Wednesday, March 30, 2016

No Diamonds On Our Shoulders - 1970-The Xavier Class Lamented By Antonin Scalia - Part V

Whatever Regimental glory I won when I graduated in 1953 is unrecorded.  The one item I can point to is that I rose to the rank of Lt. Colonel, commanding officer of the Marching Band.  I count that an honor because traditionally the post had been held by a Major.

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia speech to Xavier High School JROTC Regiment May 17, 2011

Linear Narrative Suspended

This is the second installment that treats the peculiar phenomenon of cadet rank. I will take up the growing anti-war sentiment in the next and possibly final installment.

My Crowd

In part III, I focused on my own reference group.  There was the Unclique (a recently coined term by the way) of Jean Shepherd fanatics, the Gang of Five- the elite of the Classics Honors program who took both AP Latin and AP English as juniors, McGowan's Maggots - The Regimental Supply Corps.  I only alluded to it but there was also the Chess Team.  Those were my people.

And they were marvels of  military mediocrity.  None of them were like my friend science fiction author John Sundman who graduated as a corporal and was displeased with himself, because he did not achieve his brother's feat of going four years without earning a single stripe.

In the great rank sweepstakes at the beginning of Senior year where well over half the seniors were assigned the leadership positions beyond squad leader in the Regiment - from platoon sergeant to the colonel, we all took away one of the prizes, but none of us hit one of the jackpots that would put diamonds on our shoulders.

The enlisted ranks were very similar to the real Army with chevrons and rockers, call them stripes, from 1 for PFC to 6 for master sergeant with a diamond nestled in there for First Sergeant and a star for Sergeant Major.

Cadet officer rank was signified by small circles - pips - or diamonds.  1 to 3 pips for second lieutenant to captain and diamond shaped insignia - one for majors, two for lieutenant colonel and three for the colonel.

My primary reference group the Unclique and the Gang of Five were all pips and stripes.  My friend Bruce Strzelczyk from the Chess team achieved some distinction as commander of the MP platoon.  MP duty had previously been a random extra assignment of juniors, who could persecute freshmen, and seniors who could persecute sophomores.  The new MP platoon got a special marker crossed pistols rather than crossed rifles for their brass, just like real MPs in the real Army.  Membership was restricted to juniors and seniors.

There was a flaw in the concept, though. The only seniors Bruce could draw from were part of the less than half the class that had not scored any reserved for seniors postion in the Regiment. I remember being amused to see on of the MPs patrolling the lunch room was a kid who had once had indefintie Jug.

And of course, one of the Supply Corps seniors, Paul Fuller, became commander of the Supply Corps, which made him a regimental staff officer, one of the colonel's twelve apostles, but it was a given that one of McGowan's maggots would get that prize.

What Was The Secret of Their Success?

I who had lusted after a Sam Browne and saber and gold trim on my hat had a binary view of the matter.  There were officers and there were not officers, but then I got a different view when I reconnected with my friend Jerry Snee, the founder of Squidget

Jerry was a year behind me at Xavier.  His class was the last to have four years of mandatory military participation.  At the same time that I had arranged to be part of the small group of students that the school song notwithstanding did not "keep marching", Jerry saw Lou Saco being dubbed Colonel of the Class of 1968 and determined that he would be in that position three years hence and worked tirelessly to achieve that goal.  It takes all kinds I guess.

Fighting The Tide

I was under the impression, probably accurate, that becoming a cadet officer was much like the regular promotions - good grades and not getting in trouble with some nod to military merit - which in my mind was tied up with shoe shining, brass polishing and head shaving.  In theory hair was supposed to be a pass fail inspection issue, but the really mil guys did not buy that. I think that the scorn that stellar students might experience in public schools ended up being directed toward the zealously military.

Regardless, Major Smullen seemed determined to place more emphasis on military merit instituting an OCS process for prospective cadet officers.

The apparent delay in the selection of cadet officers and the fallout from it seems to have been a result of tension between the Jesuits and the military.  As noted I am ignoring the big picture for now, but I did learn that the tension was intense from  a source who would know.

A Distinguished Career

At the 20th and 45th reunions I chatted up a classmate Scott O'Connnel who I had not known that well at Xavier.  He was a career Army officer - tanks and intelligence.  He now writes spy novels about the American Revolution and even appeared here with a guest post.  He told me about how things had turned out for Major Smullen.

Our Major Smullen had a distinguished career retiring as a full Colonel along with his four star general boss Colin Powell to help Powell with his memoirs.  He describes that phase as "two old soldiers trying to sell a book".  He also worked for Powell when he was Secretary of State.  Now as "Bill Smullen", he is Director of National Security Studies at Syracuse University

I reviewed his book Ways And Means For Managing Up and highly recommend it.

Some Inside Information

Anyway, I corresponded with him a bit.  Ways And Means For Managing Up has many anecdotes from his career but none from Xavier.  He clued me in a bit on the cadet officer selection.  Apparently it was mainly between him and Father Heavey, the Prefect of Discipline, with the list to be approved by the headmaster.  I mentioned that Father Heavey terrified many of us and he responded
It was his job and you were supposed to be terrified which made HIS job easier. 
Major Smullen got on famously with Father Heavey.  They were buds. When it came to Father Duminico, the headmaster, Major Smullen had a much harder time.  He saw Father Duminico as wanting to eliminate the military as inconsistent with Jesuit values.  So it may well be that the officer announcements were delayed as negotiations went on between factions of the Jesuits supported by the headmaster and the more militant in line with the Prefect and the Senior Army Instructor.

I kind of understand the logic of having it be Major Smullen and Father Heavey selecting the cadet officers, but there is an amusing note to it.  The seniors that spent the most time with Father Heavey feeling the full blast of discipline, standing at attention in front of his office for days or getting tuned up in the office were not the most likely to be cadet officers.  Actually their chance of being graduates was not on the high side.

It seems though that having Father Heavey know who you were did not necessarily mean trouble.  It could also mean that you were on the road to eminence.  That is certainly what Jerry Snee, who made a study of these things in his quest for the colonelcy thought.  He became one of the Junior Provost Marshalls who were much more implicated in maintaining the reign of terror that passed for discipline than were the likes of me who was drafted into service as an MP.

I did not graph the rank structure of the Regiment, but it has to be somewhat close to a bell curve with my crowd that went from Master Sergeant to Captain within one standard deviation of the mean.  Staying off Father Heavey's radar was a rational survival strategy that we all practiced.  Apparently those well know to Father Heavey were both tails of the curve.  Not only the 17 members of the Privates Club, but also the Colonel and his twelve apostles.

Of course it is also likely that Father Heavey channeled the feedback of the other Jesuits into his part of the list making as Major Smullen would get input from the Sergeants, as he had not yet had any of us in class.  We had been learning marksmanship and squad tactics and weapons, not the heady stuff that Major Smullen taught the seniors.

I told Bill Smullen that it was rather amazing how hard kids took being disappointed with the ranks they achieved.  I even heard a story about somebody who needed therapy as a result.  Bill would not take the bait, though and I may have exhausted his patience with the topic.
 I don’t do office politics so choose not to comment on who was in and who was not. Assuming everyone survived even with therapy it is better than the alternative.
Misplaced Sympathy

I mentioned how Father Dineen, a kindly young priest who was a counselor showed up as a benign figure as the freshmen were being shaped to be part of the Regiment.  He accosted me in the hall after the great announcement and told me that he was upset that I had not become one of the officers and that he, in conjunction with other faculty, was presenting a list of meritorious seniors who had been left behind.

Father Dineen who probably never got down to the basement or been in the Arms Room had no appreciation for what a glorious thing it was to be First Sergeant of the Supply Corps and probably thought I was as butt hurt as other seniors who were disappointed with their position in the regiment.  Some of them were officers.  I have this vague memory of one senior who was very disgruntled who had a diamond on his collar, a major, one of the twelve apostles.  Go figure.

Captain Xavier

The only student who ranked high as a junior who relished his lack of advancement in the grand rank sweepstakes at the beginning of Senior Year more than I did was Tom Piwinski.  Tom was something of a prankster and we took to calling him Captain Xavier.  He may have been the one responsible for convincing Sergeant McMillen that there was an extra kid in his class who never showed up.

Tom was a good student who did not get in much trouble, so like 80% of my Gang of Five, he was Sergeant First Class at the end of junior year.  When slightly more than half the class was assigned positions call for rank of SFC or above, Tom got nothing.

He would be routinely promoted in December making him Master Sergeant.  His position was "Squad Member" - same as all the freshmen and most of the other underclassmen and the members of the Privates Clubs whose military function was to be a bad influence on the freshmen who stood with them in the ranks.

The story I heard was that Tom's platoon leader did not want a Master Sergeant standing in the ranks.  So Captain Xavier got himself a clipboard and would walk around at drill doing "Master Sergeant stuff".  I have not confirmed this story, but if it is not true, it deserves to be.

Unraveling The Mystery Of High Rank

As Jerry Snee and I sat in the Gold Star Diner in Worcester last year and he related to me his quest for the colonelcy, I became fascinated that this was a thing.  He had a better handle on what had gone on with my class as he naturally made a study of them.  His uncle was a Jesuit so he had a lot of other insight.

I might have dismissed this as one of those odd adolescent ambitions. Like wanting to be first board of the Chess Team or get my USCF(United States Chess Federation) rating over 1200 or actually win a game against a kid who was Jewish, but then I attended our 45th reunion last May.

