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Single in the Military? Your Life Matters Less. June 12, 2021

Posted by Onely in As If!.
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Although this story of singlism in the U.S. military is from the 1970s, the problem is just as pervasive today. I wrote previously about my relative whose tour was extended because she didn’t have a spouse and kids stateside. Now I’m writing about another relative, who told me a story about his time as a young U.S. Army officer newly deployed to Laos during the Vietnam War. 


Don–male U.S. army officer and and our Onely hero

Jim–male US army officer and a friend and fellow trainee of Don’s. 

Pat–AKA Pat The Stick. Male U.S. Army veteran who fought with the Filipino resistance force during the Japanese occupation of the Philippines during WWII.  He earned his nickname by carrying a “swagger stick” and pounding it on his desk for emphasis during discussions with subordinate personnel. 



Pat’s office at Udorn Base in Thailand.


Jim and Don arrived at Pat’s office knowing only that Pat was the boss and he would assign them to one of several bases in Laos.  Prior to their arrival at Udorn, Jim and Don had heard that one of the bases, designated LS-98, was the least desirable to serve at, due to its remoteness and constant threat of communist North Vietnamese Army or Pathet Lao attacks.  


Pat: [insert generic greetings to D and Jim]

D and Jim: [return Pat’s generic greetings with some of their own]

Pat (casually): Which one of you guys is married?

Jim (raising hand): Me, sir. 

Don looks at Jim, surprised. Jim had never told him–or anyone else, as far as Don knew–that he was recently married.  

Pat (pointing his stick at Don):  Then you are going to 20 Alternate (LS-20A). 

Don is relieved not to be going to the dreaded LS-98 base. 

Pat (turning toward Jim): And you are going to Pakse (in southern Laos).  

Jim is also relieved not to be going to the dreaded LS-98 base. 



(several days later)

Don prepares to go to LS-20A. In the process, he discovers that LS-20A is the new name of the dreaded LS-98. Pat The Stick has sent Don to dangerous LS-98 because Don is unmarried. In The Stick’s eyes, Don is more able to take a risky posting because he has less to lose than Jim.


(years later)

Pat retires from the military. He marries a Thai princess and purchases several bars in Bangkok.  Because of course he does. 

Jim is killed in a terrorist attack. His wife dies in the same attack. 

Don, having evaded the NVA and PL, retires on cushy USG health benefits to his lakeside cabin in northern Michigan. He fulfills his lifetime dream of goin’ huntin’ and fishin’. His wife of 45 years lives with him. Too bad she didn’t come along just a smidge earlier, though, to save him from LS-98.


Photo by Koshu Kunii on Unsplash


1. Caroline - June 15, 2021

Another interesting post! And although this blatant singleism occurred over fifty years ago, it’s still rampant in the military (and elsewhere).

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