Robert I. Livingston Jr. - USMC - 1970 - 71
Earl H. Cook Jr. - USMC - Dates = ? (DECEASED)
Fletcher D. Lewis - USMC - 1970 - 74 (DECEASED)
Bill Dolen - USA - 1974 - 1984(?)
Bob Tollison - USAF - 1971 - 1974
Jack McGarrity - Army National Guard - 1972 - 1998
David Leamon - USMC - Dates = ?
Robert I. Livingston Jr. - USMC - 1970 - 71
Earl H. Cook Jr. - USMC - Dates = ? (DECEASED)
Fletcher D. Lewis - USMC - 1970 - 74 (DECEASED)
Bill Dolen - USA - 1974 - 1984(?)
Bob Tollison - USAF - 1971 - 1974
Jack McGarrity - Army National Guard - 1972 - 1998
David Leamon - USMC - Dates = ?
If you are a US Military Veteran from the CHS Class of 1970,
please let us know. . .a form is below to send your info in
Jack McGarrity, Army National Guard - 1972 - 1998 - Texas. I was drafted in 1972, spent 4 years active duty (voluntarily extended) and 22 years National Guard, retired in 1998, now I am an Army civilian civil service at the Army Hospital in San Antonio, TX.
Meet the boys from the real and original "Full Metal Jacket" (long before that movie ever came out)--Platoon 101--Kinzer to the right upper line of me was from Memphis, TN also. Also a Charles Richardson (not shown) was from Memphis. And another kid named James Bishop (from Ripley, MS) was originally in Pltn 101 who didn't finish PI because they picked him up about a week into training on a murder warrant from Mississippi. Half of these guys by the way were already convicted felons when they joined. Not "phony tough, and crazy brave." These dudes were some serious . . . ---well I can't use that word here!
Platoon 101 - Parris Island, SC - Marine Corps Recruit Training Depot, 1/1970 - these guys all have a "story" each - you don't want to know, but in Mar 1970 S/Sgt Vailpando and I beat the living hell out of each other in a seriously bad fist fight - I wound up in the hospital as a "good hog" (bet you don't know what that means, but it's good) - AND here's the good part - I was only 17 then and he was 25. Get some. Later in 1970 he went to jail for murdering a recruit at Parris Island.
Mst Sgt "Top" Eugene C. Moeller directing the MCSC, Albany, GA Band on Memorial Day, May 30, 1970 at Andersonville Nat'l Military Cemetery near Americus, GA - We were known as "Top Moeller's Band" (a bad term - Moeller is pronounced "molar" like a tooth, and the band's unofficial motto was "We don't give a f--- for nothing!") - a bunch of screw-ups and misfits generally speaking except for THREE (Sgt Robert Honzell, Sgt Dave Heafner, and Sgt Albert D. Baillie III [d 1980, Ocala, FL]) - here's Heafner's unit badge below with Honzell's below his and Baillie's next - these were three seriously "professional" US Marines, and they were all in "Top Moeller's Band" for a short while--what a collection of people!):
Albert D. (Beetle) Baillie III - USMC 2/4 - in Vietnam near FSB Neville 1969
Robert Livingston, Jr., L/CPL - USMC - 1970/71 - MCSC, Albany, GA (Hdqrs Co., Band; Marine Corps Supply Center or MCSC); Camp Lejeune, NC (Infantry Training Regiment [ITR], H or Hotel Company, Camp Geiger); Parris Island, SC (First Battalion, Platoon 101) - MOS 5541 (trumpet, band) - bugler, played military events, funerals, parades, and other official USMC functions - saw no action in Vietnam (met Jimmy Carter once before he became President though in Moultrie, GA in 1970, August I think). Basically I was "1st trumpet" in the post band. Wore a lot of dress blues and watched the "wind down" from the USMC in Vietnam where a lot of guys from "hard luck units such as '2/4,' '2/5,' 2/7'" were sent to Albany, GA to be processed out of the Marines after some "rough and tough" overseas duty (guys with a "lot of salt on them" as we used to say). Still keep in touch with the guys still living. Our master sergeant (band leader) died last year (2014). We were sad about that. At Parris Island when they asked "do you play a musical instrument?" I raised my hand. I probably should not have done that looking back today. Then I would have gotten to go to Vietnam and be in the "real Marine Corps." We said no Marine was "real" back then unless they'd been assigned to "Westpac," which was our term for "you're going to Vietnam." All the other Marines (with no Vietnam duty) were called "Cissy Marines" at that time. And if you know what "Get at it!" means, then I know you're an ex-Marine! Now here's the gang from Parris Island (my yearbook from there in Mar 1970!) to the left and a picture of the band taken on May 30, 1970.
