This is a true story. The year was 1968. I returned to the States from my tour of duty in Vietnam and had one more year to serve in the army. I was stationed at Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn New York. I was a clerk in the office that handled notifying the next of kin and providing survivor assistance for all army related deaths for New York State and Connecticut. One evening when I had the next two days off I bumped into two army MP (Military Police) friends of mine that were stationed just across the bridge on Staten Island. I got in their car and we smoked a marijuana joint and listened to Hey Jude as we left the base for an evening out. I did not hang around with them very much and had not seen them for months but I was 19 years old and game for most anything. They took me to a bar on the waterfront.
At the bar they asked me if I have ever taken “downers”, I told them I never did. They offered me a Tuinal (brand name barbiturate) and told me it was a nice mellow high but if I took it I could not drink alcohol. So I took one and ordered a soft drink only. We hung out there for a while and I was pretty loaded between the marijuana and the pill. We went back to their apartment and they were going to take me back to my base in the morning. I was to sleep on the couch. I will never forget this part, they told me that I would sleep like a baby on the Tuinal and I would wake up feeling so good and refreshed. I heard a loud knock on their front door, as they were still in bed sleeping I answered it. It was a man with a hard hat and looked to be a construction worker. He told me they were paving one side of the street and the car had to be moved to the other side. I walked into the bedroom to wake my friends to move their car and this man walked with me. When I got into the bedroom, he flashed a badge saying he was a narcotics officer and we were all under arrest. It seems my two friends were buying drugs and selling them to a few of their close friends on the base and somehow this undercover cop had managed to buy some and had been watching them for a month or more.
At the police station after questioning me for quite some time they realized they had nothing on me and I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time and they had to release me. A few days later when I was at work I was approached by a man called Irvin Leigh Matus. He informed me that he used to work with Joe and Mark at their base but he finished his time in the army and got out a few months ago. He told me he heard what happened and that I was with them when they got arrested and he wanted to talk to me about something. He explained that he heard the army was going to “throw the book” at them and make an example of them and they would probably get 20 years each in Levenworth (A military prison). He explained that they were both heavily decorated Vietnam vets and got involved with drugs over in Vietnam to help cope with the horrors they went through there and that he believed it was not fair for the army to punish them like this instead of treating them for drug abuse. He further explained that he was a “free lance” journalist and had a plan to help them. He wanted to know if I was willing to help also. I told him I would do anything I could for those two.
He had contacted James Wechsler the Editorial Page Editor and Columnist for the New York post newspaper. Wechsler wrote an article in the post about the two decorated army war hero’s that had a drug problem caused by their service in Vietnam and instead of being treated for it the army was shirking it’s responsibility and prosecuting them. Wechsler, who was previously the Chief Editor of the whole New York Post newspaper, had a reputation for taking on causes. He had the guts to attack J. Edgar Hoover among others and the New York Post had a reputation as a liberal newspaper. With the article in hand, Irvin Matus and I took the train to Washington DC. Mr. Matus had done his research and with me in uniform and him armed with the article we visited 5 U.S. Senators. We asked them to please let the army officials know that they were interested in seeing justice in this case, not just heavy handed punishment. We targeted the Senators on the Armed Forces Sub Committee. Mr. Matus was an eloquent speaker and very persuasive.
The Senators did in fact let the army know that they were interested in seeing justice and not just “a hanging” of these two hero’s. My two friends we given probation and received the drug rehabilitation they needed. I never took another illegal pill again!
Note: Irvin Leigh Matus had a most incredible life. Searching for some information on my old friend I found him to be listed under Wikipedia on the net among other places. I suggest you take a minute to read about him. I will cut and paste a small part of his bio.
An Exceprt from Wikipedia.
Irvin Leigh Matus (July 25, 1941 - January 5, 2011) was an independent scholar, autodidact and author. He is best known as an authority on Shakespeare but also wrote about aspects of Brooklyn's history such as the Vitagraph Studios, and developed a method of modelling baseball statistics. His father was manager of the Western Union office in Time Square. He was a scholar-in-residence at Shepherd University for the academic year 1992-1993
The following is an exceprt and then a link to an article that appeared in the Washington Post:
By Matt Schudel Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, March 5, 2011; 9:03 PM
Ever since arriving in Washington in 1985, Irvin Matus seemed to survive on little more than charm, wit and the kindness of friends and strangers.
He seldom had a paying job - mostly out of stubborn pride - choosing instead to spend the past 25 years as an independent scholar of the life and works of William Shakespeare. He showed up each day at the Library of Congress or Folger Shakespeare Library to conduct his research, then slipped away in the evening to cadge food from Capitol Hill cocktail receptions, striding in as if he were a congressman.
He lived in dozens of places as an itinerant housesitter and became known as something of a "man who came to dinner."
"Invite him to stay the night," a fellow Shakespeare scholar told The Washington Post last week, "and he might still be in your home a month later."
Mr. Matus (pronounced MAH-tuss) traveled to England to explore the places Shakespeare knew, dug through archives and published two well-received books, but any similarities to other scholars ended there.
He was not affiliated with a university and had no academic credentials beyond a high school diploma. In 1988, just as he was putting the final touches on his first book, "Shakespeare: The Living Record," Mr. Matus ran out of borrowed couches.
For several months, he spent his nights sleeping at a construction site behind the Library of Congress. In the morning, he would slip into the library, wash up, shave and comb his luxuriant head of hair, then go back to his research. Whenever people asked where he was living, he said, "the Hill."
Two months after Mr. Matus died Jan. 5 of a stroke at his apartment in Silver Spring at 69, people who knew him are still puzzling over how a brilliant man whose scholarship was recognized around the world came to lead such an unconventional life, often just one step from destitution.
A link to continue the article can be found here and on the bottom of my personal booksie page:
Irvin Leigh Matus also has a web site that is still maintained: