Many years ago my oldest son, Ted, started dating a young lady who happened to be working at the grocery store where my younger son, Tim, was a manager. As it turned out the girlfriend had recently signed enlistment papers to join the Army. She was waiting for the Army to schedule her for basic training when she met my son and quickly decided she would rather be with him than in the military. She promptly went to the recruiter and told him she wanted to back out. I assume the Army had no desire to keep her if she didn’t want to be there, and she hadn’t taken the oath so she was released from the contract.
I had never met Diane, the girlfriend. But soon after, Ted had the opportunity to introduce us and, for some reason, on that same day, she decided to play a prank on me. It didn’t work and I was clueless until Ted told me what she had done. I said “Tell her I have a long memory.”
A couple of weeks later, Ted was working in my office as a vacation fill-in clerk. While we were working he told me that this was the day that Diane would have departed for basic training. I said “Really! Payback time.” I looked up the phone number of Tim’s store and called him. He confirmed that Diane was at work so I asked him to call her to the phone and to listen in on our conversation. Diane came to the phone and the conversation was as follows:
Diane – “Hello.”
Me – “Is this Miss Diane Jones?”
Diane – “Yes, it is. Can I help you?”
Me – “Miss Jones, I am Captain Smith, Commanding Officer of the Military Police detachment here at Luke AFB. It has come to my attention that you have missed movement and are currently UA.
Diane (concerned) – “I don’t understand what you mean.”
Me – “UA is Unauthorized Absence. Miss Jones, you were scheduled to depart for Fort Benning, Georgia this morning and you failed to report for transport.
Diane (relief in her voice) – “Oh no, it’s okay. The recruiter, Sgt. Brown, cancelled my enlistment when I decided I didn’t want to go into the Army.”
Me – “Miss Jones, your recruiter had no authority to release you from your obligation and my Commanding Officer here at Luke has given me orders to see that you arrive at Fort Benning immediately.”
Diane (sudden panic) – “But-but-but”
Me – “You are to walk out to the front of your store and wait there. I have two of my M.P.s on the way to pick you up. They will escort you via military air transport to Georgia where you will be turned over to the Fort Benning Provost Marshall.”
Diane had started to stutter, trying to convince me of the mistake, starting to tear up and whimper a bit when I very sternly said “DIANE.” The tone of my voice stopped her and she timidly said “Yes?” I said “This is Ted’s Dad, Jim Barber. Gotcha!”
Dead silence on the phone. Then, “You son-of-a-bitch!” I was laughing so hard I could barely ask her “Is that any way to talk to the father of your boyfriend?”
Later, Ted and Diane went their separate ways. Ted has an 18 year old daughter now. A few months ago my wife and I were in the grocery store in Mesa and a woman with a couple of pre-teens called my name. Diane walked up and gave me a big hug. As we chatted she let me know that she has told everyone she knows that story and laughs about it to this day.