Cool - A Novel of the Dark Side of the Marines in 1970 and 71
Cool – Chapter 1
Top Moeller was a lifer Marine who’d learned after 19 years in the crotch that the USMC was as big a lie as he was. That was the general viewpoint I had of him from the very first day I met him. He collected losers in his band, which was a glorified drum & bugle corps at MCSC, Albany, GA in 1970 where he had assumed command of that outfit the year before, if it was even respectable enough to be called that, sometime in 1969. Top was a wicked drunk, but sentimental to the extent of bending over backwards for his boys, and he was hardly concerned with Marine Corps discipline unless it impacted his own life in some way where some officer might call him out and ask him “what kind of outfit he was running.” But we didn’t have many officers like that at MCSC in 1970, and were certainly had very few enlisted men who fit the bill regarding what we termed as in for life who were going to do the full twenty and retire.
Top was peculiar in a number of ways, but the one thing that stood out about his character was that he never got too mixed up in things of a questionable nature himself. He always kept his distance between “stuff that went on” and the day to day phony “spit and polish” of the band that he promoted as a sly way of covering up the real stuff that took place after hours and that had already gotten two Marines killed although not in the line of duty but rather in the line of keeping themselves entertained which meant doing just about anything they felt like to keep from admitting to themselves that they were in the Marine Corps and hence were basically second-class citizens and weren’t worth much to anyone including themselves. But there was another side to Top that I didn’t learn about for a long, long time during my stay at MCSC, and that concerned the fact that he was not about to let anyone one of us under his command go too far astray without the rules being put down and the cover up put in so that whenever one of us “did fuck up,” the only people who knew about it were himself and maybe a few of his crony sergeants. See the motto we all had in Top Moellers’ band was “we don’t give a fuck for nothing.” Well that was partially true in one respect, but it was also the perfect description of the type of discipline that Top encouraged which was basically to lie, cheat, and steal as long as you got what YOU wanted out of the Corps.
Albany was considered “choice duty” by some in 1970. For others it was the asshole of the Marine Corps. The weather was hot and muggy. The base life was boring. The buildings and barracks were run down, and the collection of sergeants on the base was like a cartoon out of the old Beetle Bailey strips where there was a sergeant for the latrine (head in the USMC), the toilet, the pisser (urinal), the front door (hatch), the back door (rear hatch), the bunk (rack), the locker, the windows, the floors, etc. There was no escape from sergeants who were so many on this base that they had the entire top floor of one of the barracks assigned just for them. And these sergeants weren’t sergeants in the true sense of the word except for their rank. They were losers and misfits assigned to Albany to either await new orders or to be released from the Marine Corps. All of them were Vietnam vets, and most of them had the wrong MOS to be in the Band. That led to trouble right off the bat when the ones of us who were primary band MOS had to listen to their shit and have them try and tell us what to do when half of them couldn’t even blow a horn much less read a note of music. It was all phony.
Top Moeller was well aware of this problem, but he didn’t do much to stop it. He let the newer Marines (such as myself) suffer at the hands of these morons which at times led to fights, to office hours, and in my case eventually to the brig. But we’ll get to that part later.
One of the reasons the base was so fucked up was because we had this “sergeant problem.” The other reason was because we had a “cool” problem which was something even deeper in the psychology of many Marines stationed there in 1970. That is the basis of this story you’re about to read.
