Old Mack’s Tales

March 4, 2008

Integrity

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ron McKinney aka "OldMack" @ 6:44 pm
Tags: , ,

”It beats me, Captain.  There was a lot of vocabulary on that GED test, especially on the 2 yr College Equivalency Test.  And God knows most of the Flight Aptitude Rating Test was vocabulary, Sir.  But I’m damned if I’ve ever heard the word integrity before.  What’s it mean?” I asked.

Captain Baker shook his head and thought about it for a minute before he spoke: “Well, Mack, I don’t suppose many enlisted men could define it.  It’s not something they make you learn by rote in Recruit Training, not like the Rifleman’s Creed, or the UCMJ.”  Baker scratched his prematurely balding head hard enough to make me wonder if he too had caught pediculosis from wrestling on the mats in the gym.  Baker slurped his coffee, apparently trying to think up an example; he had a habit of using metaphors, similes and symbols when he tutored me.

“The Corps places a lot of emphasis on this business of integrity, Mack.  The surest way for an Officer to ruin his chances of rising is to write a check with insufficient funds in his bank account.  It’s even worse for an Officer to buy things on credit and be unable to keep up the installment payments; God help him if his CO gets a collection call.  A friend of mine, a very sharp Captain, got passed over for his majority after his ex-wife wrote to the CO complaining that the Captain hadn’t made his alimony payments for two months.  All of those are considered a lack of integrity, Mack.”

Just as I was trying to make sense of Baker’s information, the PA blared: “Captain Baker . . . You have an overseas phone call in the Company Office, Sir.”  Baker naturally left the mess hall, carrying my Service Record Book and the results of my tests with him.

 I broke out my pocket dictionary and looked up integrity. “1: an unimpaired condition; SOUNDNESS. 2.: firm adherence to a code of esp. moral or artistic values; INCORRUPTABILITY.  3.: the quality or state of being complete or undivided; COMPLETENESS.  Syn. See HONESTY. 

I wrote the definition in my pocket notepad.  I intended to discuss it with Captain Baker, but he left Adak on an R4-D transport plane that evening carrying his B-4 bag.  The Captain never returned to the island.  So I have wondered ever since whether he’d had one of those problems with integrity. What made the Captain’s discussion scary was this: I had never had a bank account, had never purchased anything on credit, and hadn’t even had a wife to worry about.  Hell! I was 18, and just trying to get into the US Navy’s Aviation Cadet Program.  But I have to say that Baker put the fear of God in me; I never have bought anything on credit that I haven’t worried about making the payments.  It would be four years before I opened my first checking account, and when I wrote a check I agonized until the damned thing cleared, fearing that I’d made an error in the math and the check would bounce.  This fear of losing my integrity due to a bounced check stayed with me all these years. 

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