I was on patrol in Ft Lewis, WA just a couple meters outside the old Madigan hospital. It was 0213 (I had to do time checks) and I was humpin it toward the new hospital when this sobering incident decided to find me.
I was on the road that runs alongside the old hospital when I stopped to look at the parking lot where vehicles were still parked. I shinned my light into the lot (messing around with a racoon) and saw movement other than me and the coon. I sat there waiting to see maybe a late arriving/departing Soldier get into his car when I heard laughter on the opposite side of the road and a voice similar to Jimmy Stuart say, "Looney, aint he?".
Now, I have the most respect for my brothers and sisters in arm, living or not. I stood there searching for who was speaking to me. No one. So, I spoke. I said, "How long has it been?" Nothing. I carried on to the other side of the compound to sign the card on the door and maybe take a moment. I signed the card and sat on the stoop, when I get a response: "Always here, Troop." I was speechless to say the least. I got up and rendered a salute and moved out.
Not 3-4 days after that I was inspecting what we call the WWII barracks for functioning locks. I was in building 3 looking down the long corridor wondering how bad it must have been to live here without adequate heat and air when I smelled tobacco. There hasn't been a soul in there all night but myself. I walked around to see traces of anyone else and watching the windows. I heard the same voice as the other night, but this time he wasn't talking to me. I hear, "Must be a grand." "Hey, fella..." and "Say, wha-da-ya know".
I must have stood there smiling for at least 20 minute at the thought of the boots I was filling.