Friday, October 31, 2014

1967 -- Year of the Sheep

According to Chinese New Year tradition, 1967 was the Year of the Sheep.

Looking back on it, it seems appropriate for my ordeal at the time.

In April of 1966, I was drafted into the U.S. Army, for compulsory two years of military service, during what was referred to as the Vietnam Conflict.

After basic training at Ft. Leonard Wood in Missouri, I became a member of the Third U.S. Army Data Processing Company at Third Army Headquarters in Atlanta, Ga., where I had been issued a pencil, assigned to a desk, and analyzed classified documents, reducing information to codes for computer processing.

In 1967, as it is today, the world was in a bit of turmoil.

Jan 15 – The Green Bay Packers won the first Super Bowl, defeating the Kansas City Chiefs 35-10.

Feb 28 – Seven men in Meridian, Miss., were convicted of the 1964 slaying of three civil rights workers.

Mar 7 – Teamster boss Jimmy Hoffa began an 8-year prison term for fraud and jury tampering.

Apr 14 – U.S. planes bombed North Vietnam for the first time in the Vietnam War.

Apr 28 – Mohammad Ali, heavyweight boxing champion, refused to be inducted into the Army.

May 1 – Elvis Presley, 32, and Priscilla Beaulieu, 20, were married at the Aladdin Hotel in Las Vegas. They met when Elvis was stationed in West Germany during his military service. She was only 14 at the time.

Jun 1 – The Beatles released their classic album "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band."

Jun 5 – The Six Day War broke out in the Middle East. Israel raided Egyptian military targets. Syria, Jordan and Iraq entered the conflict. Jordan lost the West Bank (2,270 sq. miles). Israel annexed Arab East Jerusalem.

Jun 8 – Israel mistakenly attacked the USS Liberty (in the Mediterranean), killing 34 U.S. servicemen.

Jun 11 – The Six Day War ended when the U.N. brokered a cease fire agreement. Israel had taken Gaza and Sinai from Egypt, Old Jerusalem and the West Bank from Jordan, and the Golan Heights from Syria.

Jun 17 – China exploded its first hydrogen bomb, becoming the fourth country with nuclear capabilities.

Jul 12 – Four days of race riots erupted in Newark resulting in 27 dead, 1,500 injured and over 1,000 arrests.

Jul 17 – Race riots took place in Cairo, Ill.

Jul 19 – Race riots took place in Durham, NC.

Jul 20 – Race riots took place in Memphis, Tenn.

Jul 23 – One week of race riots in Detroit left 40 dead, 2,000 injured and 5,000 homeless.

Jul 24 – Race riots took place in Cambridge, Md.

Jul 30 – General Westmoreland declared we were winning in Vietnam but needed more troops.

Aug 3 – President Johnson announced plans to send 40,000 more troops to Vietnam.

Sep 22 – After 17 months of my 2-year military obligation, I was promoted to Specialist E5 -- apparently, the Army considered my MOS (military occupation specialty) to be vital and assumed I was worthy of re-enlistment.

Oct 9 – Che Guevara, Latin America guerrilla leader, was captured and executed in Bolivia.

Oct 26 – U.S. Navy pilot John McCain (U.S. Senator from Arizona) was shot down over North Vietnam. He would spend 5.5 years in prison, including two years in solitary confinement, where he was subjected to torture.

Nov 22 – The U.N. Security Council called for Israel to withdraw from territories it captured during the Six Day War and called on adversaries to recognize Israel's right to exist. The world is still waiting for compliance.

Nov 29 – Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara resigned to become president of the World Bank.

Nov 30 – Senator Eugene McCarthy of Minnesota announced his intention to run for president in 1968.

Dec 3 – In Cape Town, South Africa, Dr. Christian Barnard performed the first human heart transplant.

Dec 20 – With the arrival of more troops, there were now some 474,300 servicemen stationed in Vietnam.

Dec 31 – At midnight, New Years Eve in the Year of the Sheep, 1967, my military obligation was down to 100 days remaining before I would be discharged from military service and return to the wonderful world of civilian life. It was a night for heavy celebration -- I awoke the following morning in the new year of 1968 with a hangover and 99 days to go.

For the emerging hippie generation, 1967 was a psychedelic trip into the mystic. The number one song that year was "White Rabbit" by the Jefferson Airplane.

 "One pill makes you larger...
And one pill makes you small...
And the ones that mother gives you…
Don't do anything at all...
Go ask Alice, when she's ten feet tall."

For me, the Year of the Sheep was a tedious year of pushing pencils and saluting brass -- I do not nostalgically yearn to repeat it.

Quote for the Day -- "In order to be an immaculate member of a flock of sheep, one must above all be a sheep oneself." Albert Einstein

Bret Burquest is the author of 10 books. He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a couple of dogs and where civilian life often consists of trying to figure out what to do next.