(80) Bad Boy; Good Dog: About the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ)

Molly, the service dog

Golly, Miss Molly

A Blog about a Service Dog and her Veteran with PTSD

(Supporting the Veteran and the Family Caregiver)

Good Dog

Molly at restaurantMolly travels with the grace of a turtledove. She sleeps while we drive and never begs for our fast food delicacies. On our recent road trip, she stole the hearts of waiters, storeowners, tourists, and even grumpy ranchers. Molly loved the chance to show William she could handle her duties by tucking herself under small tables and helping him stand when needed. She even cleaned up after herself by swishing her tail around the floor. She waited to shake off dust and fallen food until we took her outdoors. Good dog.

Bad Boy 

I view my husband as a hunk–chockfull of manliness. He is strong, brave, kind, and chivalrous. William, as all Vietnam Veterans, grew up in an era of rebellion. In fact, these 1960-era Veterans never had a chance to rebel because of war. While draft dodgers grabbed the beauty of Canada to avoid service and hippies retreated into a haze of dope and flowerbeds, those accepting the call of their country met a forced entry into conformity. They learned to spit shine shoes, follow orders, survive in jungle warfare, and perfect their use of weapons. Their bodies shaped-up in ways American Wrestling champs could only dream.

Did he ever step out of line? At 65, I know my Veteran has had plenty of time to mature but what about that part of him that grew up in an era that produced rebellion, bank burning, and protests?

“Did you ever mess up, you know, get in trouble?” I wasn’t sure how to ask so I blurted it out.

An impish grin ran across his face.

“Like court martial stuff?” No, wait. His discharge was honorable. 

“Article 15s—lots of Article 15s,” he said.

For the next hour, he shared with me his rebellion in the Army.

“I was written up and demoted many times. Never for anything in the field but when I’d return to base, I always got in trouble.” His snicker told me his behavior had been controlled and deliberate even in the face of discipline.

“In fact, 30 years after my discharge I got a letter in the mail with a Good Conduct medal. They were always giving me medals for combat.”

The Uniform Code of Military Justice 

UCMJ—the Uniform Code of Military Justice.” William shared that this code addresses misconduct of military personnel.

Wanting to learn more, I began my reading with Article 15 (Non-Judicial Punishment 815 15). I dozed off before getting past the first page. Clearly, the code has been legally perfected over the years, as it reads like a stale law book.

After my reading, I asked him what discipline he received since the code offers a list of options. He shared that he lost several months of pay over time and lost rank.

“They only paid us a salary of $200 a month. I was always broke between sending money home and suspension of my pay. We never worried about losing rank because in just a month you were back to the same rank where you were before the demotion. Nearly all of us got disciplined.”

“How do you feel about those Article 15s now after all these years?”

He shrugged. “Not a big deal. Our commanding officers didn’t know what they were doing so we did what we had to in the field to stay alive and do our jobs. Once back at base, they gave stupid orders. I called it like I saw it. Got me in trouble every time.” He smiled with a curled lip and said, “It reminds me of my favorite line from Forrest Gump. ‘Stupid is as stupid does.’”

The Consequences 

I know that Article 15s are not funny but in a strange way, my heart lightened hearing about his cantankerous, rebellious streak to which every teenager is entitled. Relieved that his combat record stands unsoiled, I believe the rebellion that erupted off the battlefield served him well and contributed to his tenacity and the attitude that kept him and others alive in horrible circumstances.

Smart mouth, street smart, and very bad boy.

Post your Comments: 

What attitude or behavior served you best in the military? Please reply below. 

Photo credits: pculbrethgraft

About the blogger 

Dr. Penelope “Penny” Culbreth-Graft is a retired city manager and graduate professor. She lives with her disabled Vietnam Veteran husband, William, and his service dog, Molly, on Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado. She writes, paints, cares for her husband, and spends time with her grandchildren.