I think it’s about time I share with the world where the devil I came up with the name “VeggieMacabre”. After all, it’s only seven years old. What am I waiting for?
In order for me to explain this one we need to get into the way-back machine and travel to the year 1997, in a small camp nestled way up in the North Georgia mountains which trains some of the most elite soldiers at the art of mountain warfare and survival. I found myself there working, training and being screamed at by some of the toughest people the United States military has to offer. Although I was constantly cold, wet, exhausted, hungry, sore, stressed, bloodied, bruised and nervous, I don’t think I have ever been happier because I belonged to something so much bigger and apart of the best. I fit and there wasn’t a day that passed where I wasn’t expected to give over 100%. My hands were callused, my mental acuity was at its zenith and it was not abnormal to be awake for three days straight with little to nothing to eat and asked run ten miles as fast as we could only to return back to the woods for more combat exercises. I loved it. And at 36 in my civilian life, I am certain I would absolutely die living that life again.
One particular evening, I was tasked to stand guard outside a makeshift firebase we constructed and challenge anyone approaching with the what is known as a “challenge and pass”. In order for someone to come into my area without getting shot, I had to issue the secret challenge word in the form of a sentence and they had to respond with the password also in a sentence. If they failed to do so, deadly force was authorized and I was a pretty high-strung kid so I have no doubt I would have shot the shit out of anyone who screwed this up. And it could easily have been done.
You see, back then we still used a lot of Vietnam war era technology including a secret code book that depending on the day of the week, month and year would reveal secret code words, numbers, and other combinations for soldiers to use when communicating over the radio, calling mortar fire or simply finding out what a password to pass through a friendly base. But you had to know how to use it because if you screw up, it could cost you your life. Not only that, if it fell into the wrong hands it could cost your buddies’ lives as well which is far worse. That’s why if you thought you were going to be captured, you had to burn it or eat it. Yes, it’s able to be eaten.
So, before leaving the perimeter to take up my post, I flipped through the small blue paper book in the secret combination of ways to find the challenge and pass as well as the time when we change frequencies on the radio. I still remember most of it however I am not entirely sure if they teach or use this in the Army today. It was classified back then so I have to keep that one on the down-low.
Anyway, the challenge for that day was “Veggie” and the password was “Macabre”. I remember thinking to myself that “macabre” was going to be strange to use in a sentence especially in response to a “veggie” question but really didn’t give it much of a thought after. I packed my Prc 77 radio in my rucksack, locked and loaded my M16, and my SCOUT buddy and I headed out to set up shop in the woods outside the perimeter to meet the scheduled Recon team who was due to come back from patrol with the next few hours.
The craziest thing about standing guard in the middle of the night, especially severely sleep deprived, is the way your mind plays tricks on you. I have so many stories of hallucinating things that were never there through sheer fatigue. One time I thought I saw a pizza roll out of the back of a military troop carrier only to come to and see it was a spare tire that had shaken loose and was wildly rolling down a hill. Another time I thought I saw a horse galloping across a pond. Then there was the time I saw a soldier try to put a quarter in a tree thinking it was a vending machine. Very true. All of these were just my brain’s fight between consciousness and straight up REM. Guard duty was the worst for this. Especially when you haven’t slept much in a week and you’re constantly pushed to the physical limit to now, in the darkest part of the night, sit silently and keep your ears and eyes open for not only the enemy creeping toward you but also friendlies coming in from a night patrol. It’s a fight just to keep your brain from screwing you.
As we laid there, sketching our fire lanes for the platoon leader, my buddy asked me what the challenge and pass was for the night. I could tell I was one of the few who was well versed in the term “macabre” from a childhood loving Freddy and Jason but to meathead jocks, it was a new addition to their vocabulary. I explained its definition and used it in probably a dozen sentences but it was soon decided that I was to challenge the incoming patrol. It was easier that way. No one wants to die in a macabre way over the term macabre.
After a few radio checks and what felt like an eternity, there was a faint movement in the dark. Over the radio crackled the familiar call sign of the recon patrol asking permission to approach, “Romeo 1 this is Stalker 6, break, about 400 mikes november whiskey from your alpha alpha, break, requesting permission to approach, over“.
That means “Hey you this is me (say break to un-squelch the mic on the radio to keep the enemy from breaking the frequency code) we are about 400 meters northwest of your area, don’t shoot.”
I responded “Stalker 6 this is Romeo 1, advance to be recognized and challenged, over.”
They responded, “Roger Romeo 1, we are advancing, out.”
So with my SCOUT buddy behind the M-60, I prepared to meet the patrol thinking of a sentence to use “veggie” and so very curious how they would respond.
Soon I could see the patrol, looking beat up, tired and overall ready for MRE’s and cigarettes. The biggest and dumbest one passed in front of their Ranger file formation and approached to be within whisper distance.
“Halt!”, I whispered. Advance to be recognized.” The kid did and obviously exhausted from a night in chin-deep ponds and steep mountain terrain. I challenged him.
“It’s almost time for dinner, what veggie do you want with your meatloaf.”, I asked. He responded.
“Anything on the macabre would be nice.”
There was snickering from the patrol but not only was I flabbergasted from the response and the utter shock of stupidity but I had no idea what to do! I had spent over a year being drilled to follow everything to the letter I didn’t know what to do when the password was right but severely misused in a sentence. Half of me wanted to let these guys in for well needed rest but the other half was terrified by the possibility of compromising the base. It was a moment that led me to draw my weapon and stating “INCORRECT”.
In an instant the NCOIC took control and blurted the word “macabre” in a sentence which made sense. I looked back at my SCOUT buddy who was hidden in defilade behind me hoping he wouldn’t unleash Hell but thank goodness he absorbed my explanation of the word earlier that night and laid off the trigger.
After we indexed the training mission, the NCOI who jumped to the rescue of his patrol put in that I was to be (and did) awarded the Army Accomendation Medal for…almost shooting up his platoon over poor vocabulary.
It was a bit embarrassing but ever since then the challenge and password Veggie/Macabre has been burned into my brain. In 2007 when I was inspired to create a site of all things stupid, I could think of no better name than VeggieMacabre.
And now you know.