AVOIDING THE NEEDLE

by Randy Reynolds (written 1/26/11) 

My mother's brother, Ensign Bobby Cecil Appling was the first official “rocket scientist” in our family. Bobby wanted to be a fighter pilot, but flying made him dizzy and he became a rocket scientist instead.

We've had lots of other military men in the family--though, to be honest--not that many "rocket scientists." ...........................

General Zachary Taylor, (related to both my father's and my mother's clans,) was the hero of the Mexican War, became President and died in the White House after overeating in July, 1850. My mother's ancestor Colonel Daniel Appling, (for whom a county was named in Georgia,) was a hero of the War of 1812. Other kinfolk fought in the Civil War, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and now Afghanistan. ..........

But this is not about them. This is about me and why I didn’t serve.
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There was never any question about whether I believed in the war. If the U.S. was in it, I was for it. I believed in Johnson. I believed in Nixon. I believed we had to fight in Vietnam or we'd be fighting "over here." .................

When I was a teenager Lyndon Johnson bombed North Vietnam after the Gulf of Tonkin "incident." As my dad and I listened to news of the attacks on the car radio, Dad predicted "We'll bomb them back to the stone age. This war won't last two weeks." This concerned me greatly because I didn't want it to end before I was old enough to fight.

Not to worry. It was still going strong when I turned 18. But I didn't volunteer because I had one little problem: military physicals required blood tests; and though I fancied myself to be unafraid of bullets, bombs and the Vietcong, I was deathly afraid of needles. ......

When the nurses came to Lee Road School to give polio shots the last year before we started getting our vaccine on sugar cubes, I got lucky: they didn't call my name. I was sitting in Mr. McKee's History class reflecting on my good fortune when Beverly McClain (who was always so theatrical) came back from the nurse's station rubbing her arm. I fainted dead away and fell out of my desk. Mr. McKee picked me up and carried me to the teacher's lounge where the smoke gradually brought me back to consciousness.
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I was so scared of needles that I refused to enter the doctor's office when my fiancee and I went to get the blood tests required for a marriage license. As Sherry was getting stuck, the doctor asked who the lucky man was. She said, “Randy Reynolds.” He said, “Oh, I know him. He doesn’t need a VD test.” And he signed the papers verifying that I passed the test. .....................

I accepted his help avoiding the needle and I got married and didn’t go to Vietnam and we lost the war. ........

Ps. I became a hero anyway--at least to the nine grandchildren who eagerly watch me stick my finger with a needle to draw a drop of blood, which I have to do each morning before my first cup of hazelnut coffee. .........
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And now I'm a "rocket scientist," too--at least to these nine, who think I have all the answers. (And who am I to tell them any different? ).......................................
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