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TIRED OF BEING FORGOTTEN



For nine years I lived in one type of orphanage or another. Not one single time did I ever have an identity of my own. The only time that I can remember feeling proud of myself was when the matron would say "Boy! Can that little bastard clean a toilet." Every time that I would hear those words I would stick out my little chest and I would smile from ear to ear. How wonderful it felt for someone to be proud of me.

Never once was I allowed to think or do for myself. For years we boys were told that we were "worthless pieces of crap", and that no one wanted us. All that I can remember was that, for some unknown reason, I had become a part of a large pack of animals. "A herd" which was shuffled along, week after week, year after year, every minute of every day, always being told what to do.

The same was true when I was finally sent to the juvenile hall for running away from the orphanage. Soon the juvenile court became fed up with my running away and I was sent to the Florida School for Boys at Marianna. Once there I soon learned that I was once again nothing more than part of a large herd of boys. For two more years I walked around as if I were nothing more than one of the many caribou.

After returning from the reform school, at age 16, I was placed into the United States Army by an order of the Duval County Juvenile Court. Once in the Army I soon realized that I still had no personal identity. All that had changed was that I had now become part of even a larger herd of caribou. This time with the name "Kaiser" sewn on my chest. Soon I became even more withdrawn and confused.

One day I went into the Base PX Store to have a coke. While there I happened upon a set of Lieutenant's bars, which were for sale. I purchased the bars and I pinned them on my collar. I walked around the base being saluted by almost everyone who passed me. It was the first time in years that I had smiled. Probably the first time in my life that I ever felt proud and alive. How wonderful it felt to feel "respected." How wonderful it felt to be recognized above "the herd", for something more than just cleaning toilets. How wonderful it felt to forget about that nagging, never ending thought of suicide.

"Private Kiser on the charge of "impersonating an officer" you have been found guilty. It is the order of this court that you be sentenced to six months hard labor. You are to be confined to the stockade at Fort Richardson. Do you have anything to say to this court?"

I stood there at attention in full dress military uniform. I felt tears slowly rolling down my cheeks. For some reason I could not speak. I remember looking down at the floor and I mumbled the words: "All I ever wanted was the chance to be somebody someday. I'm just tired of being forgotten all the time."



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