17 August 2009

Valance - Part II

To understand where Valance ended up, there are some things that need explaining.

DLI is supposed to be the marriage capital of the US Army, and possibly of all the combined armed forces. I don't know whether that is true or not, but it sure seemed that way. It felt like everyone was getting married. It makes sense when you realize that A) this was the first time away from home for almost all the student population, and loneliness ran rampant; and B) unless you were married, you had to live in the barracks and with the restrictions that came with those accommodations.

The loneliness would be quickly abated, thanks to the newbie sharks. These were soldiers (both male and female) who knew when their unit would be receiving incoming soldiers from basic training. They would circle the company area and offer to help the newbies find their rooms, carry their bags, and generally just be friendly. The ulterior motive was that, when the "lonelies" hit the newbie, they would remember and return the kindness they recieved.

For most soldiers in initial training, the barracks issue wasn't that big a deal. Most trainees went from basic training - which ran 8 - 13 weeks, depending on which branch of service - to their advanced training post - which typically ran a few months more. Not so for those of us that were blessed by our creator with the potential ability to learn a foreign language. Right smack dab in the middle of our initial training we got to spend between six months and a year and a half (depending on language) in a strange limbo status. We had finished our basic training but weren't considered "safe" yet. Obviously we had to be watched closely until we had completed the full cycle of training. The only way not to be chained to the barracks was to live off post and the only way to live off post as a solider in initial training was to be married.

Now, I don't know if Valance was the shark or if he got sharked, but he found himself a . . . female. I don't remember her name but I definitely remember her. The infatuation between the two lovebirds was sickening. (I won't mention my own plummet into the morass of love at DLI now . . . maybe later)

One of the other issues with being in the barracks is that members of the opposite sex weren't allowed in each others living quarters without the door fully open for all the world to see what was going on. Oh, and PDA (public displays of affection) is strictly forbidden. These restrictions were in place to keep impressionable young Americans from acting on the aforementioned infatuation and limit instances of the bed-sheet boogie from happening.

This didn't stop Valance and his . . . female. They were all over each other. The problem was that she was all over anyone else who showed an interest. As a side note, the subject of her chest size (or lack thereof) came up one day and she just had to show everyone what God had given her. Just plain classy. Knowwhaddahmean?

So, Valance and his . . . female got married and moved off post. Frankly I was more than pleased. Valance had been the bane of my own romantic aspirations more than once. My other roommate and I had a non-monetary wager on how long the marriage would last. Neither of us collected because of what happened next.

The lovebirds had been off post for about a month when she disappeared. The official term is AWOL - absent without leave. She found a new guy - another soldier in the unit - and decided that she was done playing army (and house, for that matter) and took off for San Francisco.

Valance was shattered. His already fragile psyche traversed all of Dante's descripted hells. Since he was technically still married, he was allowed to remain in his off post quarters with the hopes that his fair maiden would return.

She did, with the help of the friendly neighborhood MPs. (another side note, I freaking loath MPs. Biggest bunch of thieves and ne'r-do-wells I have ever met) In their brilliance, rather than bringing her back to the company HQ to face discipline, they took her to her home of record - where Valance was waiting and stewing. I guess it was just too damned far to go that extra mile and a half.

Valance went nuts. To his credit, he waited until the MPs left to beat her. He was nuts, not stupid. If this seems an anti-climactic ending, it would be. . . if it were the end. Shortly after leaving, one of the MPs Ssense started tingling - or perhaps he realized how stupid it was for them to leave the runaway bride with the guy who had the "crazy eye". They showed up in time to keep Valance from doing any real harm.

At this point, the company commander brought both of them back onto post to live while they sorted everything out. Things mellowed out for about a week - and then it happened.

It was Monday morning formation. We had been up for a few hours, having done our daily exercises and eaten breakfast. School was due to start in about 45 minutes. We had been in formation for about 10 minutes before the commotion started. Because of my assigned place at the far front side of the formation, I missed the beginning. What I did see is everyone dropping to the ground and then heard someone yelling "He's got a weapon."

As the bodies fell to the ground (voluntarily, not in Columbine fashion) the fear was so thick you could almost touch it. . . for everyone but me. What I saw had me doubled over in laughter.

Valance was standing there getting the crap beat out of him by a couple of other soldiers. He was dressed in a black button up shirt, black ski pants bloused into his Cocoran Jump Boots, and a black beret. He had black sports paint under one eye. He had what looked like an M16 and three bandoliers of ammunition. It was a sight that I will never forget.

The story gets even better. Valance made the absolutely worst choice of where to appear for his "attack". He popped up right between an old Infantry sergeant who had just failied Polish and was feeling pretty bitter about the world and a Special Forces soldier who had just finished his "Q" course and was keyed for action. Valance never had a chance. It turned out that Valance's weapon was a modified AR-15. Modified to shoot only .22 calibre rounds. Now, I'm not saying that being hit with a .22 round wouldn't hurt, but it likely wouldn't be deadly. On top of this he only had a 5 round magazine. So, even though he had over 210 rounds of ammunition, he really only had 5 shots before someone would have got him. There is no way to quickly load a magazine for an AR15.

The final sad note about Valance is that he has the dubious distinction of being the first person of whom I had knowledge who tried to commit suicide by cop. When the MPs showed up (yep, the same idiots who dropped off his wife) he was doing everything he could do to get them to shoot him. They just subdued him and put him in the squad car.

Last I heard, he was serving life in Leavanworth for attempted murder.

I still wonder if that Lysol laced cigarette was at the root of his insanity.


John said...

Reminds me of a student I had when I taught Jr. High. He didn't have a gun, but the last time I saw him he was face down on top of a DP (district police) car with a couple of cops beating the shit out of him.

I don't know what happened to him after that.

Anonymous said...

I was also there that day. In light of the recent events in Aurora, CO, it does not seem a laughable event, just a lucky one in that no one was hurt.

Travis Ellis said...

@Anonymous - I suppose we all view the world differently. If someone had been hurt, possibly I would have a different view. The way it turned out made it one of the more humorous events in my life.

Skip Mahoney said...

I was there, too. I knew Valance briefly (thankfully). The Friday before he went nuts, he and I were standing out on the czech school porch smoking a cigarette. His wife had just been brought back (having dyed her hair black from its normal dirty blonde in an effort to hide while AWOL). I didn't mind Valance, although I knew he was a bit 'screwy' and I felt somewhat bad for him. I jokingly asked, "So, did you shoot her yet? No? Then it's not that bad." This joking comment by me was picked up by the FBI (I have my suspicions who let the FBI know I said that comment) and then 'invited' me to join them over at Planet Ord for questioning that week after Valance snapped. Luckily, they believed me when I told them it was just meant to be a joke. Shrug. So I have a warped sense of humor, too. Anyway, that's my memory. Always wondered what happened to Valance. Searched for him and your blog popped up.