In May of 1976 I was a tank commander in the 4th Brigade, 4th Infantry Division. We were just about to begin two months of training before 4,000 soldiers with 54 tanks, dozens of howitzers and hundreds of tracked and wheeled vehicles would transfer as a unit to Wiesbaden, Germany.
I have never felt older than I did that year. It was not because I was going to Germany. I read an article in the Army Times that month that said the 80th percentile age in the Army was 23 years old.
Wow!! That meant I was older than 80% of the Army. I could see it all around me. My own crew: Mercury Morris (He was Merc, I don't remember his real first name), Eugene Pierce and Richard Burhans were all younger than I was. And that was the oldest active duty crew I ever had. They were all in there 20s. Before we left for Germany, each of them was promoted or discharged and I got a new crew. All of those graying 20-year-olds replaced by 17-to-19-year-olds.
Losing my first crew and realizing I was in the oldest 20% of the Army really made me feel old at the time. I told my daughter Lisa that story last week when she celebrated her 23rd birthday. I may have told Lauren the same story, but I can't remember.
Now that I am actually old, starting my seventh decade, I still don't feel quite as old as that sergeant at Fort Carson did in 1976. I know when I was that age I was sure I would never live this long. And if I had thought about it, I would have hoped to be a higher rank if I was still in the Army.
That didn't work out!!