The Reunion

I had been pretty regular about attending the five year reunions for the first quarter century.  Enough so that I can recall more than once dropping Father Vinny Euk off  in his parish in the Bronx as I drove back to Massachusetts.  Back in the day, I had enough stamina to drive 200 miles down to New York and 200 miles back in the same day.  Unaccountably, I skipped 30, 35 and 40.

The big incentive to going to 45 was that I could stay with my son in Brooklyn.  It took me a couple of rides to get used to the subway again (They have this confusing card system, rather than the good old subway tokens), but it is more all those people.

There were two events one on Friday and the other on Saturday.  It is only the Friday night event that is relevant. It was a get together at a bar restaurant for the Class of 1970 only.

 One of the things that struck was how many people were there that I did not know at all.  I was pleased that John Sabini made it, despite the fact that he has developed a disturbing resemblance to Larry David.

I was also delighted that Mr. Moroney who taught English to the Classic Honors Sophomores and the AP English Seniors made it.

If there is any good writing here, thank the guy on your right
 At any rate there were some presentations including something on the over twenty members of the class who have graduated to the next level.

The coldly analytical part of me could not resist checking the standard mortality tables used for IRS actuarial computations when I got back home.  As it turns out the class isn't doing so bad mortality wise.

What was very interesting though was another presentation,  Called up to speak to us was our Colonel, who has the somewhat improbable name of Charlie Brown.

Charlie Brown - Cadet Colonel Class of 1970

 The reaction, which I totally shared, was rather extraordinary as we all cheered and broke into a rousing rendition of the school song.  Goddamn it, Old Charlie Brown was the best colonel in the history of Xavier.  I mean Lou Saco might have been OK, but he was no Charlie Brown.  Fuck you Class of 1968.

Bob Calcagno also rose.  Now Bob was the chair or whatever of whatever the thing was that we had instead of a Student Council (You see what an impression it made), but I think there was more of an emphasis on the fact that he had been the Regimental Sergeant Major.  I swear if I blinked I would see the Sam Browne.

Holy shit! Sixty fucking three years old and there I am cheering with the rest of the elderly "kids" for our Colonel.  What was this all about?

The In Crowd?

The term I recently coined of the Unclique has its orgin in a remark that Mike Oleske made back then that people were talking about cliques and he thought he was in the group of people who weren't part of a clique.

I think in a coed high school, there is much more in the way of status hierarchy since the girls will judge the boys by some criteria - athletics maybe - and the boys will judge the girls, by, well you know. If there is one unpropular idea I have as a result of my education and upbringing it is that single sex high schools are a fantastic idea.  It is even better for the girls from what I have been able to gather over the years.

It seems rather odd that given that we were wearing uniforms with rank insignia, that we were less status conscirous in our relationships with one another.  But it was true.  Well in a sense.  But there were three incidents in my senior year that made me rethink that just a bit.

Maybe Learning Where I Fit In

I have to give an important preface to the three stories.  I have told them to people and their reaction has been that I am somehow telling a tale of adolescent angst and they respond compassionately concerned that I was hurt.  That is not my goal in telling these tales.  In these tales my role is something of an amateur anthropolgist in the participant observer mode documenting the ways of my own tribe.  Frankly, I don't think my feelings were hurt even then, but if they were it passed quickly unlike other things that still haunt me.  So here are the three incidents.

PAX Is Not Open At Least To Me

During Junior year one of the big event was a spiritual retreat at Gonzaga Retreat House. I think we went by homeroom although there may have been more than one there.  My memories of it are a bit vague, but that is neither here nor there.

At the retreat, probably a different one from mine,  a few kids were somehow inspired to form a group to make Xavier a better place.   It was called PAX (which you and I both know means peace in Latin, but I'm mentioning that for somebody who might stumble in here without our training).  Remember this is 1969, there were still 475,000 American troops in Vietnam - down from the 536,100 in 1968 - but still a lot.  So peace was on everybody's mind.  The acronym stood for Positive Action for Xavier and they would be coming up with all sorts of ideas to make Xavier better.

It really seemed to have caught on by way of influence.  They probably had somebody on the school paper or something.  Not long into Senior year, but after the great rank sweepstakes, I felt moved to inquire about becoming part of PAX. I do have the tendency to be drawn to things like that.

I was told by the person I inquired of that it was a tightly knit closed group that was not seeking nor could it accomodate new members. I noted that the person I inquired of was one of the twelve apostles and I also noted that there seemed to be more than a couple of high rankers in PAX.

The first evidence of there possibly being an in-group.

What Is He Doing Up There?

I have always done well on standardized tests.  Just to get into Xavier you needed to pretty well on the Diocesan Exam, but probably not extremely well, because then you would have gotten into Regis when you took their test. I don't know, maybe Regis was just a bad day.  I do recall it as the hardest test I ever took.

Regardless, you may be interested in the possible secret of my success.  On test days, my mother gave me steak for breakfast.  My covivant, who runs a vegetarian household, scorns this observation, but just saying.

Given my gift, for filling in little circles with pencils, which in my generation became very important, it is not that surprising that I was a National Merit Finalist.  One of two at Xavier.  The other Bob Bennett was also captain of the cross-country team, President of The Class (which was different from Bob Calcagno's student governance role), a regimental staff officer (i.e. one of the twelve apostles) and, oh yeah, in PAX.  Bob was the only member of our class who went to Harvard.

At an assembly, we were both called up to be recognized.  I doubt that was the only thing the assembly was about, but still it was a pretty big deal.  That was my moment in the 1% (Remember there are over 200 kids in the class).

Afterwards John Sabini told me that whoever was sitting next to him was rather non-plussed that it was me up there.  I forget how I was referred to, but it seemed to him entirely inconsistent that some governing body somewhere had determined that at least by their reckoning I was the smartest or second smartest kid in the class.  When I related this story to John at the reunion, he, as you might expect, did not recall it and was concerned about my feelings, but as I noted above this is particpant observer amateur anthropology.

Me - Part Of The Establishment - Who Knew?

In Part I, I wrote about my first session of Jug, where I was terrified and utterly thankful that Father Dineen, perhaps noting my distress, sent me on an errand.  Well it was about three years before I earned my second and last session of Jug (Well I probably earned more than that, but the transgression went unrecognized).

As best I understand it, Jug was run by two seniors, an officer and a senior NCO. And I beleive it was a random duty, like being an MP had been.  For whatever reason, it was something the Supply Corps seniors were exempt from (Running Jug that is. Not serving it.)  So I never ran Jug.

Senior year, I was often late, but I only got nabbed once. That's what I got Jug for.

A curious thing happened when I showed up at the Old Gym to do my time. The in-charges had not showed up yet, so the Seniors among the miscreants on the steps, who were regular enough to count Jug as their primary extra-curricular activity, seeing the six stripes on my epaulettes, assumed I was there to run Jug.

Somebody more clever than I would probably have just dismissed everybody or pulled some prank, but, feeling a bit like Arlo Guthrie, the litterer, I just joined their ranks.  I still found it interesting that they kind of thought of me as being an insider.

So What Made The Elite Elite?

I started suspecting that there might be something nefarious about it, that high rank was the way that wealth and influence was smuggled into the school where uniforms and coming by bus and subway pretty well masked our socio-economic status.  But then Jerry Snee came through with some great insight.  One of the things he did in his colonelcy campaign was help organize the Junior Ring Dance.

It had never crossed my mind that somehow students were in there making things like that happen.  Just as it probably never occurred to anybody watching the X-Squad perform at a review how those M-1s had gotten to the right place at the right time.

So my conclusion is that the high ranking officers in the Regiment were somehow those who best embodied the school spirit.  It is likely that the apparent struggle over the officer selection may well have reflected what the spirit was to be.

The Colonel Weighs In

Thanks to Facebook, I have connected with more members of my class and even managed an exchange with the inner circle.  Charlie Brown is a modest guy and his comments on this subject pretty well confirm my theory.  Charlie was one of the numerous members of my class that made his way to Worcester for higher education.  We had some difficulty accepting something as being a city when it did not have subways or pizza by the slice, but I certainly came to love it and have lived in the area ever since.

Here is Charle's take on the selection process.
My understanding is that the decision process for the top ranks was more inclusive. I believe that a number of the Jesuits were at least polled for their suggestions and then were given an opportunity to weigh in as the list got smaller. My opinion always was that to be considered for rank you had to have at least distinguished yourself academically, participate in some school activities, accepted the military as a part of Xavier life and it didn’t hurt to participate in a varsity sport. I was once told that your ability to relate to other students at all levels also was considered. Can’t attest to any of this as fact, no one ever told me why I was chosen and one of 5 or 6 others who in my opinion were better qualified weren’t.

Interesting that you mention Jerry Snee. More than once during his junior year at Xavier and subsequently during our time together at Holy Cross, Jerry brought up his desire to be and then disappointment at not being appointed Colonel.
 That comment about Jerry Snee is kind of a spoiler, but we'll have more on that next time.

Strange as the circumstances were, my memories of Xavier are mostly fond and learning that the selection of the military elite was a benign process makes me kind of happy.  It also makes me a little sad about what happened with the military. There was something special about the Regiment and the student body being one.  In some ways it reflects what happened with the country as military service has gone from being an expected rite of passage to an unusual vocation.
Peter J Reilly CPA has a tax blog on to run, so he is hoping that he can get some of his classsmates to weigh in on this series.  He has gotten over not having a Sam Browne and saber.

The Final Revenge Of Corporal Burns - 1970-The Xavier Class Lamented By Antonin Scalia - Part III

You'll never outrank me, Tom.

Cadet Staff Sergeant Peter Reilly to Cadet Corporal Thomas Burns sometime in 1969.  Famous last words.

Most young men - mercifully, they fail to realize it - reach, in the sixth form of a big school, the acme of such power and glory as their lives will provide.

James Gould Cozzens

Another Literary Diversion

As I noted in the last installment attending Xavier High School was not like going to one of the prep schools commonly portrayed in literature about teenagers A Separate Peace and Catcher In The Rye for example  Still, even working class Catholic kids can identify with the adolescent angst of the Waspocracy.  Adolescent angst is adolescent angst.

And the best chronicler of that group is not that well known nowadays.  Immensely popular in the late fifties, James Gould Cozzens fell out of favor, a long complicated story.  Among the reasons for his unpopularity was a sense that he was prejudiced against Catholics, Jews and blacks. It was rather unfair.  In reality, he had a low opinion of people in general including his own tribe of High Church Episcopilians who flirted with Catholicism, but had no use for the manner it was practiced by the immigrant hordes.

Regardless, his best portrayal of prep school adolescent angst is in a collection of short stories published in the early sixties called Children and Others.  His viewpoint characters are always not quite at the center of things and new to the school will be impressed by the Sixth Form prefects who carry sticks as a badge of office.  The Cozzens protagonists will never be prefects themselves and pretend that it does not bother them, but it does

Prep School Prefects With Sabers

And the cadet officers were a bit like that to Freshmen.  Remote God like figures going through mysterious motions at drill as we stood in the ranks next to Seniors who belonged to the privates club and mocked the pretentiousness of their contemporaries.  To graduate from Xavier as a private was an accomplishment.  In order to go four years not qualifying for promotion even once without getting thrown out required that you walk a fine line.

Cadet officers would come into our homeroom once a week to inspect us.  Failure meant attending re-inspection.  Failure there meant the God awful prospect of Saturday Jug - not staying after school, but having to come in on Saturday in uniform.  And the cadet officers and senior ncos ran jug.  We did not otherwise see much of them since the school facility could only accommodate two class years on recess or lunch at the time - Freshmen with Juniors and Seniors with Sophomores.    So the MPs who served as hall monitors and patrolled the lunch room were juniors corporals at most at the beginning of the year and none higher than staff sergeant - even the mysterious Junior Provost Marshalls in the Prefect of Discipline's Office.

As part of the school blue uniform besides the web belt with a shiny buckle that held up our pants and was covered by the uniform jacket we wore a "garrison belt" outside the jacket.  It was the same sort of wide black belt fifties juvenile delinquents wore on their jeans and would use at as a weapon until they graduated to switch blades and zip guns. It caused the jacket to flare a bit over the waist making the uniform look rather ridculous on fat kids.  Over the bill of the hat there was a black chin strap (never used as such).

Cadet officers had a gold trim on that hat in lieu of the chin strap and rather than the garrison belt they wore a Sam Browne

They even wore the Sam Browne with the summer uniform.  And at reviews and parades a saber hung from the belt.  It made quite an impression on a fourteen year old lad.

Where We Left Off

I deviated a bit from a linear narrative, in the last installment of this series collapsing two years worth of Military Science into a brief discussion in order to give a full appreciation for the Sergeants, the most colorful members of the Xavier High School faculty and also in general above average teachers.

I left off the linear part at the first half of Sophomore year - 1967 noting that was the first year that over 10,000 Americans would die in Vietnam including a Xavier graduate who would be posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor during the Carter Administration once his conduct in captivity was documented.

1968 was an even more momentous year.  16,899 Americans would die in Vietnam in 1968 including Major Alonzo Toal who had just completed a tour as Senior Army Instructor at Xavier High School.  Our new SAI, Captain Smullen, had just completed a tour in Vietnam as an adviser which would provide some grist for the lectures that Major Smullen gave us in Military Science class as Seniors.

For perspective the 16,899 is more than the total American war deaths in the last 15 years including the civilians who died in the 9/11 attacks.  On the other hand, it is dwarfed by the 52,725 traffic fatalities in 1968.

A Break In The Narrative

I find it necessary here to totally break with the linear narrative and pretty much ignore the surrounding circumstances as I explore the peculiar phenomenon of cadet rank.  My interest in this odd topic was revived last year when I reconnected with Jerry Snee, Class of 1971, who was a year behind me at both Xavier and Holy Cross.  Jerry's class was the last Xavier class to have four years of mandatory military participation.

The Boy Who Would Be Colonel - Or Not

As I indifferent to military advancement found a way to be part of the Regiment without having to march, Jerry Snee a freshman formed a different vision.  At the assembly at which the officers in the class of 1968 were announced, Jerry looked up at Lou Saco, our new colonel, and resolved that that would be him in three years.  He dedicated the next three years to the project of becoming cadet colonel of the Class of 1971.

Jerry's dedication may have been unique, but a large number of cadets, regardless of their feelings and thoughts on the military and war, cared about their rank and had opinions on whether others deserved the ranks and positions they ended up with.

What got me about Jerry's quest was that I realized I did not have a clue as to how one would have gone about seeking high rank in the regiment and and  what it was that got you there.

The Structure Of The Regiment

It was quite appropriate that the student body made up a regiment, as at just shy of 1,000 it was about the size of full strength Civil War Regiment.  The Army had abandoned the regiment as an organizational level after WWII, although designations were retained for purposes of heritage.

There were two regular battalions with lettered companies and beginning sometime during our term at Xavier the special units were grouped into a third battalion.  I think the regular battalion and regiment table of organizations were somewhat similar to the real Army at some point in time

Three or four squads of 10 with squad leaders and assistant squad leaders, who would be juniors, I think, would make up a platoon with a second or first lieutenant platoon leader and a platoon sergeant - both seniors as would be anybody higher up.  Three or four platoons made up a company with a company commander first lieutenant to go to captain, an executive officer second lieutenant to got to first and a first sergeant - master sergeant to go to first sergeant (which counted as a rank in the Xavier regiment).

Four companies made up a battalion with a commander (major to lieutenant colonel), executive officer (captain to major) and four staff officers S-1, S-2, etc who have NCO assistants and Sergeant Major. Frankly I'm a little hazy on the battalion and regimental staff officer ranks.

The third battalion was more officer heavy than its numbers called for.  The band had several officers.  The reason for this I believe is that they did not want kids who were good at playing their instruments to have to leave the band or forgo being officers.  The tiny color guard had an officer. I think the X-Squad, which also had a Junior X-Squad had three officers.

The Regimental Supply Corps in one sense did not share in this surfeit of officers as the Supply Corps Commander was the Regimental S-4.   There was also Supply Corps Executive Officer, which made about the right number for a unit that was about platoon size.   But!  The three battalion S-4s, who had no apparent duties were drawn from Supply Corps members.  So, as it happens, my desire to avoid marching that had put me a rag tag group modeled on McHale's Navy had actually given me pretty good odds of becoming a cadet officer as a senior, particularly since other officer slots were not, as far as I knew, foreclosed to Supply Corps members.

The peak of the Regiment was of course the Colonel, the Commander of the Regiment followed by the Executive Officer, initially the only lieutenant colonel.  Battalion commanders and the Provost Marshall had to wait for the round of promotions to achieve lieutenant colonel.  Battalion and Regimental command and staff wore a red special unit cord on their left shoulders.

The inner corps which I would define as regimental command and staff and battalion command, but not staff, was less than 10% of the class. Besides the colonel, there was the Regimental Executive Officer, three battallion commanders and their XOs, four regimental staff officer (S-1, S-2, S-3 and S-4) and the Provost Marshall.  Maybe you could call it the Colonel and his 12 apostles, although that is something I just thought of.

After the December promotions which brought many of us to the rank suited for our position the most common rank for a senior was first lieutenant.  85 of the 225 in the class were officers and another 52 had high NCO rank.  As I remarked above, though, I have a special appreciation for the 17 privates and 28 PFCs, who may well have been the more sensible members of the class.

How You Got Rank

There were routine promotions for Sophomores and Juniors, that seemed to not have much relation to military merit.  If you got good grades and did not get in trouble you would get promoted twice as a sophomore and twice as a junior bringing you to staff sergeant.  There was a wave of rank inflation that hit when my class was juniors allowing freshmen to get PFC, sophomores sergeant and juniors Sergeant First Class.

The connection with grades was pretty obvious.  I had a couple of reference groups.  Probably the most important was the sort of Unclique that had been formed by myself, Tom Burns, Mike Oleske and John Sabini.  The other was a sub-group of my homeroom 3-F (We were still classics honors taking Greek, Latin and a modern language.  I think F became G through student attrition).  There were five of us.  The other four were Mike, Victor Donovan, Lenny Langelotti and Bill Orchard.  Besides 3-F we were in AP Latin and AP English and were only split up for modern languages.  Victor and I took German.  Victor and I also became very close friends although he was not really part of the Unclique.  I think there were 17 of us from my class that would go to Holy Cross, but Victor was the only one that I hung with there including taking several classes together.

So the 3-F gang of five were all good students and accordingly we finished junior year as Sergeants First Class except for Lenny who somehow missed a promotion along the way.  A couple of times I sold him my rank insignia at half price to help finance my new acquisition when we both moved up a notch.

