Monday, May 28, 2012

Catch 22 and Living in Pennsylvania

This post is a week late.  Most people don't live in the state where they grew up, so the fact that I have lived in PA for more than three decades after growing up in MA is not a big deal.  But how I came to be a PA resident is straight out of Catch-22.  That wonderful, dark book has many messages, but among them is:  In the Army (government) Paperwork is reality, Reality ranks below paperwork.

So if there is a conflict between paperwork and reality, reality loses.

Several years ago, I wrote about the scientist in charge of the Soviet nerve gas program.  This long-suffering man was drafted into the Soviet Army in 1941 to repel the German invasion.  He was Lithuanian.  When the Soviets took over his country, they took his families home and looted it.  Yet he fought for the Soviets.  Bravely.  He was twice gravely wounded, once left for dead.  He was decorated many times.

After the war he went to Moscow to get soldiers preference admission to college.

He was denied.

Why?  the paperwork indicated he died in 1943 in the Battle of Kursk.  He was left for dead, but was quite alive and standing in front of the Soviet official.  It took months to prove he was alive.  Eventually he did.

When I re-enlisted in the Army a year after I left the Air Force, I signed up in Lancaster PA.  I was talking college classes, but not a resident.  I compared the offers of recruiters in Lancaster and Boston and went with the one Lancaster.  I signed the enlistment giving my address as PO Box 334 Brownstown PA.

Four years later I was in Germany and getting ready to get out and go to college.  I was planning on going back to MA when I was told I was not a resident of MA.  I lived in Stoneham MA from birth to my first enlistment.  My parents were still living in the house they bought in Stoneham in 1957.

Didn't matter.  My DD Form 4 (enlistment) said I was a resident of Brownstown and my stuff would get shipped no further.

But it turned out that DD Form 4 meant I was legally a PA resident.  I could attend Penn State at resident rates!  I applied and got in.

I became a PA resident the moment I signed that DD Form 4, no matter where my family lived.

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