I came down the truck line after a meeting to see what my soldiers were up to. I had found a few of them hiding in the back of a truck before I had left for the meeting so I kind've knew where to look. Sure enough, we had another conversation about doing what you are suppposed to do, when you are supposed to do it, and the resultant unpleasantness of violating that principle. They didn't get it that time, either.
I counted noses and found one missing...a problem child named Thomas who was fond of herbal solutions to his unhappiness. There was a lot of that around in the seventies. Unlike the later rigid regulations regarding drug use, in 1976 you couldn't throw a soldier out of the Army if you caught him high and holding. It required de-tox, outpatient counseling, and upon successful completion of the counseling, a year's probation. If he got through all that without getting caught using again, he was declared "clean" and his slate wiped clean. If he got caught a week after that...the whole process began again. It was almost impossible to kick them out.
So Thomas was missing. I asked around and after some silliness and shucking and jiving, I found that Thomas had become sick. So a couple of the guys took him home to his apartment in Marina, a little town just north of Fort Ord. I got directions and went out to Marina. I found the apartment that Thomas shared with his teenage brother easily enough. When I knocked on the door, I heard yelling and moaning so I pushed on in, the door was unlocked. Thomas was on the floor writhing around and yelling. His brother was terrified and told me he had no idea what was wrong with Thomas and he didn't know what to do. I tried to talk to Thomas but he was incoherent. I told his brother that I was going to take Thomas to the emergency room on Fort Ord and would call him later when they figured out what was wrong with him.
Thomas was skinny enough for me to half carry, half walk him down to my car. I had a really nice 1969 GTO at the time, very well kept car. I opened the passenger door and put Thomas on the seat. He didn't look good. I told him that if he felt like throwing up he better let me know and under no circumstances was he to puke in my car. I closed the door and as I rounded the back of the car to get on my side I heard him blowing chunks all over the passenger side. At that moment, I was very close to kicking him out onto the parking lot and driving away. But that isn't how you do things, so I rolled the windows down and drove to Silas B. Hayes' ER.
Thomas was fairly docile on the trip to Post, but he started getting agitated near the end of the ride. He wanted to fight all of a sudden. After what he did in my car, I was close to obliging him. I stopped outside the ER doors and went around to help him out. When I opened the door, he was starting to scream again and windmilling his arms and kicking. I went low and came up hard with a shoulder into his midsection and continued up with him on my shoulder. That took the fight out of him for twenty seconds or so; enough time for me to get inside the ER and get the medics attention. They helped me flop him down on a gurney and they strapped the restraints on him real quick. Looked like they had had some practice doing that.
Thomas was still writhing around in his restraints. He was babbling and drooling and had a maniacal look on his face. The rails on the gurney had pads on them, but there were some bare spots and Thomas calculated carefully just how far he had to stretch to reach a bare spot and then dash his head into it. The medics moved the pads around, but he managed to find enough bare spots to raise three or four good knots on his forehead and split an eyebrow. I had never seen that kind of self-destructive rage in a drug-user before. He got cranking up real good before the doctor was available. The doc said, "I've never seen this much destructive rage in a drug-user before."
Every time the doc asked Thomas what he had taken, Thomas slurred out "Ca nab in all". The doc said that was one of the street variations of marijuana, but he thought that Thomas probably didn't know what he had taken because Cannabinol wouldn't produce the symptoms we were seeing. I asked Thomas where he got the stuff and he started getting cagey with me... wasn't gonna narc on anyone. I asked him who he wasn't gonna narc on and he slyly told me he would never narc on little Ernie because Ernie got him this good s***.
I left Thomas in the hands of the medics, spent a couple hours cleaning my car, I went to the First Sergeant to report on what had happened, then I made it my next chore to find Ernie.
Ernie wasn't his name. The guys called him Ernie because he looked like the kid who was added to the cast of "My Three Sons" after the oldest kid moved out...his name was Ernie. By the time I caught up with my squad, the work day was about done and most of them were headed to the mess hall or the barracks. I found Ernie in his cubicle and asked him about his recent leave to Los Angeles. Everyone had heard what happened with Thomas by then so the conversation with Ernie quickly turned to what he had brought back from his buddies in LA. Ernie assured me that it was just some plain old reefer...with maybe some new stuff sprinkled in...stuff the guys at home called "Angel Dust" (a misnomer if ever there was one).
And that, my friends is how Thomas went into the unofficial history of Fort Ord, now officially non-existant, as the very first ever case of PCP poisoning reported at Fort Ord...in fact...I believe it was the first in all of 6th Army. Of course, no mention of the valiant actions of his dedicated squad leader, who very probably saved his life. Or the fact that said squad leader had to ride around with all his windows down for a couple of days. But seeing as how I was still his squad leader when he was released from the hospital, don't you know that there was some righteous retribution.