Corporal Burns

Tom Burns on the other hand, who attributes his problems with grades to his high LQ (laziness quotient) seemed to be perennially stuck at corporal.  Tom and Mike and I used to continually insult one another and had an undue taste for puns.  We used to gather on the "stairs" around the balcony above the "Old Gym".  The "stairs" were kind of built in concrete benches of a sort.  I had a miniature magnetic chess set that we would play on and we would have intense conversations.

I cannot remember the exact context of my "You will never outrank me, Tom" statement but there were several witnesses.  Though I might plead otherwise, there may have been a tinge of arrogance about it.  Here though is my case.

Tom's military ambition was to be First Sergeant of the Band.  I on the other hand had reasonable hopes of being an officer since officer selection seemed to follow similar principles to the regular promotions.  My unit, the Regimental Supply Corps had five officer slots associated with it.  The Regimental S-4, commander of the Supply Corps, the XO of the Supply Corps and three battalion S-4s, who had no discernible duties beyond wearing a red cord and being near the front of the battalion at parades and reviews.  And other officer slots were not out of the question.  Failing all that, there was First Sergeant of the Supply Corps.  So my ultimate fallback position was the height of Tom's ambition making it certain that he would not outrank me.  Or so I thought.

I just recently talked to Tom about all this and he explained to me why he wanted to be First Sergeant of the Band. "You had enough power so nobody could fuck with you, but not the responsibility of being an officer."

The New Regime

Until I reconnected with Jerry Snee recently, I had never given any thought to what was involved in achieving really high rank.  My analysis of the whole process as it played out in my year was that historically good grades and staying out of trouble would have you selected as an officer in the big sweepstakes at the beginning of Senior Year.

In my year things changed as Major Smullen decided to double down on military merit as a consideration and required prospective cadet officers to go through an OCS process.  Our collar rank insignia were replaced with a crest.  We got the crest by going to see Major Smullen.  As part of the process you saluted him and said "Cadet Candidate Reilly requests permission to speak". Permission granted, I did not know what the fuck I was supposed to say.  He just handed me the crest and smiled.  I saluted and left.  Major Smullen somehow always had a warm humanity that channeled with perfect consistency with his occasional sternness.

Poor Angelo

OCS had already cost me seven dollars, a not inconsiderable sum, that I would ultimately learn was the responsibility of my sometime best friend sometime nemesis Tom Burns.

Junior year MP duty was not something you volunteered for.  It was just assigned.  The Band was exempt, but not the Supply Corps.  So one week in three the loud speaker would summon the third junior guard mount to fall in on the old gym "stairs",  Nick Linkowitz, who embodied military merit (He would be commander of the X-Squad and go to the Citadel) was sergeant of the guard, which had a touch of irony.  Due to the way grades might trump military merit I remember Nick being a corporal when I was a sergeant, but I guess in the MP hierarchy military merit was supreme.

For most of recess and part of lunch MPs stood “at ease” wearing their hats, coming to attention when faculty or cadet officers passed.  In theory they might write up their fellow juniors for infractions, but in practice, they only persecuted freshmen.  My post was a landing on the "band room stairs", an odd spot that saw very little traffic.  But then one day I nabbed a freshman band member for out of uniform (probably a missing nameplate) and wrote him up.

Tom and Mike were merciless towards me in bemoaning the fate of "Poor Angelo", but verbal criticism did not suffice.  Vengeance was required.  One lunch time having finished my time on the stairs I found my regular seat at the table with Tom and Mike, put down my hat and lunch bag and went to get a drink. When I returned my hat was top down in a partially eaten plate of spaghetti.  I think pressed and twisted to make the stains indelible.

At a Holy Cross reunion I once met a retired FBI agent who had worked the docks in Hoboken back in the "On the Waterfront" days.  He told me that longshoremen were great aviation aficionados.  Standing near a dead body on the dock, they would all say they had been looking up in the sky whenever what happened happened.  That was the spirit of those at the table as I almost wept at the ruins of my hat.  It would be years before Tom would confess still maintaining that it was just retribution for my persecution of "poor Angelo".

Slovenly as I generally was, I could have lived with a stained hat. Besides being 6'4" who was going to know?  Still OCS was approaching which I took as a shoe shining, brass polishing, head shaving contest which is what seemed to make up military merit. Regardless of the fact that most people, even Major Smullen, are short, I bought a new hat.  Recently, my book-bag had totally collapsed.  Since we were already in summer uniforms, I started using my garrison belt as a kind of strap to carry books.  Not good for the belts appearance, but I wouldn't be needing it next year. Would I?

The Great Drama

My memories of OCS are rather dim.  It is unlikely that I did well in the shoe shining, brass polishing part of the game, as other kids had been practicing that much harder for the last three years.  It is quite likely that the patriotic essay we had to write did not help my chances.  I don't remember anything about it other than the title "Dissent The Highest Form Of Patriotism".  There would be Woodstock that summer, something which my covivant who is way cooler than I attended.  And I had become a regular reader of Ramparts, but more on that later.

I don't know if it was actually any different than any other year, but as we started senior year, it seemed like the announcement of the officers was being held up.  Rumors flew.  Enough so that there was an assembly of seniors at which Father Heavey, the Prefect of Discipline, chewed us out and told us that if we didn't stop with the rumors the Regiment would be run for the year with us as NCOs.

Finally the officers were announced and there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth.  I don't know if it was unusual compared to other years, but I think it may have been.  People who it seemed "should have been officers" were not and by implication it went the other way.  I was by all accounts in the "should have been officers" group.

It Was All About The Sam Browne

I realized though that the only reason I cared was because of the Sam Browne and saber.  And I still had a chance.  The four sergeants major also wore Sam Brownes.  I think I went so far as to ask Sergeant McGowan to intervene for me. My new ambition was to be Sergeant Major of the Third Battalion.  No gold trim on my hat, but a Sam Browne, a saber and a red cord.

That brief hope was quickly dashed.  The NCO list came out and I was First Sergeant of the Supply Corps. I was particularly chagrined that the Sergeant Major of the Third Battalion had not even been in the battalion.  It must have taken me a couple of hours to recover from the blow.  The reason it was easy was that being First Sergeant of the Supply Corps was something of a thing in Supply Corps tradition and the role and persona suited some of the anit-establishment aspects of my character.  I'm sure I got much more satisfaction out of being First Sergeant of the Supply Corps than I would have being the Second Battalion S-4, with no duties other than showing up at drill and standing next to the S-3.

 My reference group was altogether remarkable in its military mediocrity.  Mike got one of the numerous band officer slots and John Sabini got a platoon.  Victor Donovan and Bill Orchard were the military stars of our group Victor S-1 of the Third Battalion and Bill, I think a company commander.  Lenny was Victors assistant in his almost non-existent duties. While everybody else was having these leaps, the effect was that Lenny and I each moved up one notch, allowing me to continue our tradition of my selling him my rank insignia for half price.

Thanks to the recent rank inflation, I have the distinction of being one of the first Xavier students to achieve the rank of Master Sergeant one stripe at a time.  My friend Tom achieved his dream and gained four stripes and was now equal to me.  Well at least I had the comfort that Tom did not out-rank me.

The Famous Last Words

I realize that this has grown too long and that I will need another post to adequately address the mystery of achieving high command in the Regiment.  But I must give you the punch line to this part of the story.  Sophomore and Junior year, Military Science did not seem to speak to the great events that were happening around us, but Senior year was different as we were largely done with the Sergeants and getting most of our classroom instruction from Major Smullen. One of the blocks of instruction was Counter-Insurgency and that was too much for the reader of Ramparts to take.  I deliberately failed in a futile protest.  Military Science did not affect our academic average, but my gesture did have a consequence.

In December there were promotions bringing seniors to the rank appropriate to their positions.  Company commanders went from first lieutenant to captain and battalion commanders went from major to lieutenant colonel.  And First Sergeants went from Master Sergeant to First Sergeant getting a diamond nestled in between their  three chevrons and three rockers.  Of course if they got in trouble or had bad grades, they did not advance.  Or if they, for another example, flunked military science.

So the day came when Tom was promoted to First Sergeant and I remained at Master Sergeant.  He chortled about it for years afterward, decades actually - soon to be a half century.

The End Or Not

There was a round of bonus promotions right before graduation moving many of those below lieutenant colonel up a notch.  I advanced to First Sergeant and Tom maintained his lead going to Sergeant Major.  He had an impulse to purchase a Sam Browne and saber but he restrained himself - a wise decision.

We wore the blue uniforms at graduation, but we were told to remove our rank insignia and we all wore garrison belts.  So we ended as we began in a state of military equality.

The last time I reflected on this story over twenty years ago, I thought that was a good ending.  That the regiment was a metaphor for our lives where we leave behind the accouterments of one stage as we move on to the next, but my recent meeting with Jerry Snee the would be Colonel and the experience of my 45th reunion have prompted me to take another look, which will be the topic of the next post.

Peter J Reilly CPA should probably be working on tax returns right now, but he can't help himself.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Time For Sergeants - 1970 - The Xavier Class Lamented By Antonin Scalia- Part II -

The mission of the infantry is to close with the enemy by means of fire and maneuver to defeat or capture him, or to repel his assault by fire, close combat, and counterattack.

The Sergeants were the most colorful members of the Xavier High School faculty and this is where I will introduce them, but please bear with me as I also continue the narrative.

Where We Left Off

I left off my account of the Xavier Regiment in the late sixties toward the end of my Freshman year.  As I indicated that colorful as our role as subway commandos might have been, the military experience was pretty superficial.  I had my first intimations of issues about American involvement in Vietnam as Martin Luther King came out against the war, throwing confusion into a 15 year old mind that wanted the forces of good to be well aligned.