“Cool” was a code word. It had only one meaning on base, and everyone knew it. The general meaning was that you weren’t in the Marines for the money, the time, or the retirement. You were in because you didn’t want to be in, but you had to be in because you were draft material and you owed your time to the service. That wasn’t a sufficient reason to be in though, and a lot of guys just put up with the situation, did their time, and got out when their active duty enlistment was up. Some saw it otherwise however.
I arrived at Albany completely ignorant of the “real Marine Corps” in 1970. I was fresh out of Parris Island and Lejeune, and I thought that everything in the Marines was orderly and disciplined and the way we had been taught in training. Boy, was I wrong. The first day after I had arrived I was greeted by the duty sergeant who told me that that “sir and sir yes” stuff I could leave off, and he wanted to know whether I was “cool” or “uncool.” I didn’t know what the hell he was talking about. It was some hard luck sergeant who was completely burned out on the Corps, Vietnam, military life, the rotten pay, and the typical phony duty that defined life in this place and what you had to endure until you were lucky enough to leave (one way or another—back to Vietnam, transfer back to a combat unit, or out the door). Most didn’t care which of the three it was as long as they got off of this base. And I’ll tell you why which I soon found out.
The Marine contingent on the base was basically what we called “token.” It was comprised when I arrived of about 800 Marines, most of whom had nothing to do but to make it “look military.” The supply operations were mostly run by civilians with some Marines in charge as required, but for the typical man on this base who was assigned to the Band, the daily routine was nothing but boredom and sitting around all day listening to the sergeants tell war stories. That was all just fine at first after 5 months in training getting my ass kicked night and day, but I was somewhat put off by the fact that the discipline on this base was practically non-existent (despite the false appearances) and that the average Marine here was nothing more than some criminal basically who’d been sent here to “face court-martial” or to await release in a few months. I always wondered why the Marines just didn’t put these guys out when they could and not wait until their contract was up, but they didn’t. They parked these guys on this base and gave them stupid jobs to do which only increased their level of frustration. I remember that in the Band we had about 20 more or less among whom I guess about 6 or 7 of us were actually 5500 range MOS’s (Musician) which meant that we were in the right place. The rest were infantry, supply, and other MOSs where the Marines had no billet for them at Albany.
“Sir, Private Livingston, reporting for duty sir.” I had just walked into the duty sergeant’s office at HQ Company, MCSC Albany, GA the morning of May 22, 1970. I was wearing the Class A summer uniform (khaki, tropical wool, with tie) and was squared away to the max.
“You can stop that sir shit with me, private. This ain’t PI anymore. You’re in Albany now, and we don’t do that shit here.” He looked at me as if I were the enemy and then he said, “What the fuck are you here for anyway? How did a new recruit like you get assigned to a fucked up place like this?” The sergeant was sort of dismayed when he saw me, stupid looking, green, full of esprit d ’corps, and reporting for duty at a place he obviously knew a lot more about than I did at that time.
“Sir, orders, sir!” I said. Stupid and eighteen years old, just repeating the echoes of PI which was what I thought I was supposed to do.
“I told you this ain’t PI, so cut the shit,” he said. “Get the fuck outta here. And the band house is up on top of the hill. Follow the trail up from the drive-in, you’ll find it.” He’d just shot his whole wad on me for what it was worth. The image was lasting.
Albany was where “good Marines” went after Vietnam. I shit you not. The only problem for me was that I “did it backwards.” OK, here we go.
The Band house was in a broke-down old reefer (refrigerated warehouse) at the end of a rail spur where the command had located the Band to “not hear the noise.” I got up there on the hill top, took one look at that place, and said, “My God, what the hell have I gotten myself into?” There were Marines loitering around outside on the platform above the railroad track, and as I approached the place I noticed that there was “nothing musical looking” about it at all. It looked like somewhere where people went to find a place to “get their heads together,” and I was right. I reported for duty to Top Moeller, and he actually had the nerve to make me audition for this fucked up outfit. OK, I passed with flying colors, then he said “Go down to battalion and draw your blues.” Dress blue uniform. I did, and I got a USMC issued set of regulation dress blues that looked smarter than a PI drill sergeant before he was about to kick your ass. I felt good and I felt bad when I thought “We have to wear this in a place like here?” OK, the feelings were developing, and they weren’t good.
