by Larry David
February 15, 2004
couldn't be happier that President Bush has
stood up for having served in the National Guard,
because I can finally put an end to all those
who questioned my motives for enlisting in the
Army Reserve at the height of the Vietnam War.
I can't tell you how many people thought I had
signed up just to avoid going to Vietnam. Nothing
could be further from the truth. If anything,
I was itching to go over there. I was just out
of college and, let's face it, you can't buy
that kind of adventure. More important, I wanted
to do my part in saving that tiny country from
the scourge of Communism. We had to draw the
line somewhere, and if not me, then who?
I also knew that our country was being torn
asunder by opposition to the war. Who would
be here to defend the homeland against civil
unrest? Or what if some national emergency should
arise? We needed well-trained men on the ready
to deal with any situation. It began to dawn
on me that perhaps my country needed me more
at home than overseas. Sure, being a reservist
wasn't as glamorous, but I was the one who had
to look at myself in the mirror.
though the National Guard and Army Reserve see
combat today, it rankles me that people assume
it was some kind of waltz in the park back then.
If only. Once a month, for an entire weekend
- I'm talking eight hours Saturday and Sunday
- we would meet in a dank, cold airplane hangar.
The temperature in that hangar would sometimes
get down to 40 degrees, and very often I had
to put on long underwear, which was so restrictive
I suffered from an acute vascular disorder for
days afterward. Our captain was a strict disciplinarian
who wouldn't think twice about not letting us
wear sneakers or breaking up a poker game if
he was in ill humor. Once, they took us into
the woods and dropped us off with nothing but
compasses and our wits. One wrong move and I
could've wound up on Queens Boulevard. Fortunately,
I had the presence of mind to find my way out
of there and back to the hangar. Some of my
buddies did not fare as well and had to call
their parents to come and get them.
in the summer we would go away to camp for two
weeks. It felt more like three. I wondered if
I'd ever see my parakeet again. We slept on
cots and ate in the International House of Pancakes.
I learned the first night that IHOP's not the
place to order fish. When the two weeks were
up, I came home a changed man. I would often
burst into tears for no apparent reason and
suffered recurring nightmares about drowning
in blueberry syrup. If I hadn't been so strapped
for cash, I would've sought the aid of a psychiatrist.
those days, reserve duty lasted for six years,
which, I might add, was three times as long
as service in the regular army, although to
be perfectly honest, I was unable to fulfill
my entire obligation because I was taking acting
classes and they said I could skip my last year.
I'll always be eternally grateful to the Pentagon
for allowing me to pursue my dreams.
after all this time, whenever I've mentioned
my service in the Reserve during Vietnam, it's
been met with sneers and derision. But now,
thanks to President Bush, I can stand up proudly
alongside him and all the other guys who guarded
the home front. Finally, we no longer have to
be embarrassed about our contribution during
those very trying years.
David, who served in the Army Reserve in the
1970's, appears in the HBO series "Curb Your