Not Super Mil

It was the spring of 1967 soon to become the Summer of Love.  Maintaining proper military appearance had become a tiresome chore that I knew I would never be good at.  A brief attempt at cross country ruled out athletics. I was in the Chess club starting to go to tournaments in one of the most competitive parts of the country without benefit of much in the way of instruction. Ultimately we would form a Catholic High School Chess League to have some hope of winning.  "Hi, my name is Ira.  I go to Abraham Lincoln High School" was usually a bad sign at the tournament table.

Budding Anti-Establishment

More significant to my character was a growing sense of irreverence and disrespect for authority.  Probably a natural part of being fifteen, but also being fed by the times.  And here we have a bit of a literary diversion.

Not Your Classic Prep School

One of the peculiarities of literature about teenagers is that it seems to disproportionately involve teenage boys who attend prep schools.  I think there are two reasons for this.  One is that is that novelist is not a typical career goal for working class kids, but more a choice for those who have been part of the elite for three or more generations. The other is that dramatically the prep school constitutes a sealed world with all the characters subject to the same environment.

At any rate Xavier was a prep school in the sense that we were almost all college bound a large number of us to the best Catholic colleges in the country, a few to the Ivy league, a couple to the service academics and the less academically gifted to the infamous AFC (Any Fucking College). And with the uniforms and the history had some of the other attributes of the classic prep school attended by the likes of Holden Caufield or featured in A Separate Peace.

The big difference though was that we did not live there, but commuted, many of us from a considerable distance.  As we arrived home in our uniforms we were likely sui generis. There was another Xavier student a few houses down from me.  As I noted Dave Gallagher had been my inspiration to go to Xavier, but I can think of no others in Fairview and but three in Cliffside, only one of whom Eddie Kulesza was in my year.  Kids who were closer in, like the ones who lived in Stuyvesant Town, the Irish ghetto, might have some overlap between their school and neighborhood friends, but not the likes of me.


So we did not exist inside a prep school bubble but were home with our families and hanging with our neighborhood friends and that influence remained quite strong Freshman year as I was less integrated into Xavier than I would become.

And the seeds of anti-Establishment thinking were scattered on the fertile ground of the boy who had been developing problems with authority for a while.  I would get together with my grammar school buddies Bobby Einhorn and Denny Kondrat in Einhorn's cellar to listen to songs that they could not play on the radio like those of the Mothers of Invention.  My brother had acquainted me with songs of Irish rebellion, something unfamiliar to many of my associates and there were the folk songs.

1967 was the Summer of Love and Einhorn and Denny and I were planning to go to San Francisco the following summer.  Well, planning is probably too strong a word. The most memorable moment of that summer though was a sign of things to come.  My mother arranged for me to work at Estabrook & Company, a brokerage house that would ultimately be absorbed by Dean Witter.  My father spent his whole career there as a "senior order clerk" and there was just a bit of paternalism in the firm.

Standing in the open space with a view of New York harbor at 80 Pine Street among the desks where the reps sat, I heard one of them cry out in shock.  The Dow Jones news feed was telling us that tanks were on the streets in Newark - the beginning of six days of riots that would leave over 20 dead. Summer of Love, my ass.

The most subversive influence came by way of Einhorn.  Thanks to him I began listening to Jean Shepherd, of Christmas Story fame, who at the time was on the radio at night with monologues that you can get a taste of, but just a taste, from the voice-over in Christmas Story.  Shepherd developed a fairly fanatical devotion among slightly nerdy adolescents who would follow his odd commands.  The most well known was writing "Flick Lives !" on any available surface.  If caught or captured rather than name, rank and serial number the Flick scribbler was to say "You wouldn't understand".

A New Beginning

Good grades and the advice of my homeroom and (Latin) teacher Mr. Lux SJ (i.e. a scholastic) landed me in the classics honors program.  Homeroom 2-G.  No science,  Greek, Latin and German, Mr. Hands SJ taught us Greek marching us through Xenophon's Anabasis an interesting story for kids wearing uniforms - an army unable to accomplish its mission that must fight its way home.

One of the principles of Catholic secondary education in that era was that just about anybody could teach Latin or history and since you needed your coaches to teach something that might as well be it.  That principle did not apply to 2-G when it came to Latin.  We got John Scott (to distinguish from his brother Jim an English teacher) who was chair of the classics department.  We did get a coach for American history though and having a history teacher who was less interested in history than I was had me a bit stirred up.  We went through Turner's frontier theory and he asked if Turner had missed anything and brought up that he did not give enough consideration to the Indians (hey that was the term then). It was a little akin to the neo-abolitionism I stumbled on in the last post.

We also got top of the line when it came to English - Mr. Moroney a young guy but not one of the transients getting some other career underway.  He would teach at Xavier for something like 40 years, but we knew him when.  He was in his own way a subversive influence.  Catcher In The Rye and Huckleberry Finn.  And he required us to get the Sunday New York Times read the literary section the magazine and Russel Baker.  My father had introduced me to Art Buchwald.  Satire is another subversive force.

And that was the year that I formed lifetime friendships. Mike Oleske also in 2-G picked up on my Shepherd obsession - probably saw me writing Flick Lives! on a blackboard and introduced me to his fellow band member Tom Burns.  Later Tom Burns would add John Sabini to our Unclique. We had a lot of adventures outside the school and by the time we were juniors would also drink a bit too much together.

Back To The Military

Having Dave Gallagher two years ahead of me clued me into a few things.  One of the things he told me about was a special unit, that Freshmen were not eligible for that his friend Mike Lawson was in.  The Regimental Supply Corps.  The special units which made up the Third Battalion generally required something special.  The band required musical talent. The color guard and the precision drill team the X-Squad required superior military appearance.  The X-Squad further required a degree of insanity in my mind as people tossed around M-1s with fixed bayonets.

I don't want you to think that just anybody could get into the Regimental Supply Corps.  First of all, you had to have heard about it. It was not really all that visible.  And you had to pass a test.  And I passed.  I stood there in the arms room with outstretched arms while Dave's friend, Mike Lawson, now the commander of the Supply Corps (which also meant he was a Regimental Staff Officer - S-4) laid ten M-1s on my arms.  An unloaded M-1 weighs about 10 pounds.

I don't know what else attracted me to it, but the big incentive was that the Supply Corps did not march.  On review and parade days we showed up early and stayed late loading and unloading a truck on loan from the Army with band instruments and drill team rifles. We took turns staffing the arms room issuing drill weapons to the X-Squad and doing an inventory of everything even though most things never left the arms room.  Tom and Mike mercilessly mocked the Supply Corps, but I defended it fiercely.

The Supply Corps had zero overlap with the rest of my Xavier life.  I did not run into other Supply Corps guys in AP and honors classes.  They did not play chess.  The military model was something of a cross between Sgt Bilko and Hogan's Heroes.  We got a patch (crossed M14s, a rather odd choice, a weapon just gone obsolete, but never to be venerable) and could wear a Kelly Green cord on our left shoulders.  One of the few sartorial choices you had at Xavier was wearing a special unit cord on your left shoulder or an honor cord on your right shoulder (You could not wear both).  It was very rare for a member of the Supply Corps to be faced with that dilemma.  I always chose my unit over my academic standing.

We had two domains that were ideal for adolescents - windowless rooms with only one way out or in.  The arms room at the end of the long corridor from the 16th St entrance, which was something of a boy wonder room.  It is just a slight exaggeration to say that it could have outfitted the heavy weapons platoon of a WW II rife company a mortar, a bazooka, lots of M-1s, some M-1 carbines, BARs and M1911 .45s which were still the issue sidearm of the military,

The supply room where all the Army issue uniforms were.  Less interesting stuff but more room for goofing around.  The real joy of being part of the Supply Corps was its leadership, which finally brings us to one of the sergeants.

The Bodhisattva In The Basement

The supply room was the domain of Sergeant First Class McGowan.  As a matter of fact one of the nicknames for the Supply Corps was McGowan's Maggots. Unlike the other sergeants he did not teach and did not wear a uniform.  He exerted a calm benevolent influence tolerating a bit of mischief but never letting things get out of hand.  I wish I had could give you anecdotes but it was something ineffable.  We loved the guy.  Being in the Supply Corps was like having an extra uncle thanks to Sergeant McGowan.

You'll Shoot Your Foot Off

The main thing that made for more of a military school beginning as Sophomores was Military Science, a regular subject incorporated in our academic program.  As Sophomores and Juniors that is where we got to know the rest of the sergeants. For whatever it is worth one of my classmates, who was a career Army officer, wrote here that the instruction was of very high quality.  That was my own impression also without any real life experience to back it up.  As Xavier teachers the Sergeants were above average, which on reflection is not that surprising, given that the Army, whatever else it might be, is something of a learning organization and that it is likely that a focus in their careers had been teaching young men not much older than us.

Unlike other subjects where there would be one instructor for the year - Mr. Hands SJ for Greek, Mr. Moroney for English, etc - Military Science was divided into "blocks of instruction.  Now I imagine in Air Force JROTC they could spend lots of time on aerospace science and in Navy JROTC you could have lots on navigation and why ships float.  But this was Army with an infantry focus so after some tame Boy Scout stuff on uniforms and first aid and map reading, there was some hardcore stuff, although it is important to note that with one exception it was all classroom instruction.

