 each of red, blue, white, and green lights, one tin Star for the top of the tree and an assortment of 24 bulbs. Some of the patients helped us decorate it but Mary said she really wished it had all blue lights instead of the assortment. We all agreed that the tree looked very ordinary and so two Maine Corps Cornels who were both patients at the time took all but the blue lights and disappeared. When they returned they had with them all blue lights that they had either sweet-talked the nurses from other wards out of or simply swapped when no one was looking. The tree was the talk of the hospital until inspection time when we got several points taken off because of having a non-military Christmas tree.
After inspection we were all disappointed but Randy came up with the idea that if military is what they wanted, than that is what they would give them. We all started, right after Christmas, to polish and shine all of the stainless steel cabinets and racks. We even had patients scrubbing their beds and tray tables, floors were striped and polished, walls were washed down and toilets scrubbed. By the time the next inspection rolled around we were ready. Randy met the Inspection Officer at the elevator door and snapped to attention. All the patients stood at their bedsides like recruits, their bed linen spotless and without wrinkles. The Officer was very impressed as he walked from room to room. There was nothing written on his paper when he left and we were sure we had done well. When the report came out the next day, Tower nine had received a perfect score, something that only the VIP Unit would get on occasions.
We were all very happy and had a celebration that night. There were balloons and a bakery cake and even a Playboy Bunny (Mary). We had all worked hard and it was good to have it over, but that’s when Randy hit us with his next challenge. “Let’s do it again.”
“You got to be kidding, Randy!” I responded for everyone. “The next inspection will be a White Glove Inspection. No one ever passes that!”
“So, someone has to be first.”
To make a long story short, we did pass the white glove inspection and that brings me to the reason I started telling you this. There was a Spirit on Tower Nine that could not be explained. Many of our patients came in not knowing what was wrong with them. When a diagnosis was made they were often transferred to the appropriate ward but on several occasions they would ask and even demand to be transferred back to Tower Nine, especially if they knew they were dying. We had made many good friends and most were high-ranking officers and even Presidential Advisers. I wrote down a list of ten names and handed them to the lawyer.
“You’re kidding me. You want me to contact these people?” he said in disbelief.
“Well they said if I ever needed anything, just call. Some of them should respond.” I said, hopefully.
To his and my surprise, all of them responded favorably and by the time the Court Marshal came around my lawyer had prepared a good case in my defense.