His stare caused time to stand still. The tone of the man’s commanding voice rang clear, and it effortlessly calmed the surrounding air. Each statement he uttered came deliberate and steady, and every brand new soldier before him stood riveted and focused.
Good morning, and welcome to Hotel Company.
His dark gaze swept over the group.
Stand at ease, men.
The platoon relaxed.
While you are here, address me as Sergeant. Never, ever call me sir.
No one spoke.
I have three simple rules.
Eyes watched while ears listened.
And I expect each of you to obey them. Respect my three rules, and I will respect you.
Bodies leaned forward.
Number one: Sunday is your day off.
Some of the young men smiled.
Number two: There will be no card games on Sundays.
Eyebrows arched here and there.
Number three: There will be absolutely no gambling for money whatsoever, on any day.
Are my rules understood?
In unison, the platoon replied.
Over time, their studying of war continued. A first payday arrived during the middle of their second week.
Later that night in barracks one, a curtain, hastily made from a wool blanket and hung between two bunks, hid a small band of fools along with their game of poker. At some point during the excitement, a hushed figure slipped past the green drape, and then stood for awhile among the other onlookers. During a short lull, that commanding voice sounded once again. Aided by an up-lifted hand, it signified a strange thing.
Move over, boys. Make room for one more.
And the Sergeant took a seat among the shocked troops, and was hastily dealt his first hand of cards.
In less than thirty minutes, he collected his winnings from the table, rose to stand, and then looked sternly at his people.
For the next hour you are all on restriction. I am going next door to catch another game, and after that, I will stop by barracks three. Goodnight.
At dawn the next morning, the Sergeant held aloft a large sack of booty for the entire platoon to see, and he spoke ever so gently to his much-poorer men.
I warned you all about gambling, did I not?