APRIL 16, 1955
NEW YORK—A few days ago my grandson, Curtis, who not long ago finished his basic training at Fort Dix, came in with the Protestant chaplain, Captain Tibbs, and asked me if I would correct an impression I had created in a former column.
They explained to me that it is true the average American boy will not report sick until he cannot stand on his feet any longer. He does not wish to be set back in his basic training. Still, if a boy has to go to the hospital and he has finished three weeks of training, he does not have to repeat those three weeks, which is what I must have implied. He, must, however, join a new group that is entering on its fourth week of training when his time in hospital comes to an end.
If he had done three and one-half weeks he would still have to join the group doing the fourth week because a partial week is not counted. Any completed week, though, does not have to be repeated.
The chaplain is very much concerned over a problem which he feels is one that is going to affect more and more American boys, particularly if universal training actually comes into being. Even now it is a problem of importance because an increasing number of our boys are being drafted.
These boys who are all plain soldiers with no rating, he says, are not treated with any great cordiality in the nearby towns and cities where the basic training camps are situated. At least, this is the general state of affairs. In fact, the chaplain pointed out, they are not welcomed in some restaurants and in some nice places of entertainment, much less in people's homes.
He did not deny that sometimes some of the boys may drink a little too much and perhaps make nuisances of themselves, but he said the boys are lonely and if nothing is planned for them where are they to go and what are they to do?
In the big cities the boys may go to USO clubs or may be given theatre tickets, but very often a boy would rather go to a movie with a nice girl and very often he does not get into the big city.
So, the Army is planning to try to interest the service organizations, such as the Rotary and Lions clubs, near the various training centers in the hope that families will open their homes to the G.I.s and that plans may be made for entertainment.
If possible, the Army hopes to create a changed atmosphere in which it will not be impossible for a girl to go to a movie or to a decent restaurant with a boy who is a plain soldier.
This seems to me a very wise and sensible plan. More and more plain soldiers will be our own children no matter where their training takes place, and this period should really be a continuation of education for it is a chance for many boys really to understand the meaning of democracy and to learn to practice it.
There are no differences in race or creed in the Army, and it should be possible to respect the boys who, because of a requirement of their government, are giving a number of years of their lives to training for the protection of their country and their people.
I hope this new plan may be successfully inaugurated by the Army and will find cooperation and quick support wherever there are basic training centers.
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