Sophomore year we mostly had Staff Sergeant Daley.  There were a couple of memorable moments. One was a story he told us about the dangers of blank ammunition, with which you could actually shoot yourself in the foot.  That particular lecture about the various types of rifle ammunition was particularly rich in Sergeant Daleyisms.  Another special type of round is that one that is used when a grenade launcher is attached to the rifle. If regular ammo is used by mistake the result is "Grenadier here, grenadier there, grenadier all over the place".  Then the most disturbing one was when he speculated that a possible use for incendiary rounds might be a thatched hut in which you suspect there might be enemy soldiers.  This sent Dave Posteraro, something of a sensitive kid over the top at the thought of burning down people's homes on suspicion.

We also had Sergeant Daley for the block of instruction on marksmanship in the basement rifle range with .22s fired at paper targets from the prone position (just like Boy Scouts). Sergeant Daley looked through a scope and corrected our aim.  We learned from him that in the Army, "cunt hair" is a unit of measure.

The Black Irish

So we have had McGowan and Daley, so you might think that McMillen and Carney would then allow for an Irish quarter, but not so much.  Sergeant First Class McMillen and Sergeant Major Carney were African-American.  When I think of a soldierly soldier, I think of SGM Carney, who had a pretty long career at Xavier, heading up the program once it became optional and did not rate an active duty officer anymore.  He was the one who made the "Black Irish" joke.

I could get into a rather complicated discussion of race, class and ethnicity, but I will save that for another post. Having a couple of impressive black men in authority over us could not have been such a bad thing.

There was this sometimes funny interaction between these kids who were being pushed in a liberal arts direction and the Sergeants, One class had a running gag on Sergeant McMilllen, somehow having convinced him that there was an extra kid in the class that never showed up.  One time when there was an exam in the Weapons block of instruction, somebody put the answers on the board thinly disguised as mathematical formulae.

Sergeant McMillen was from the deep South and we sometimes had trouble understanding him.  One time he was telling us a story about somebody who was a phony putting on a "facade".  He pronounced it "fak-a-dee" and it took us forever to figure out what he meant.

Any temptation to mock Sergeant McMillen was gone from me after one of our reviews.  As was the fate of the Supply Corps, I was involved in "policing up".  Sergeant McMillen had an errand for me of some sort and he said "You see that truck at 75 meters".  I looked at the truck and back at Sergeant McMillen with the Combat Infantryman's badge on his chest and something told me that if I were capable of pacing it off that truck would be within a couple of percentage points of 75 meters. There are at least two kinds of education.

Was That The Bell?

Master Sergeant Dower did not make quite as much an impression and more serves as an illustration of how mean teenagers can be.  Sergeant Dower I had heard was a highly expert marksman.  I think it was from him that we learned that the transition from the 1903 Springfield to the M-1 was not a total gain.  At any rate, all that time on the rifle range had not been good for his hearing.  What created the opportunity for mischief was that the clock in the military science class room was not on the central system but had a nob on the bottom.

When we came into the classroom, one of the kids would push the clock ahead a bit.  Then a few minutes before class was to end, somebody would signal to Sergeant Dower that the bell had rung. He would look at the clock and dismiss us.  It was pretty pointless as an extra few minutes of milling in the corridor was of no great moment, but you had to admire the evil genius behind it.

The Movies

As part of the block of instruction on squad tactics, we got to watch two movies - The Squad in Attack and The Squad in Defense.  Things were a bit nip and tuck in the Squad in Attack with one of the fire team leaders getting wounded but the generic enemy soldiers, vaguely German, were handily defeated.  The Squad in Defense was even more interesting.  You could tell that the enemy had seen "The Squad in Attack" as one fire team laid down covering fire as the other advanced in leap frog fashion, but when it came to what we had waiting for them - Holy Shit!.  If they had half the stuff blowing up and booby traps and what not that we had ready for them, the Squad in Attack would have not had had such a happy ending.

The Coming Storm

Through Sophomore and Junior year, Military Science did not seem to have much to do with what was happening in the world.  More like watching Combat only with more detail and a little hands on as we learned how to strip down the even then already obsolete M-1.

There was one incident in late 1967, that none of us would know anything about for a very long time, but it perhaps perfectly symbolizes the final chapter in the perfect correspondence between the Jesuits and the military. The "man for others" that the Jesuits hoped for and the officer who put the "mission and the men" over his own personal interest.

In 1967, for the first time, over 10,000 American s would die in Vietnam.  Among them was one Donald Cook Class of 1952.  Medal of Honor citations are marvelous pieces of prose summing up the essence of "above and beyond".  More often than not the events described take place over the course of hours, not so that of Donald Cook.

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while interned as a Prisoner of War by the Viet Cong in the Republic of Vietnam during the period 31 December 1964 to 8 December 1967. Despite the fact that by so doing he would bring about harsher treatment for himself, Colonel (then Captain) Cook established himself as the senior prisoner, even though in actuality he was not. Repeatedly assuming more than his share of responsibility for their health, Colonel Cook willingly and unselfishly put the interests of his comrades before that of his own well-being and, eventually, his life. Giving more needy men his medicine and drug allowance while constantly nursing them, he risked infection from contagious diseases while in a rapidly deteriorating state of health. This unselfish and exemplary conduct, coupled with his refusal to stray even the slightest from the Code of Conduct, earned him the deepest respect from not only his fellow prisoners, but his captors as well. Rather than negotiate for his own release or better treatment, he steadfastly frustrated attempts by the Viet Cong to break his indomitable spirit and passed this same resolve on to the men whose well-being he so closely associated himself. Knowing his refusals would prevent his release prior to the end of the war, and also knowing his chances for prolonged survival would be small in the event of continued refusal, he chose nevertheless to adhere to a Code of Conduct far above that which could be expected. His personal valor and exceptional spirit of loyalty in the face of almost certain death reflected the highest credit upon Colonel Cook, the Marine Corps, and the United States Naval Service.

Scalia, of course, mentioned Cook in his speech to the Regiment and was his contemporary at Xavier.  In the movie, which I hope will be made some day, one of the scenes will be Thanksgiving Day 1951, with the future Marine out on the field giving his all in the game with Fordham Prep while the future Supreme Court justice helps play a rousing version of the school song.  I'm thinking that Sergeant Major Carney, played by Morgan Freeman of course, would make an ideal narrator.

There are some that will view what was coming as a moral decline from the past, but I think there was a lot of idealism going on in what was coming.  1968 would be worse than 1967 on the ground in Vietnam and the antiwar movement would move from the fringe to the center as all the Sons of Xavier kept marching onto what remained to be seen,

Peter J Reilly CPA hopes to finish this story soon as it is pulling him away from tax blogging, but it will take as long as it takes.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Becoming Part Of The Regiment - 1970 - The Xavier Class Lamented By Antonin Scalia - Part I

But as you know, the tradtion of Xavier as a thoroughly military academy did not survive the antimilitary sentiment of the Vietnam War. I lamented when the school announced that the the Regiment would no longer be compulsory, and I continue to think that was a mistake.

Antonin Scalia (Class of 1953) - Speech to the JROTC Regiment at Xavier High School - May 17. 2011

Scalia At Gettysburg

What ever you might think of the late Justice Antonin Scalia, I have to tell you the guy could give a good speech.  I saw him at the Sesquicentennial of the Gettysburg address in November of 2013, when as part of the ceremonies he swore in sixteen new citzens.  In his speech he mentioned that his father was an immigrant and that his grandmother wanted him to grow up to be President. I thought it odd that he had to mention about the only thing the new citizens would not be eligible for, but nobody seemed to mind.  There was a standing ovation, but, to be fair, it was probably more intended for our new fellow Americans, who had just abjured all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign princes or potentates, than for the Justice.

Scalia Addressing The Regiment

There is another Scalia speech that is even more interesting, to me anyway.  In 2011 he spoke to the JROTC Regiment of Xavier High School - his regiment and mine.  Rather humorously, he led off by recalling his cadet rank - lieutenant colonel, which he took some pride in since his postion in command of the band usually only called for the rank of major.  For whatever it is worth, there was a round of bonus promtions, in my year that caused many seniors to go one rank over what their postion called for and others like me to catch up.

Some Interesting History

One of the things that Scalia alludes to is some history that people now and even back in my day were only dimly aware of.  Referring to the period in the 1890s when particpation in the school's military program became mandatory:
I have no doubt those first Xavier cadets played a small but important role in reinforcing public perception of Catholic loyalty and civic virtue.
Growing up in the metro New York area it was easy to miss that you were living in a Protestant country. Before the 20th century,  Americans fought a war of Independence and something of a redo of that in 1812 and a Civil War of mindblowing magnitude and for centruries contended with the indigenous peoples, but whenever they fought actual foreign countries they were Catholic countries - France, Mexico and Spain.  During the Mexican War, Catholic soldiers for a variety of reasons deserted to the Mexican side and formed the Battalion de San Patricio, still remembered as heroes in Mexico and Ireland.  In the United States not so much.

The special American history books we had in parochial grammar school did not include  much of that history.  We were told about the disproportionate number of Catholics who had died fighting in America's wars and were somehow given the impression that iconic figures like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln would have been Catholics, if they had just had better educations.

I was more interested in history than most kids and I cound not help but notice that the pre-1776 version of history in our textbooks flew in the face of the common culture, which is something of a Protestant myth. We learned that the Spanish and French, while sometimes mean to the indigenous peoples, were not nealy as mean as the English and that Bloody Mary was much nicer than Good Queen Bess.  Things like the San Patricios and 19th century convent burning were left out.

