What follows is the first paragraph of one of my transcribed
and edited Shep’s Army stories due out this August 9th.
FOURTH OF JULY IN THE ARMY
I was in this place. And I suddenly found that I wasn’t what I had thought I was. I’m going to tell you a very embarrassing story about the Fourth of July. It’s an army story. When guys get into the Army or into college or into some kind of gang situation, the general attitude is to put everything down. If you’re in college you put down whatever college you’re in: “Oh, don’t give me that Joe College jazz!” In the army it’s also a tradition to put down the army, the United States, everything. There’s no thing in the army such as patriotism except at strange, odd moments. It’s a very strange feeling, living in twentieth-century America. You’re torn between being a Babbitt on the one hand (which we all are, underneath it all), a kind of a herd animal that moos, chews stuff, hollers, and goes bowling. You’re torn between that and the intellectual you which, in a sense, is against all of this. Rarely do you ever go completely over from one side to the other.
The story involves Shepherd and his fellow soldiers disparaging
the upcoming major parade. To his surprise, Shep finds himself stirred
to patriotic heights, ending his story by describing the emotional finale to the evening:
The flairs drift down and everybody is just standing there and it’s getting quieter and quieter. Off in the distance the old band is a-playin’ and we’re all standing around eating our sandwiches and the ladies are drifting in and out, handing us soldiers cookies and cupcakes and jam, and the kids are watching and the big star shells and the sky rockets are going up and it’s getting darker and darker and darker.
See, I told you I’d embarrass you.
To quote the title of one of Jean Shepherd’s
favorite songs, here are the
“Stars and Stripes Forever.”