F Troop

December 16, 2010 at 4:37 am (Uncategorized)

Those who know me are quite familiar with my intense loyalty to our flag, the military and our veterans. In fact, in recent years I’ve become a strong advocate of veterans causes, writing articles for the promotion of the new Veterans Memorial here in Anthem, Arizona, and serving as Public Relations Chairman for the Parade Committee. All of these actions evolved from some commitments I made back in the ‘60s.

When I first got out of the service, the local Lawrence-Cedarhurst American Legion Post invited me to become a member. According to Past Commanders Charlie Heine and Joe Breitstone, I would be the first Vietnam veteran to join. At that time I was much more interested in chasing girls, but they were persistent, so I eventually relented.

Shortly after my induction, I persuaded my friends Richie Vicario and Donny Leone to join as well. That was my first mistake.

The American Legion used to run a Memorial Day parade back in those days. During the late ‘60s my friends and I came up with the brainstorm of putting together a color guard and firing squad to march in the parade. I recruited my brother-in-law Cliff Catropa and my friend Frank Basile to round out the group. Our intent was to include a representative from each branch of the four major services. Richie was Air Force, Donny had been in the Navy, Cliff was our Marine, and Frank and I represented the Army.

Richie, Donny and Frank were still able to fit into their military-issue clothing. Cliff insisted that he could as well. As it turned out, that was a bad decision on his part. I, on the other hand, having gained a pound or two since Vietnam, wisely purchased a whole new khaki uniform at the local Army-Navy surplus store.

We found some old Springfield rifles and a carton of blank ammunition in a closet at the American Legion building. I ordered some white helmets with the Legion insignia on them from a mail order catalog. When all of the equipment was finally assembled, we gathered at the Legion hall, intending to practice our marching and rifle skills. Well, as you probably know, the road to hell is paved with good intentions!

After a fair amount of joking, insults and general grab-ass, I called the group to attention. We went through some basic maneuvers including “right shoulder arms”, “present arms” and “order arms”. They were actually fairly good at that, so I was beginning to feel somewhat encouraged about the whole idea. Well, it didn’t take them long to change my mind.

I felt we also needed to practice our close order drill, so I lined them up and we prepared to march around the hall. Richie and Donny were standing beside one another. They were a comical-looking duo to begin with. Richie was skinny, balding and had a pronounced nose, while Donny stood just a shade over five feet in height. When I called “left face”, they turned in opposite directions and collided. The impact sent Donny’s helmet spinning across the floor, and Richie took a whack in the nose from Donny’s rifle barrel! It was reminiscent of something from an Abbott and Costello movie.

I was flabbergasted. “What the %$#@ is wrong with you two %$#@ morons?” I bellowed. We glared at each other for a moment, and then the entire group broke up in riotous laughter. We didn’t realize it at the time, but that was a clear omen of what was to come.

On the morning of the parade, we assembled at Lawrence Station with Frank anchoring one end of the formation and me the other. I thought we looked pretty sharp in our dress uniforms and white helmets. The plan was to fire a volley at the memorial there, march to the Lawrence-Cedarhurst firehouse to fire again, and finish up at the Cedarhurst memorial with another volley. It seemed pretty cut and dried. Then things began to slip.

At some point while we were lining up for the first volley, Cliff bent over and split his much-too-tight pants from stem to stern. As we raised our rifles to fire the first salute, his jacket lifted up and he unintentionally “mooned” the crowd! Poor Cliff then marched the full length of the parade with his drawers flapping in the breeze, and mooning bystanders with each shot we fired! The rest of us could scarcely maintain our composure.

When we reached Cedarhurst, I marched the group onto the grass at the memorial and gave them an about face. As the first flag neared, I called “Present arms!” After it passed, I followed up with “Order arms!” Hapless Donny then lowered his rifle butt to the ground – right into a fresh pile of dog poop! Richie practically collapsed on the ground in near hysteria. And I’ll always remember the ludicrous sight of poor Donny holding his rifle awkwardly off to the side each time we fired a volley so he wouldn’t have to put the butt against his shoulder!

Thus ended our first Memorial Day parade together. We continued the tradition for a number of years, fortunately without any further zany happenings. However, interest in the parade eventually waned, and the Legion quit running it. But I have never forgotten what took place during that first landmark event. Neither, I suspect, have any of the people who witnessed the farce played out by “F Troop” so many Memorial Days ago.

2 Comments

  1. John Capobianco said,

    Great story and seeing as I know you all, very believable

    • yeeditor said,

      I appreciate you being a loyal reader, John! You’re always one of the first to leave a comment. I’ll keep trying to post more of these stories.

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