I remember my first real fight.  I lost.  It happened right in my front yard in Wahouma when a much bigger boy began picking on me.  I stood my ground, but didn't want to fight.  He did.  What I remember most about the fight was him sitting on my chest, hitting me in the mouth, as one of the dads in the neighbor hood came over to see what was going on.  He asked if I was alright but let the fight play out.  It was the best thing he could have done.

I never lost another real fight.  When we took boxing in gym, I took it seriously and excelled, winning all my bouts.  In real fights, I always tried to walk away but, when faced with the reality, I learned to strike first, strike hard, and continue until the other guy was done.

Sometime, my willingness to fight stopped fights before they happened.

In my Sophomore year, the kid sitting behind me in Geometry thumped my ear on a cold morning.  I told him never do that again.  The very next cold morning, he did it again and I was on him before he could get out of his desk.  I bloodied him.  We both went to Mr. Bancroft's office and he was the one who got paddled.  Turning the other cheek and then standing up for myself was acceptable to Mr. Bancroft.

In my Junior year, I got word through the grapevine that one of our football players and I were fighting after school.  This was news to me.  I arrived behind the gym after school and made my way to the center of the crowd, set down my books, took off my jacket, stepped up to this gigantic guy, and said, "I hear we're fighting."  The guy said, "Not you.  Donnie Neal."  I was relived; I was pretty sure I couldn't beat him.  My willingness, however, had two immediate and long lasting results - he and I became friends and no one messed with me after that.

In the Army, there is always some bonehead who wants to fight.

The first was in Basic training.  There was this kid who didn't want to do the jobs proscribed to him by his squad leader as we prepared for an inspection.  His squad leader brought the problem to me, the Platoon Guide.  When I approached the kid, he hit me in the face.  I slugged him, just under his chin, knocking him over a bed.  The next thing I knew, I was being pulled off of him as I bashed his head into the floor.  Brought in front of the First Sergeant by my Drill Sergeant, I explained what happened.  I said, "Maybe I shouldn't have hit him,"  The First Sergeant simply said, "Yes, you should have.  Dismissed."  I had no more problems out of the kid or anyone else in the platoon.

In Infantry training, I arrived and checked into my new unit a day early.  My Drill told me to go upstairs and choose a bunk on the right side.  I chose a top bunk.  The next day as the rest of the platoon arrived, the beds started to fill up.  A very large black guy walked up to me and, just like you see in the movies, told me I was in his bunk.  I told him I'd fight him for it and the winner could have it.  He smiled and said, "You and I are going to be friends."  I gave him the top bunk and Francis and I became the best of friends.

When I arrived at the 82nd and was assigned to my first unit, my First sergeant told me to put my gear in an empty locker in a specific room in Barracks.  Since I was married and living off-post, all I needed was a wall locker.  I knocked on the room door and a guy opened it.  A blast of marijuana smoke hit me in the face.  "What the Fuck do You Want, Cherry," he bellowed.  I told him the First Sergeant had assigned me a wall locker in his room and that I was putting my gear in it.  He slammed the door in my face.  I knocked again.  He came to the door and told me that if I knocked on his door one more time he'd kick my ass.  I hit him, drug him out in the hall, shoved him up against the wall and continued to punch him until he sunk to the floor.  Then I picked out the best locker in the room, dumped all his shit in the floor, put my gear in, and locked it.  I told him if he touched my gear, I'd beat him again.

After that, instead of being called Cherry, the company greeted me with his name, "Hey Neely!  John THOMAASSSS!"  When we began purging the druggies out of the Army in the late '70s, John Thomas was one of the first to go.

After I made Specialist, I had fire guard on our floor on the night a guy returned from Leavenworth to process out of the Army.  He had killed a family while drunk driving and was sentenced to, as I remember it, five years.  Of course, when he arrived, he acted like he was a bad-ass Ex-Con.  That first night, he decided he was going to give me a rash of shit.  He shoved me and I beat him up and down the hallway while second and third platoons cheered me on.

I've only enjoyed one fight in my life.  This was it.

Then there were the fun fights, at which I was highly unsuccessful. 

Top Alexander always took boxing gloves when we deployed.  If we had a break after an exercise, we boxed, and he always paired me with Steve Fiscus.  Steve was a natural athlete and, I swear, I could never lay a glove on him.  He won every time.

My 2IC and buddy in 1st Section Scouts , Brett Niles and I decided we'd have a slapping contest while at a range one day.  He went first.  His slap spun me around and brought tears to my eyes.  I returned the favor.  We quit.

My best friend, Mitch Pigg and I once played a game we called "Not Tonight, Kato."  This was like Kato and Clouseau in the Pink Panther movies.  When either of us spotted the other coming around a building or down a hallway, we would hide and ambush.  This always turned into a wrestling match where I lost, Mitch tying me into a pretzel.  The boy was the strongest guy I have ever seen.

Now, I'm older and wiser.  I've found that if, in the middle of the night, you get rushed by a drugged-up naked Asian guy, that if you hit him upside his head with a Smith and Wesson M&P .40 and then explain that if he comes at you again you will kill him, that it takes the fight right out of him. 

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