I was definitely in a state of “on patrol” while all of this stuff was going on. I could tell that whatever was going on here, it mainly was going to be me who was going to carry the load. The trumpet section of the band sucked. No one could really play. And the first few rehearsals showed that glaringly. Top was an old bandsman in the Marines, and wasn’t bad as a director, but he didn’t have a lot to work with at Albany. The majority of these guys belonged in combat—or jail—and the concept of musicianship had been slaughtered and laid to rest long before I made my advent here. And to make things worse we had to play a limited repertoire what was basically the Marine Corps Hymn every other number and then Sousa marches which we botched and dismembered as if they were little more than Viet Cong bodies. Everyone was reliving their time in Vietnam, and the best fun we had was to go get firecrackers, light them, throw them into the band room and watch the guys with shell shock hit the deck. Then there’d be a fight, as usual.
The guys were resentful of me because I could actually play the trumpet correctly and well. They faked it most of the time, and while in marching formation about half of the band just held their instruments not playing them and showed off their combat medals. The few of us who were actually musicians played the songs. And then we had an idiot for a drum major who pranced around out in front of us like some circus clown. His name was P. D. Hughes. He was a normal guy for the most part—“half cool”—but he was a self-aggrandized prick who spent most of his off duty hours fucking some whore in Sylvester, GA, some 20 miles to the SE of Albany. We called him the “one-nutted” fuck because he had had a testicle removed due to some bout with gonorrhea or some venereal disease.
Then we had the others, names will be given as we move along, but the main issue here was the whole reason for us being here and whether anything was being accomplished in the state of affairs of the country or whether we were just “living our grandfathers’ wars” over again as every generation before us used to talk about. It was the old story of “what did you do in the war?” That was nuts. It was crazy, and most of all it was pointless. That was the America that had died long before in other wars that were fought and that while perhaps “won” they had only solved the immediate problem of who was in charge. No one was in charge here. That was the main problem, and the ones who claimed to be were little more than disillusioned old war heroes who should have been put out to pasture and left to go the way of their predecessors who had made plenty of misery for everyone else before.
You see in the world of military “heroes” the only real hero is yourself. That’s what we said. We said we were fighting for ourselves, not our country, not for the Marines, not to defeat Communism, but to stay alive and to hope to get through this thing without a Purple Heart pinned to our grave. That was the one thing that seemed to make the least sense. To die in this place (the Marines), and for what? For some ideal that we didn’t understand? To make a bunch of lifers heroes after they tromped on our graves and blamed us for what we had not done (live)? We’d heard about all the bullshit there was about “war and honor” in this place after only a few months of active duty.
And then the Band extolled all of this by going out and giving a sense of purpose and reason to the dead, the stupid, the would be brave, and the ones who were already dead and just not buried yet. Yeah, I played taps over the graves of fifty-five of them who had truly “passed muster” while I was “bugle boy” at Albany, but I played taps over a whole lot more who were “standing in line” every time I raised my horn and looked at the living and knew that as soon as I blew the first note that the death knell had also sounded for them.
What a crock of shit. None of our guys were necessarily bad, but they were part of a greater evil that had taken what would otherwise have been a better world and as a result of that sort of thinking had sent them off to Vietnam to fight Communism which was a concept I never understood in the Marine Corps and about which we never received even one day of training. It was just march, accept, and believe, and if you asked if there was anything for the effort we put it, the only answer we ever got was “just do it. Do what you’re told. You’re not paid to think. You’re paid to fight. Now shut the fuck up.” Sure, fight what?
We learned at Albany that the fight wasn’t with the Viet Cong. It was with the other guys in our ranks who were fighting the “war within” as Hendrix said just a few months before his death while making some comments at a concert at Berkley in late 1970. The “war within” was alive and well at Albany, and it was taking a high casualty rate in “lost souls” that the command never admitted to or if they did they never publicly acknowledged. That is the war that you don’t want to fight and that you cannot win.