So the marvelous collaboration between the Society of Jesus and the United States Army in the forming of young Catholic gentlmen that was embodied in the Xavier High School Regiment seemed perfectly consistent.

Joining The Regiment

At least that was the way it looked in September 1966.  The highest rated pop song in 1966 was the Ballad of the Green Berets. By the end of the year, there would be 385,000 American troops in Vietnam. By September enough Americans would have died in Vietnam to fill 10 of the 70 panels on the East Wall of the monument in Washington and I put on my uniform for the first time.

It is very important to note that the school was much more Jesuit than it was military. Operationally, it was probably not that different from St. Peter's Prep, Brooklyn Prep or Fordham Prep.  The big difference from Regis, which Scalia and I both applied to and did not make, was that they were a lot smarter than we were. One of the really magical things about that period was that the most elite high school any of us knew about charged no tuition.

The Xavier tuition at $400 was not insubstantial and then you throw in about $200 for the uniforms and I forget how much for books. They were a real hardship for my mother, but she believed that the "male influence" would be good for me.  My father had died a year before and my brother home after five years of chasing Russian submarines and rescuing astronauts was doing a creditable job, but he would move out before long.  I had formed the notion of going to Xavier from my friend on the block Dave Gallagher, two years ahead of me.  His father, Mr. Gallagher, was very active in the parish and had been my counsellor for the Ad Altare Dei award from the Boy Scouts, which I never quite finished.  Mr. Gallagher had also gone to Xavier.

Start Marching

Freshmen were oriented for a day or two, before school started.  Seniors, who would soon be cadet officers, taught us to stand at atttention and march and about placing brass and gig lines.  Father Dineen, a counsellor type, told us we should realize that those young men were new to authority and should not be too upset by them - a notion lost on my 14 year old mind.

The structure and order of the school was Jesuit and embodied in Father Heavey, the Prefect of Discipline, who struck terror in my heart.  His memory still does. My friend JerrySnee, a year behind me at Xavier, had more exposure to Father Heavey.  Jerry had the peculiar postion of Junior Provost Marsahll, which I won't even try to explain. I told him how even looking back on it, I have trouble, at a gut level, thinking of Father Heavey as just having a job to do.  He indicated that Father Heavey did seem to relish it just a bit too much and that he was a big man who moved very quickly.  The story was that Father Heavey thought more highly of the kids that he had in his office to tune up and was contemptuous of the run of the mill types that he cowed by by his demeanor.

Regardless, the tight structure of the school had a very positive effect in that the teachers who cared to be were quite relaxed and could just coast on the institutional discipline and focus on teaching.

What It Was Like For The Privates

The military as far as freshmen was concered meant wearing the right uniform everyday.  Once a week a couple of cadet officers (all officers were seniors) came into the homeroom to inspect us.  And there was drill. Marching around the armory a few blocks from the school to prepare for a couple of reveiws and parades.  One of the reviews was on Thanksgiving morning as the football team played the big game against Fordham Prep.  It is the oldest high school football rivalry in New York City and having the whole student body out in uniform certainly added to the color.  Although, my friend Tom Burns, when the subject comes up, still bemoans having every family Thanksgiving ruined while he was in high school due to the excessive schlep.

Freshmen were not eligible for promotion.  The deal was that you could pick up two stripes as a sophomore and two more as a junior with the big bonanza of cadet rank coming at the beginning of senior year.  The system changed just a bit as few superior freshmen made PFC.  That rippled upward so that when I was a junior most of the guys I hung with were Sergeants First Class.

The other miltary flavored things were the hall monitors and detention to use more netural terms. Instead of detention we had "jug", a Jesuit high school term derived I read from "jugum" which meant yoke.  At Xavier it took a military turn involving marching around the quadrangle that spearated the two builidings or in inclement weather standing at attention on the seating stairs in the "old gym".  The "old builidng" faced 15th street and the "new building" (which really was pretty new then) faced 16th street as did the church next door, which also served as a parish church.

Hall monitoring was done by "MP"s.  Due to limits in the facilities only half the school could be at lunch or recess at a time.  So it was either Freshmen and Juniors or Sophomores and Seniors, with MPs drawn from the older class and required, I think, to serve one week in three.  Up till my junior year it was an extra random duty assigned to students, as was running jug.  MPs became a special unit when I was a senior, an inherently flawed idea, but more on that later.

Military Memories

At any rate I only have two military memories from my Freshman year.  The one concerns drill.  My memories of drill at the armory are so vague that I cannot even tell you what company I was in or who my company commander or platoon leader were.  I think I was likely in the third or fourth squad of my platoon, possibly due to my height (I was already six feet tall).

What I remember distinctly was an officer who was Asian, pretty uncommon at Xavier, and the seniors who were in the ranks with me who mocked him, in a racist manner.  I remember walking with those seniors and their telling me how the colonel was actually an all right guy and they had gone out with him and even gotten laid (which was a very shocking concept to me).

My interaction with those seniors is indicative perhaps of a flaw in the system that is perhaps not that uncommon.  These guys stood in the ranks with me, because they were, like me, privates.  Their class could not have been very different from mine in regard to the rank compostion of the senior class, which in a particularly inane project I recently analyzed.  In my senior class there were over 220 kids.  The most common rank was first lieutenant. The average rank was a hair below master sergeant.  There were 17 privates - less than 10% of the class.  And those were the seniors along with 28 PFCs who stood in the ranks with the freshmen privates and probably had more influence on them than the cadet officers.  The other thing you need to remember is that the school was in New York City and the kids were not counrty bumpkins, but New Yorkers - bunch of cynical bastards in a goodly percentage, regardless of having been the brightest boys in parochial grammar schools.


At any rate, my only other freshman military memory is the first time I ever got jug.  It was for being late.  Captain X (the Asian guy) was running jug and he terrified me almost as much as Father Heavey. I think Father Heavey might have showed up too, as it was early in the year. He  had us marching around in the quadrangle.  Father Dineen, the counsellor type, pulled me out and sent me on an errand of some sort.  I was very grateful.

The Faculty

Our teachers were a mixture of Jesuit priests, career lay Catholic high school teachers, young guys who hadn't quite gotten whatever would be the career going and Jesuit scholastics, who were, I think, about half way on their way to becoming Jesuit priests.  Since scholastis, like lay teachers, were addressed as Mister, I'll throw an SJ after their name for clarity.  As Freshmen, we were not exposed to the military science faculty.  There was one active duty officer, the Senior Army Instructor, one or two active duty sergeants and a few retired sergeants.  The latter were the most colorful membersof the faculty with the exception of Father Hareiss, but that is another story entirely.

As fresmen, we did not have military science classes and when not in the gray "summer" uniform wore the schools blue uniform everyday.  Upperclassmen had another uniform issued by the Army that was worn on certain days of the week.  The latter looked enough like an Army uniform that I have this memory of being on the Orange and Black bus one day and having a lady aske me if I was "going back".  I was seventeen.  I could see how it was plausible. Freshmen were part of the Regiment, but not formally enrolled in Junior ROTC therefore not wearing the Army uniform that might cause the uninformed to think they were soldiers - that and them being 14 and all.

The Gold Honor Cord

At any rate, I did well academically.  Our home room teacher in 1-E, Mr. Lux SJ taught us Latin and I got on with him pretty well.  Some kids had a real problem with him. Eddie Kulesza, who lived in Cliffside Park, right next to Fairview, hated the particular day of the week where we did not have Mr. Lux in first period, because it extended the stress through recess.  The mutual fondness that Mr. Lux and I had for one another may have had an unfortunate effect on my future acadmic career but that is a later story.

The "military" implication of my doing well academically was that after the first marking period, the gold cord of first honors became a fixture on my right shoulder.  I have to admit I thought it was kind of cool.

Rumors Of Anti-War

I also don't remember if there was much in the way of anti-war sentiment seeping into my consciousness as 1966 unfolded into 1967,  When I look at a timeline of anti-war activity, the event from the spring of 1967 that I can remember making an impression at the time was Martin Luther King coming out against the war and perhaps there is some of the essence of what made the coming years difficult.

In every conflict, I wanted there to be good guys and bad guys.  I can remember as a kid asking my father and a friend of his how Robert E Lee could be considered a hero.  I don't think the fellows had a really good answer for the budding neo-abolitionist in their midst, but it fed the confusion I experienced when I read in the parochial school history books that the Spanish were the good guys and the English the bad guys and compared that to the TV version of Francis Drake.

In the Civil Rights movement Martin Luther King was the good guys.  I had imbibed a fairly naive unsophisticated anti-racism from my parents and Father McTague, the saint-like curate in our parish that went on to become moderately famous.  So how could Martin Luther King be against the Americans in Vietnam, who were clearly the good guys?  I think at the time I just left it as a confusing detail like Robert E Lee, chief bad guy in the Civil War, somehow being a hero.

It did not take long to get weary of the trouble of dealing with the uniform and it is definitely more fun to watch marching than to, you know, actually march.  So it was clear by the end of Freshman year that I would never be super military, but the unity of values between the Army and the Jesuits remained undisturbed.  And that may well be where to end this part of the story, which will be continued.

Peter J. Reilly CPA hoped to be an historian, but public accounting has been good to him.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Gay Marriage Constitutional Crisis?

