When I was stationed at Ft. Hood, Texas, it was a dark depressing time for me. If I were a painter it would have been my “black period,” for I would have painted the red door black time and again. On the advice of one of the sergeants, one of the Vietnam vets, I volunteered for service in Turkey. This sergeant constantly sang the praises of being stationed in Turkey and was on orders to return himself.
I arrived in Turkey in late February 1981. I was stationed on the Black Sea. Even though it is on the north coast of Turkey, the climate is much like the coastal Carolinas with hot summers and very mild winters.
In spite of the mildness, there was a lot of rain in the winter and a lot of fog. The short winter still got everyone down, mostly because of the constant rain and fog. It was like working in the commcenter of the living dead.
Things started to change in late March: we actually began seeing the sun from time to time. All of the little finches and bright green birds, whatever they were, started coming back from the south.
One Sunday morning (it just happened to be my day off that week) I was awakened by a loud banging on my room door. My roommate had PCS’ed, so I had to get up and open it. As I was rubbing the sleep out of my eyes, one of the guys was all excited and blurted out, “Kelly’s hiding the beers!”
He then ran off to the next door and started banging furiously on it too.
What? Kelly’s hiding the what? What beer?
SGT Kelly was an institution in Turkey. Turkey was a 12 month duty station at that time, but Kelly had found a way to stay there for three years. He was the stereotypical short Irish guy from the northeast. Inside the commcenter he was all business and no nonsense. Outside, and off duty, he was the life of party everywhere he went. He was also one of the guys that took great pains to make sure that the yennies [newby in Turkish] were included in whatever was going on.
I had sworn off drinking a while back as I had started to drink my entire paycheck while stationed at Ft. Hood, but I had to see what was happening outside.
I ran outside with everyone else, and there was Kelly, placing cans of Bud in bushes, behind rocks and in the culverts on each side of the road. One of the sergeants said that Kelly had been wearing pink rabbit ears ala Steve Martin, but one of the Navy girls had taken them and was wearing them now. I never did see her with them on, but my imagination painted a pretty picture.
In short order everyone came out of the barracks and gathered out front, waiting for the word from Kelly to begin the Easter Beer Hunt. Well, a few of the guys kind of jumped the gun, but it was all in good fun.
We ran around, crawling under the bushes, climbing trees and up onto the roofs, and literally searched every nook and cranny on the post, even the ruins of the ancient Greek tower.
As I had sworn of the sauce, I gave up the two cans that I found for the cause and someone handed me a Coke, which is still my drug of choice. Everyone found at least one can of beer. Kelly must have bought two cases to hide, but that number increased each time we told the story after he was transferred back to the states. Twenty years later, I’m pretty sure that the beer hunters are probably claiming that twenty cases had been hidden by Kelly.
A lot of scenes jump out my memory from that Sunday morning: Del Cano, the overweight tech who kept the literally 40 year old equipment running with duck tape and paper clips, who somehow found the most beers; his assistant, whose name escapes me now, the Pepsi addict, who actually proved to the world that he could drink a Bud without chasing it with his beloved Pepsi; Harry and “D,” the older NCOs that ran the commcenter laughing and having a good time as they drank their finds, quite out of character for them up until that moment. And all of the other guys and gals, the names all escape me, laughing and having a great time. And above all, everyone toasting Kelly, for being a genius.