The first I knew of this “other war” that was going on was when we mounted up for a band appearance at the Andersonville National Cemetery on 30 May 1970. That was my first gig with Top Moeller’s Band. We’d donned our dress blues, gotten on the bus, and headed up Highway 19 from Albany to some historical national cemetery of Union dead at a former Confederate prison camp called Andersonville. I didn’t know shit about US history much then, nor did I know that I would be playing taps later that day at a place that was just as equally a lost cause as the one I was now in myself. That was all part of the bluff. You put on the appearance of honor and “cause” while all along underneath you were celebrating the lives of men who had been equally sacrificed for a cause that was only given “credibility” and “reason” long after it was over.
Our arrival at Andersonville was met with the same hurrahs that might have cheered a liberating army come to rid some place of the oppressor, but the officer of old who had led the charge here had long since been tried and hanged, and all that was left now were rows of marble where the echo of my bugle call over them only served as a reminder for what we were “fighting for” again a little more than a hundred years later. The bullshit was being laid on thick that day.
Top stood up with his typical “stick and command” style of conducting and began the music. I was first trumpet and sitting back there playing along when I saw that we had the press and the local TV people there taking notes and filming all of this stuff while 12,000 miles away men were still dying just as they had here and the same old story was being told again about the purpose for all of this and how when it was over it was all going to end the same way.
I’d be playing taps over some their graves in a few more months and asking the same questions that I’m sure these men of old who were going to be honored here today would ask if they could. Why? Was it worth it? Did I die in vain? Whose war was it? Did I go to my death for anything worthwhile?
They weren’t going to ask any of those questions during this ceremony. They were only going to tell more lies and drive them home with the same pomp and circumstance that was designed to make everyone feel good when underneath most if not all of the people here in attendance that day just swallowed the bull and saluted the same old flag, the same flag that had sent so many other boys to their graves long before I showed up to “render the rites” and to snap to and do a smart about face when it was all over and left wondering just what the “greater good” was in all of this.
Cool – Chapter 2
The first few weeks after I arrived at MCSC, Albany GA was like being in a dream. I had been so completely brainwashed with Marine Corps “discipline” while in basic training that I was having trouble thinking on my own again. I hadn’t quite come to realize that I wasn’t in training anymore and we were under the constant surveillance of Dis who were just itching to kick our ass. Here it was the complete opposite. It’s like I had woken up from a dream and found myself in some place that had been turned completely wrong side out and where all normal values that been turned upside down. The whole concept of this place was baffling because the one thing that stood out was that no one gave a shit.,
After checking in aboard base on May 21, 1970 the first person I met who seemed to know what was going on was a guy from Minnesota named B. J. Means. He’d been on the based since the summer of 1969, played trombone, and was a lance corporal. Then there was “Beetle” Baillie. Charles Neuf, David Langrell or the “Big Headed Fuck,” Sgt. Albert Hansberry our squad leader, Alan Myers, a weasel, Barnes, Glover, two black dudes, David Keith, an Okie from Muscokee literally, Paul Hughes, better known as “Kentucky,” and to round out the line up the ever so present “Greasy Smith,” who had a long way to go before he would ever turn into a Marine. There were others in the band who were either on the way out or in. There was Robert Honzell, a sergeant who’d done some pretty weird stuff with 3rd Recon in Vietnam. There was also some guy named Antrim who was never around that much along with another guy named Karl Ott. Then there was Sgt. Boyd, an Arkansas cracker but had good guy despite the fact that we couldn’t quite get the hard ass out of him despite the fact that Vietnam was over for him. Then there was Top Moeller, the quintessential good old man who was the leader of this outfit that we affectionately called “Top Moeller’s Band.” Like the tooth. It was toothy all right, and we didn’t play much better. It was the awfulest sounding organization you ever heard when we tuned up and headed out the door to play some military event, but then it was what they wanted, the high command, to have some bunch of guys marching around in dress blues playing the Marine Corps hymn when most of us didn’t even know the words to the song much less cared that every time we played it some lifer got a hard on and we were there to promote the simple fact that without a band there wasn’t really any Marine Corps on this base. The band was the heart and soul if not the life blood of this base which was to say that without us the lifers here were nothing more than objects of tarnished affection who had nothing to believe in other than the stupid values they held about all of this meaning something. It didn’t. I can assure you. Every time we played the Marine Corps hymn at a ceremony the only thing I got out of it was another chapter in how this band couldn’t play anything but that song and that if we tried to play anything else we fell flat on our faces. That described it all. It was the tune that kept us going. As for anything with any more lasting value that was hard to find, unless we found it in marching around in our dress blues and giving all the locals something to be proud of. It was all a lie. And we knew it. The only thing we were here for was to have a place to put us until we’d finished up our time. The Marines weren’t too keen on terminating contracts early and handing out discharges, so we had to endure this hell that was created especially for Marines who’d come to the end of the line and had no further use except to get out. That soon became all of our dream and mine too.