There is a little bit of confusion about what Alabama is up to in its response to Obergefell v Hodges, the US Supreme Court decision that affirms the right of people of the same sex to marry.  According to Liberty Counsel, the Alabama Supreme Court did reject the US Supreme court decsion.  Other sources indicate the opposite.  I tried to sort to get my legal brain trust to sort it out.  Professor Samuel Brunson wrote me
Basically, this appears to be a procedural decision, dismissing requested clarification as moot. The various concurring opinions seem largely directed at knocking down CJ Moore’s attempt to declare, somehow, that Obergefell was unconstitutional (which is an amusing, if a bit terrifying, read).
Professor Adam Chodorow on the other hand wrote me
The only thing I can come up with is that they take the position that the SCT has not ruled directly on AL law. It is a specious argument. Otherwise, I think you are right that they are refusing to follow the Constitution, as construed by the SCT. That would be a constitutional crisis. That said, the lack of attention to this suggests there may be something out there that we’re missing.
Or perhaps the government is approaching this like they did the Oregon wildlife crisis. They avoid a direct confrontation up front but work to get to the right result.
So we will get to see in the coming months whether we are going to have a constituional crisis over gay marriage.

Also I will now add to my list of jobs that I am glad I do not have (e.g. emergency room physician, company commander, roofer) probate judge in Alabama, since I would then have to actually figure this out.
Peter J Reilly CPA hopes to be the first tax blogger to give up his day job. He hoped to work this into a tax post on, but could not make it fit.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Reenactor Argues That Confederate Battle Flag Was Always A Symbol Of Hate

I met  Michael Schaffner (center in picture above) at the absolutely final Civil War Sesquicentennial event - The Grand Review in Harrisburg in November.  Black troops had been excluded from the original Grand Review in Washington in May 1865 (although not from its sesquicentennial which was sponsored by the African American Civil War Museum). So the City of Harrisburg had a grand review for them.

 Michael has done a lot of Civil War reenacting over the years.  His current gig though with Company B of the 54th Mass seems to have inspired a great passion for telling the story of African American troops in the Civil War.  He also seems to have a thing for poking fun at neo-confederates, like this recent facebook post
On this day in 1861 the Confederate government adopted a constitution virtually identical to that of the republic it rebelled against, the principal differences being a six year presidential term, a line item veto, and an absolute prohibition of any law limiting slave ownership. Over the next four years an estimated 7-800,000 Americans will die over the line item veto.
 Recently he posted a statement he made in opposition to a resolution by a reenactors umbrella group on the display of the Confederate battle flag and preservation of Confederate monuments.  He gave me permission to reproduce it.  Here it is.

 Statement on the USV’s Proposed Confederate Flag Resolution

Good morning.  My name is Michael Schaffner, I'm a member of the Brady Sharp Shooters in the USV's Sharpshooter Battalion.  In the interests of full disclosure, I should mention that I'm also a dues paying member of the United States Colored Troops Living History Association, an officer with Company B, 54th Massachusetts, and I volunteer at the African American Civil War Museum.
I joined the USV to reenact, not to discuss modern politics.  But if you want to go there, I'll have my say, and when it comes to the rebel flag so will the USCT.

When the best thing we can say about a flag is that it flew over brave men fighting for a cause that U. S. Grant called "one of the worst for which a people ever fought, and one for which there was the least excuse," we really haven't got much to say for it.

The CBF may be an important piece of our history, but not in any good way.  It has a place in reenactments and museums but its use outside of those venues has been, for many of our fellow citizens, corrupted by racism.  And frankly, I care more about their real suffering than I do about those who are offended that the CBF is no longer accepted in polite society.  

I also don't oppose the removal of monuments or markers where the local citizenry consider it appropriate.  For instance, in New Orleans, the city council voted to remove statues of Lee, Davis, and Beauregard.  Some people say that's censoring history.  But if that were true we'd be talking about monuments for Farragut, Butler, and the Louisiana Native Guards.  Those three rebels never were in the city during the war, and New Orleans was "Confederate" for less than a year.  Those statues aren't civil war history -- they're Jim Crow propaganda from years later.  Is that what we want to support?  

Last year the South Carolina legislature voted to take down the CBF at the capitol.  That flag wasn't civil war -- it was raised in 1960 during the civil rights era.  Should the USV have stood with the South Carolina legislators of 1860 and 1960 against the ones of 2015?  Do you realize how ridiculous that would look?  Because what they did last year wasn't "politically correct" -- it was just correct.  I know some of us are getting on in years, but do we want this organization to grow and thrive, or stay stuck in the last century?  

That's not to say that all Confederate monuments should come down, only that not all the existing memorials are sacred or even especially historical.  If people in those parts want to change them, let them.  That's the point in question across the country -- where is it proper and appropriate to fly the banner of the slaveholders' rebellion, and who decides?  What business is it of the USV's?  

I'm also struck by the resolution's reference to Confederate veterans as U.S. veterans.  Not only is that not quite true, it presents its own counter argument.  If they are "U.S." veterans, then the only proper decoration for their graves is Old Glory, and the CBF has no place in the matter.  

But the greatest fiction in the resolution is the assumption that there was some golden era in which the CBF was not a "symbol of hate."  It was always a symbol of hate and racism.  The whole point of the rebellion was to perpetuate the enslavement of African Americans.    

On May 1, 1863, the Confederate congress adopted the same flag on a white background as the Second National flag.  Its designer, William Thompson, and people throughout the Confederacy hailed it as "the White Man's Flag."  It didn't take the KKK to make it racist.  It was racist from the start.  

I'm sure that if Thompson were here today he wouldn't like what I say about his flag.  But he'd be aghast to hear its defenders claim it wasn't about race.  Of course it was about race.  They were proud of it.  

On that same date, knowing that the federal government had at last allowed African Americans to enlist in the United States Army, the Confederate Congress passed the Retaliatory Act.  That law called for the enslavement of black POWs and the trial and execution of their white officers for "inciting servile insurrection."  The trials were to be conducted by officers of the troops taking such prisoners -- that is, under the flag on which the resolution confers blamelessness.   

The shortest volume in the history of the civil war is the story of black POWs.  That's why exchanges were suspended.  Thousands of United States soldiers were killed outright or disappeared after capture.  Few were "lucky" enough to reach Andersonville.  At the Crater the Fourth Division of the Ninth Corps counted some 800 men as missing in action.  The Confederate provost counted 216 as prisoners.    

I'll repeat a few key words -- United States soldiers.  Enslaved.  Executed.  Under that flag.  The KKK didn't make it racist; it already was.  

I don't want to be part of an organization that glosses that over.  And it doesn't matter to me whether it's from ignorance or actual malice.  

Many of you know me; I've reenacted both sides at several ranks.   In fact, some of my best times in the hobby have been in gray.  For seven or eight years running I served as the Confederate chief of staff at Neshaminy.  Twice I've made the A. P. Hill March from Harper's Ferry to Sharpsburg -- 18 miles, a quarter mile of that up to my ass in the Potomac praying I wouldn't drop my Springfield in the middle of Pack Horse Ford.  I spent six days with a wagon train reenacting Kirby Smith's invasion of Kentucky -- let me tell you, you haven't lived till you discover you have chiggers three days into a six day event.  

I have tremendous respect for the Confederate soldier.  But let's not kid ourselves -- the cause for which he fought was despicable, and this whole issue isn't about him anyway.  It's about a reenacting organization taking sides in a contemporary political issue that we have no business messing with.   

I believe the proposed resolution would do no good for the public image of the USV or reenacting generally. It would also, I believe, prove enabling to neo-Confederates in the ranks of rebel reenactors and dismaying to those who, while wearing gray, nonetheless know what that war was really all about. There are more than a few, and they don't need this. As for the others, I think we should respectfully decline their gracious invitation to join them as they stand, once more, on the wrong side of history. Thank you for hearing me out. Remember Fort Pillow.

Text of proposed resolution follows.] Resolution of the United States Volunteers (USV) Regarding the Display and Use of the ANV's Battle Flag August 28, 2015 WHEREAS, the United States Volunteers (USV), as historical reenactors, Civil War historians, educators and volunteers at numerous national, state and local historic sites, condemn the designation or use of the Army of Northern Virginia's (ANV) Battle Flag or the flag of the United States as a symbol for any and all hate groups; and WHEREAS, the square and white bordered ANV Regimental Battle Flags were presented to the Army of Northern Virginia, under Gen. Robert E. Lee, in camp at Manassas, Va. on November 28, 1861, while other Confederate armies - independent of the national colors of the Confederacy - developed other important historical Regimental battle flags, and WHEREAS, we, support the proper flying of the ANV Battle Flag, in its proper context as an important historical piece of military and this nation's history; and WHEREAS, we oppose the removal of the ANV Battle Flag from and the removal of any Confederate military monuments or markers and/or the abandonment of any honors to those gallant soldiers of the former Confederate States, and WHEREAS, we recognize that the ANV Battle Flag serves as a reminder of this nation's bloodiest war. Without a full and proper understanding of the many causes and actions that led to the Civil War, the ANV Battle Flag and the men who fought under it will forever be inappropriately maligned and compared; and WHEREAS, the descendants of Union soldiers and sailors and Confederate soldiers and sailors met in joint reunions in bonds of Fraternal Friendship, designated as American veterans. THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that we, adopt this resolution: The United States Volunteers (USV), supports the historical ANV's Battle Flag and will oppose and will not support those who act to usurp that flag as a symbol of hate.

I appreciate Michael's passion and I may be slowly coming around on this. For another view of the subject, check this out.

Peter J. Reilly hopes to be the first tax blogger to give up his day job. Guest posts are a key part of his strategy.