“Section 23a of your DD-214 form lists your military occupational specialty as ‘EXP,’ the VA letter states. “This occupation does not exist. are not a veteran and that your benefits should be reduced or denied altogether.
Naturally, I was appalled that my benefits might be reduced. I wasn’t surprised, because the VA assumes anything a veteran tells them is a lie, unless the veteran can prove otherwise. With that in mind, I tell my story, confident that it will confirm that my naval service was legitimate.
First of all, “EXP” stands for “Consumable”. At the end of boot camp, I was deemed too incompetent to do anything more than bail out the water from the derelict barges the Navy uses for deep-sea gunnery practice. The men who do this work die, hence the label. Yes, it would be more humane to fix the hulls so they wouldn’t sink before the shells hit them, but America has done such a good job of getting people to college that no one knows how to fix anymore the shells. Which was good for me, because I couldn’t get into college and I had nowhere to go. Therefore, I showed up at the destroyer USS Sisyphus and found myself scooping water from a WWII hulk.
There is an image on the Internet that is said to be a promotional poster for the movie “The Caine Mutiny”. Not so! If you can find the photo, I’m the faint dot between the target and the starboard side of the barge. Scared out of my mind, I threw up, as the crew of the destroyer shouted, “Hey, idiot! Vomit on the side! You’re sinking under the weight of your vomit!” Sure enough, the first shot went over the target, severing the tow line and leaving me to drift. Being Expendable, the Navy let me die.
I fell into depression as I realized that the integrity of my corpse would testify to my failure as a Consumable. I prayed for the scavengers to scatter my pieces away, hiding my shame. Seagulls, lost penguins, even diving rats would have been welcome. Damn my luck! I had to settle for dolphins that kept the barge afloat, left fish on deck, and only occasionally tried to bump my leg.
After three weeks, I shouted, “Stop pushing me to the latitudes where people live and let me die!” And would it kill you to mention pizza? I’m sick of tuna! One of the dolphins poked its nose. I looked behind me. Good. Instead of doing what I said, those clever dolphins left me off the coast of Italy. I tossed the kelp that draped over my left shoulder like a fancy stole, turned on my heels, and walked down the beach. “Where’s the nearest Pizza Hut?” I asked. “I’m starving.”
This obvious story leaves no doubt that I was in the Navy. Only a man who spent years ironing military creases in his underwear while not standing still in front of a plate or fancy trash can that needed keeping would be bored enough to make up this story. . Ask any veteran if they’ve come up with a few exciting scenarios to fill the hours, and they’ll regale you with stories. None of them will tell the truth about military life. Things that aren’t too painful to tell are too boring to remember.
But what does “EXP” actually mean, you ask? Shit if I know. You will need to ask the clerk about the USS Sisyphus.
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Mad in America hosts the blogs of a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for discussion – broadly defined – about psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are those of the authors.