Before the dining-in was to begin, an initiation ceremony was to be performed for all the new NCOs (sergeants) that were recently promoted. But before that was to take place, everyone hit the bar. Ah, the evening was off to a spectacular start.

Me and Willy enjoying some Fort Drum microbrew.

And then the initiation ceremony began. As luck would have it Willy and I were standing right next to an unsupervised keg of Killian’s. We then shook the hands of all the new sergeants. And a few were females. I had no idea there were any females in my beloved infantry battalion!

Try to imagine what it must have been like for the servers of this event. These are only about a third of all the attendees.

A big part of the dining-in was the “grog”, a horrific concoction of all manner of poison including whiskey, gin, vodka, sake, Copenhagen (yes, chewing tobacco), the socks the battalion commander wore during his visit to Iraq and water from the East River in New York City.

Each table had to create a centerpiece. This was my squad’s for which I was art director. A few inside jokes here: during the last field exercise a Humvee slipped into a trench and was stuck for quite a while; also on the same exercise there was some serious difficulty getting fuel. Not only was our centerpiece the most creative, but it was probably also the most fitting. By the time midnight finally rolled around I had become silly drunk, had stolen two additional dinners from the servers using shameless trickery, had passed out on a couch during one of the scheduled breaks (when they woke my ass up I announced that I was Buddhist and was merely meditating) and now I had finally toasted the new year. As we left, I took the toy Humvee out of our centerpiece and put it in one of the display cabinets in the foyer. Standing outside waiting for a ride back to the barracks and having resigned myself to not getting a New Year’s kiss this year, a girl came up to me, shook my hand and said “Happy New Year.” Before she knew what was happening, I had pulled her in by the hand and stole a kiss. Okay, so it was only on the cheek, but close enough. Hey, when heaven Fed-Ex’s you manna, you just sign for it, man. Happy New Year everyone!