I was issued a Top Secret security clearance while serving in the United State Army. I was a communications security custodian. With just three others in my squad; a lieutenant and a captain, I was held accountable for maintaining electronic codes and deciphered encryptions of the English alphabet– tools for speaking over radio transmissions safely, without being eavesdropped upon by the Russians. The codes changed daily. They could have earned me millions on the Black Market if I had decided I wanted to be a spy. That was not my mission. I was an American and served my country well and they trusted me with a Top Secret clearance.
Cpt. Tspralis, my ‘section chief’ in the vault, signed paperwork and arranged for an additional $300 to be added to my monthly military pay-check as a food stipend because I was now under his command in the Commo Vault and not simply a radio teletype operator any more.
Cpt. Tspralis used his authority to push the paperwork through Division Headquarters. He explained on the application that a communications security custodian is always on the road and away from base during meal hours and the supplemental pay made it possible for me to buy my own meals either at the chow hall or at one of many fast food restaurants on base.
Prior to the raise in pay, when I was still a Single Channel Radio/ Teletype operator, I only had a meal card, along with other non-married, non-commissioned troops living in the barracks, It’s just the way it was. If we lived on base and were single in Germany, we had to eat at the mess hall. Our pay was less than those who were married and lived off base.
Meal cards guaranteed three hot squares a day for the single troops who had them. Anyone living off base without one had to pay cash at the mess hall for their meals. After the $300 kicked in, I was required to turn in my meal card. Fortunately, at Barton Barracks, the mess hall guards did not ask to see meal cards when they wrote numbers on their daily food logs. We simply called out our numbers while waiting for our breakfasts, lunches and dinners in what was referred to as ‘at-ease’ position– standing with one’s feet shoulder- width apart with arms tucked in the small of the back, like a roasted Thanksgiving turkey.
“R7659962473,” I shouted shamelessly three times a day and ate at the expense of Uncle Sam and still got an extra $300 cash in my paycheck each month.
Finally, I had much needed additional income and the money to buy my own car. Fellow soldiers who lived in the barracks were not as wealthy or powerful as I was.
The short, chunky officer also arranged for me to get my own room. Prior to the move to the top floor of Charlie Company barracks, I shared a room with three other soldiers who each had a unique taste in music and they smelled bad when they drank heavily.
Cpt. Tspralis was cool. He was the most grounded commissioned officer I’ve ever met in the military. Nothing was complicated with Cpt. Tspralis and he never raised his voice but was always willing to use his power to get what his troops needed. He did not have a big ego and never made enlisted soldiers feel like second-class citizens. I appreciated the raise he got for me and I took my job as his right hand and eye very seriously. I became extremely loyal to him after he arranged for me to get my own room in the barracks.
Captain T. only once confronted me about the rumors regarding my sexuality that floated around the barracks like my seeming endless supply of laundry detergent. I was like a mother to the men and few women who lived in the barracks. They could care less that I was gay. I always had everything they needed to make life easier– like it was back at home, with our real moms. “Taylor, do you have any laundry detergent?” The guys who lived downstairs asked all the time. I felt sorry for them. They spent all their extra cash on booze. When they ran out of things like soap, shaving cream, shoe polish or coffee, I gave them their necessities when they knocked on my barracks door.
“Hey Taylor, you got detergent? I’ll give you a beer.”
“No thanks, Tamburro. Here you go. Come by later. We’ll watch another movie on my VCR.”
“Alright, sure. Thanks for the Tide, Taylor.”
I thought my military career was washed up and they would pull my Top Secret clearance after rumors regarding my deep throat started getting around and the guys I saw movies with on a regular basis started getting jealous of my private room and large screen television. (Flat screens were not around at the time.)
“What are you talking about Cpt. T?” I asked with a big smile on my face when my section chief came right and asked, “Are you a homosexual?”
“Taylor. You are very bright and am very confident while working with you.”
“Thank you sir,” I said while turning to the combination safe behind me. “We have inspection by the Brigade General tomorrow. Can we get back to work?”
“I want to let you know that I personally am against that military policy.”
I just kept doing my job and didn’t say a word.
We were rarely away from base during chow hours. In fact, we were rarely away from the vault at all. I should have never received a food allowance. Once a month we traveled to division headquarters to obtain updated radio encryption codes and turn in our logs which indicated that we had properly destroyed the previous month’s radio scrambling secrets.
Days were very long and boring, despite the company of the captain and his trainee replacement, 1st Lt. Bottomley down in the vault.
I headed out to lunch for hours on end while the other two soldiers in my squad sat in the vault and read big thick books. I couldn’t stand reading down there when both of them were around– especially Lt. Bottomley. She constantly interrupted the absolute silence of the underground room with chuckles or moans caused by the things she was reading in her books. I couldn’t stand it sometimes, especially when I was locked deep within the trance that written words sometimes do to my cognitive reality.
One of my favorite places to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner was not at the free mess hall, but rather at a restaurant run by the Armed Forces Exchange Service and German civilians. The joint was known as the ‘Burger Bar’. It was a rip off of McDonald’s and Burger King, designed the military way and run by German civilians.
The Burger Bar had one of the world’s first video juke boxes. It played popular music videos for a mere quarter. Songs like Paula Abdul’s ‘Straight Up’ and George Michael’s ‘Monkey” were played in routine circulation at the popular off- hours military hangout on base.
The men drank beer and ate pizza and I waited for them.
I sat in the far stall along the wall– the one with the big hole between the partitions and waited to make my attacks. I found cruising far more challenging than luring troops into my room and buying them with things like Bounce fabric sheets.
I was becoming an addict for the danger of being caught and put out of the military as I risked my career performing head in the Burger Bar bathroom. I savored the taste of almost every last soldier who fed me threw the ‘glory hole’ found right on base on Barton Barrks. There were at least a hundred of them I got to know over the years. Some of them I loved, some of them were just snacks.
I wasn’t the only Army cocksucker who felt safe and at home in the far fox hole at the end of a row of toilets in the Burger Bar bathroom. It was a real whore war sometimes trying to gain control of that last bunker. There were lots of soldiers queers like myself who tried to maintain control of the coveted spot. We all wore uniforms and mine had unique patterns in the camouflaged fabric along the breast pocket where the name “Taylor” was advertised shamelessly.
My name was never hidden from those who came down my way. Most of my fellow soldiers put their hands over their hearts as I blew them. I knew who they were. Each one had a different taste to it, unlike the food at the Burger Bar.
I am an American hero!