Just a minute–i’m a ghost soldier?

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I’m trying to stay within the alphabet requirements here, and parts of this story are all tangled up because they all happened at the same time. So make sure you tune in K as well for the last part of story.

I’d just gotten a Red Cross message that said my mother was dying. A driver in a military truck came by our company and picked me up, and the war dropped away behind me as we drove the airport. I think it was in Riyadh, but I wasn’t processing much. This wasn’t supposed to happen!

Before I left, my mother had discovered breast cancer. She’d had the lump removed and then the rounds of chemo. She had been doing okay when I left and it looked like there weren’t any more problems. What had happened?

But she’d been in California, and I’d been stationed in Washington State, and then off to Saudi Arabia. My parents had kept quite a bit from me because I wasn’t actually present.

The Army flew me out of the country on a cargo jet, complete with the cargo netting seats. I shared the compartment with a giant jet engine being flown back. There wasn’t anyone else on the plane with me except that engine and the pilots.

I ended up in one of the Carolinas, and there I ran into the military bureaucracy. The ticket to Los Angeles cost $20 more than flying to the duty station in Washington State. Same coastline. So I would have to fly to Washington State and then buy another ticket to get down to Los Angeles?

Red Cross Message. Mother dying. What part of that do you not understand?

I said I’d pay for the extra $20. Nope. I finally ended up paying for the entire plane fare.

And it was a good thing I did, because I barely got there in time before my mother died. The cancer had gone into her lungs, and it was very fast.

The Army didn’t really tell me what to do after my emergency leave ended. I thought I was going back to Saudi Arabia, but they ended up sending me back to Fort Lewis. The war was over, so the Army didn’t want people coming back in-country.

Turned out it was a lucky thing because I didn’t get paid.

Remember those mobilization orders I got from the Reserves? I’d become what’s called a ghost soldier. This is a term I saw in the Washington Post when I was in the National Guard. What happens is that commanders of units have to keep up a certain percentage of readiness. If they can’t, they can get into trouble, and it can affect future career prospects. So sometimes they will lie.

When I was in the National Guard, we had soldiers who decided they didn’t like the military and stopped showing up for drill. They were AWOL, but the unit would keep them on the books as present to keep the numbers within the required margins. We did have some problems during Desert Storm because commanders had so lied about their readiness that their units actually could not deploy.

Evidently, the Army Reserve had not removed me from their rolls. Either it was the above issue, or sloppy paperwork keeping, which was also possible. So I was in the Army, and the Reserves had me on their bad list because I’d missed deployment by being deployed.

Yup. Military logic. Tune for the last part of this story tomorrow.

Next up will be “Keeping up with the services: Reserves, Army, Oh My!” so tune in, same military channel, same military time tomorrow.

9 thoughts on “Just a minute–i’m a ghost soldier?

  1. Archana (@yenforblue) April 11, 2014 / 6:56 am

    I am simply too stunned to say anything. My heart goes out to you. 😦 😦


  2. Sammy D. April 11, 2014 / 2:02 pm

    I am so sorry for your loss and the incredible incompetency of the Army adding to your distress. There is so much about governmental bureaucracy that doesn’t work because of the lack of an appropriate reward and accountability system. But it should NEVER affect the deployed troops or our wounded warriors. Simply not acceptable.


    • Linda Maye Adams, Soldier, Storyteller April 11, 2014 / 8:40 pm

      And it wasn’t just me that had problems. It was like no one was prepared for mass deployment. One soldier deployed and didn’t realize that the moment she left, her pay stopped. She wasn’t getting any mail, so she didn’t realize she was bouncing check after check …


  3. Pearl R. Meaker April 11, 2014 / 2:22 pm

    The term SNAFU comes to mind. Such mess-ups are bad enough as it is but become horrible when they collide with soldiers in need as you were.



      • Pearl R. Meaker April 13, 2014 / 11:24 am

        You’re right, and I think that is one of the things learned in the military that can be of great help when you return to civilian life – even when it’s Reservists or Guard and that return is most of the time. Knowing how to take the reins and take care of yourself is so important. Well, even being more aware of needing to rely on yourself I think is a big part of the lesson. I think many civilians don’t even recognize that we’re relying too much on the system until we’re in rather deep.


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