The week after Andersonville was a real freak show. Talk about screwed up guys with no sense of direction or any future. I started hanging around Albert Baillie (not really knowing what a true psycho he was) and Means. Sometimes we went to Albany (town) together. Saw movies. Ate out. Got drunk. Got high. And it was the high part that began almost immediate. I had smoked marijuana regularly in during my last two years of high school, but what these guys were into was way beyond the occasional reefer in Overton Park on the weekend or a quick joint in the car to get toked up while we were drinking a bottle of beer or wine. These guys were into pot more than I could believe, and after a few weeks around Baillie I was beginning to fit right in to the new identity I had discovered among former combat Marines who saw drugs, sex, and murder as little more than pastimes you did when you got bored or needed a “rush” as we called it or just wanted to forget where you were and that hell would probably have been a better place.
Baillie was the fascinating one at Albany. He was formerly in Vietnam with 2/4 and had seen heavy action up on the DMZ in 1969. He was one of the last pulled out of Vietnam when the 3rd Marines left in November of that year. And where did many of them go? Well I can’t say for all, but we got one prime example of what had been going on the year before right there in Albany, GA walking around with this medals on his chest and a book full of war stories that both scared the shit out of me and gave me an erection at the same time. It was drugs and sex and manhood and honor and bullshit all mixed up together. A potent and very dangerous formula all said.
Bill Dolen, MAJ(P) MC, USA - 1978/88 - Following graduation from Central and Southwestern, I entered UT Center for the Health Sciences, was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the US Army Medical Corps, and got married to Carolyn Canon. After completing internship, I came on active duty and was promoted to Captain. I was initially a General Medical Officer at SHAPE Headquarters (Casteau, Belgium), and became Commander of the NATO Health Clinic in Brussels. I completed a pediatric residency at Letterman Army Medical Center in San Francisco (taking up weight training in order to be "Army Strong"), and was a general pediatrician at Bassett Army Community Hospital at Fort Wainwright (Fairbanks) Alaska, where I was promoted to Major. I completed an allergy-immunology fellowship at Fitzsimons Army Medical Center in Denver. I remained on faculty there until my career counselor proposed an Army career in Operational Medicine, since Fitzsimons was slated for closure. At this point, not wanting to have people saluting my car someday, I realized that I had become an "Army of One", and that I "Was All that I Could Be”. I completed 10 years of active duty service, and some number of years of inactive reserve service. Unfortunately (as might be expected), there are no salacious stories from this era. Some of the more unusual opportunities I had in the Army were attending boring US Embassy parties in Brussels, intubating our first child at birth and suctioning meconium from his trachea, taking a driving tour through East Germany before the wall came down, transporting little babies in little helicopters up and down the West Coast, transporting a baby recovering from open heart surgery from San Francisco to Hawaii (and getting stuck there for a week due to Army bureaucracy), flying a newborn with heart disease in a big USAF plane from Fairbanks to Seattle, and experiencing -58°F weather in Fairbanks. ROTC at Central High was preparation for all of this, and more.
Bob Tollison, SGT - USAF - 1971/74 - Served as an Avionics Communications Specialist, Keesler AFB, Biloxi, MS.