Monday, 29th May 2023 - 17:12:02 pm

Steve Kincaid had been raised by a maiden aunt in California after his parents had been killed in an auto accident when he was an infant. It was not the choice of the aunt, she was the last resort. There was no one else.

Steve was a very quiet child but his aunt was terrified of him anyway. She was terrified of all boys. In all their years they lived together she never quite lost her fear of him. All Steve wanted to do was to please her so that she would like him, but it was never to be. They lived at arms length from one another.

Though only of average size, he was an outstanding athlete. He had been blessed with, or had learned, a freedom of movement which, combined with quickness, made all sports easy. When hitting in baseball, he learned not to swing hard but to swing freely, to fling the bat. When running in football, he learned to run loosely making it easier to evade tacklers and avoid injury. It was the same in boxing. A free swing was far more effective than a hard swing.

Steve knew he was a financial burden on his aunt. She lived on a small pension. If she hadn't owned her house she couldn't have supported the two of them. He vowed early on to help out as soon as possible.

The day he was old enough he talked to an Army recruiter. He found that, if he enlisted, his aunt would qualify as a dependent. The Army would send her a monthly allotment to which he could add from his pay. He enlisted.

Steve Kincaid found a lot of things to like about Army basic training. The thing he liked most was the kaleidoscope effect it had on everyone's life. Everything was changed and nothing that had gone on before seemed to matter. Everyone could start over and try to be a different person if they wished. He knew that few would take advantage of the opportunity but he liked the idea of the opportunity being there.

He decided to keep his mouth shut and learn as much as he could. That was not much different from his former life.

His fellow recruits came from all over the country. They quickly sorted themselves out and formed into their little groups. Kincaid stayed separate. He spoke only when spoken to and then reluctantly.

This behavior had a remarkable effect on the others. They started treating him with a great deal of respect. Many came to him for advice, not only on Army matters but on personal matters as well. They seemed to believe that his silence indicated that he possessed some degree of wisdom.

There were many fights among the members of Kincaid's platoon in the first three weeks of training. The fights were encouraged by Sergeant Walker, their drill sergeant, because he and his fellow instructors enjoyed watching them. They were staged, after the evening meal, in a ring permanently set up in the company area.

Any disagreements among members of the platoon that occurred within the sight or hearing of the drill sergeant were escalated into a confrontation with gloves on in the ring.

"What's the matter, boy?" Sergeant Walker would drawl in his Southern accent. "You scared? If you don't feel you're man enough to step in the ring with this here boy, now you say so right now. You hear? This here boy, he ain't scared. Are you, boy? You see there? He ain't scared of you. Now are you going to be the one to chicken out of this?"

It seldom took that much agitating to get the two into the ring.

The company officers approved of the staged fights whole heartedly.

"Keeps them lean and mean," one was heard to say.

"Good for the morale," said another.

"They're here to learn how to fight," a third said. "By God, in this company, they'll learn how to fight."

The officers also enjoyed watching the fights. They often invited friends from other units.

There were eight training platoons in the company so there was never a shortage of fights. Kincaid's drill sergeant provided more matches than any other platoon leader. That all ended after the third week of basic training.

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