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I don't generally confess to this, but I was a poster girl for the Army. It's not something I'm proud of, but there you are. Being a poster girl may cause some girls' tender hearts to go pitter-patter, but not mine. I had no desire to be a cheerleader, a ballet dancer, the prom queen, or Barbie's best friend. I wanted to be the captain of a ship, but back in those days that was a serious pipe dream, but if I couldn't become master and commander nor was I going to be the beauty contestant prettily cracking a bottle of champagne on the side of the thing before it sets out to sea.
Despite my resolve, when your commanding officer in the Army calls you in and tells you that you are going to be a poster girl, you are either going to say, “Yes, Sir, Captain, Sir” or end up painting rocks for the rest of eternity. All things considered, being a poster girl beat the heck out of the alternative.
Along with myself, they chose a guy in my unit to be the poster boy to my poster girl. We were both young, blond, and didn't have warts on our noses or humps on our backs so we qualified for the job. They liked blonds back then, now they seem to go out of their way to avoid them. It's either because it has become a cliché, or the result of too many blond jokes.
The first thing they did was get us some groovy tailored dress uniforms, which was vastly preferable to the ones we had been handed in bootcamp, which seriously lacked something in the way of designer pinache. The ones for the photos fit like a glove and were made of much nicer material. It's hard to impress anyone with scratchy wool that bears a striking resemblance to a horse blanket. They brought in hairdressers to do our hair and make-up people to do our make-up. One of the Army PR guys confided in me that the only reason they didn't use models was because the Pentagon mandated that only real service personnel were to be used in recruitment advertising. Their definition of real could be stretched enough to justify the snazzy uniforms and the hair and cosmetic people. As everyone knows, all's fair in love, war, and advertising. We looked good, the Army looked good, and the posters were great. On the down side, our fellow soldiers teased us unmercifully, called us all sorts of inventive and unflattering names, and generally wanted to pitch us into a dumpster just to show us how unattractive we really were. Pleading that we were only following orders didn't help either, it just got us called some more repulsive names. When the posters went up around the base they were regularly defaced in a myriad of imaginative ways. We had mustaches, targets painted on our heads, arrows going in one ear and out the other, buck or blackened teeth, hideous warts and freckles, clown hair and noses, and some other alterations to our appearance that are far to rude to mention. No matter how many times the posters were taken down and replaced or how many times the NCO's hollered and threatened at morning report, by the next day every image of us was sporting some kind of repulsive editing with black magic marker.
It was making us both crazy.
I finally went to my poor fellow victim and told him I had a cunning plan. We would sneak out at night under cover of darkness and deface all our posters ourselves before any one else could. We dressed in our fatigues, met up at the end of the parade ground and began our covert mission. Instead of making ourselves hideous we gave ourselves dozens of ribbons on our uniforms, a chest full of medals, and every officer rank in existence. By the end of the night we were the most highly decorated service personnel in history and had more stars on our shoulders than Dwight Eisenhower. We had to be incredibly sneaky and it took most of the night, but it was worth it.
The next morning the entire company was called to muster with the Commanding Officer. That is never good. There we were, standing at attention in the early morning mist when our commander came flying out of his office looking like thunder in olive drab. He told the company that he was finished with their foolishness, that they had defaced US Government for the last time, and that this final and most insubordinate business had crossed the line into offense worthy of court martial and dishonorable discharge. He was sick of their jealousy, their lack of esprit de corps, and their disloyal abuse of two fine, upstanding fellow soldiers (that was us), and the entire company was going to spend the next month policing the grounds, standing guard duty, and falling in for full inspection every morning. Except, of course, for the poster girl and poster boy who had suffered unendurable insult and were exempt from all extra duties.
Victory and vengeance were ours. No one ever figured out who did the final defacing and no one ever did it again. It was a moment of heady triumph and we enjoyed every minute of it. My partner thought that we might enjoy it even more if we celebrated in a manner which would include a bottle of wine and the back seat of a jeep in the motor pool, but I declined. Poster boys just aren't my type.
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