~ Charles W. Buntjer's Military Service ~


I was watching television the evening when it was announced that the Russians had been placing missiles with nuclear warheads in Cuba, only 90 miles from the United States shores!  Most people don't remember how frightening that was at the time. The first thing I though was I and everyone else eligible was going to be drafted. Of course I was drafted but the first thing I remember was answering the questions on the draft papers. The big one was are you or were you ever in a homosexual situation. I thought what business is it of the government. Keep out of my bedroom! Then I thought why not say 'Yes' and end the service requirements right there. Just as good as people like Vice President Quayle, who used his fathers influence to get of the military and serve in the National Guard along with President Bush or Gingrig and so many others that suddenly went to seminary schools or what ever to skip Vietnam. Screw it, I could serve my country just as good as anyone else so I marked the answer as 'No'.

Because of the frightening aspects of missiles pointing at us, the army put 800 men through basic training in one large group in order to get the military up to speed. I was in the First Platoon and most men in it were 22 to 25 years old. We all had worked in the business world so knew what was going on as to the 18 year olds who couldn't even tie a tie! The First Sergeant had a new Cadillac and was always driving around checking up on us and our progress along with our Platoon Sergeant. I had scored very high on the intelligence test and was a candidate for Officer's Training! Every other day I was picked up by the First Sergeant, driven around the base, and interviewed by everyone of importance. I kept thinking what if I decided to become an officer! Just salute me and say 'Sir!" That sounded good! Then one day I was sitting in a general's office and his secretary asked me to come over to him but to keep quiet. He said this was off the record and to keep my mouth shut! Papers had come down from headquarters as to where I was to be located after basic training, a supervisor in the computer installation at the Presidio of San Francisco, the choicest spot for anyone to be sent to. If I went into officers training I would be at the bottom of the heap and probably would not like being screwed around, especially after being in the business world. What good advice. I did keep my mouth shut!

The last few weeks were very busy and ended up with the final exercises, one of which was the best score on the firing range. I came in first out of 800 and won an award for sharp shooting, someone beside me told me, you know that Cuba is first and then Vietnam will be coming down the road so watch out. The First Sergeant was behind me and said "Don't even think about missing!" Out of seven awards, the First Platoon won five and I came in first, second, and third for these five awards! We showed the others, especially the Air Born who thought they were God's gift to humanity!

The last day of boot camp and all 800 were called out in front of the barracks. The First Sergeant said he would call names out and the men should form a group. He said group one was going to Fort Benning Georgia to train in the swamp. He called half of the First Platoon, my new found friends. They were not happy. He then called each group of people for mostly nasty training experiences. After 799 men were called off I was standing there alone. Everyone wondered what was happening. The First Sergeant and our Platoon Sergeant both just shook their heads because they would have gotten points if I had gone to officer's training. The First Sergeant looked at me standing there all alone and said to me, "You obviously knew you were going to San Francisco and had me drive you all over the camp and take time off doing it." He then announced I was going to be a Supervisor in the Computer Installation in the Presidio. There was absolute silence and that was the end of my new found friends. Could I help it I had experience in the computer world and they didn't?


Basic Training in 1963 - Fort Knox Kentucky

This photo was taken of the First Platoon in 1963 as we started our basic training. I was asked after a few weeks to become the Platoon Leader but I refused. I didn't want to get involved with the sergents and other higher ranking military personnel. One of the men that I became best friends with, became the platoon leader. And I ended up being taken all over the base to try and get me to go into officers training. As I noted, I ended up in San Francisco so I actually ended up in a much better situation. Unfortunately, after basic training, I wanted to continue my friendship with the platoon leader but he and others told my step-mother that I had gotten a prime job in the Army because I was 'white' and born on the right side of the tracks. My step-mother told them I got the job because of my work in computers since I was 19 years old. That didn't make them any happier so I never was contacted again by anyone who was in basic training.


Presidio of San Francisco - 1963 to 1965

So off to San Francisco and a whole new way of life. I shared a room with another man and the room had a window over looking the City! The enlisted club overlooked the Golden Gate Bridge and on our off hours we went to the ocean beach or hustled around San Francisco meeting and enjoying it's many charms which I am still doing to this day! Talk about luck!

One thing I must address that seems very strange to me about the military and the congress over the last ten years is their sticking their noses into everyone's sex life. My First Sergeant was a black man, the Platoon Sergeant was a short cocky white southerner and everyone in the platoon knew I had tendencies but no one seemed to care. I was smart, dependable, and minded my own business. I was helpful to the men who had never worn a tie or suit or how to do a lot of the things most of us take for granted. Because I had been raised on a farm and also had worked in offices, I had a unique perspective on differing ways people had been raised. I was told if we were ever on the front lines no one would be concerned about my sex life, only that I was the best shot in the platoon - with a gun that is!

I met a man from Las Angeles and he and I became good friends in the Army at the Presidio. John was married and his mother and wife lived in L.A. John used to take off on the weekends when he could and visit his wife. I remember he would come back on Sunday evenings and meet me at the Cable Car Turnaround at Powell and Market Street. We would both be dressed in suits and we would take the Cable Car to the top of Nob Hill and go into the Mark Hopkins Hotel and to the roof top restaurant and cocktail lounge. People thought we were business men and important, we thought we were important also! Had to laugh about it.

The bar looked over the City and there were two love seats across from each other and a table for cocktails. We both then, smoked and we had Dunhill cigarettes. They were so classy, in a red flip box and were expensive. The waiters were all 60 to 80 years old and many were Jewish. The room looked like something out of a 1930's movie. Since we came there at least twice a month or more, the waiters knew us and kept a special table in the window over looking the City. We each got to lounge on our own Love Seat while smoking and drinking. I don't remember what we drank but we eventually got back to the barracks.

I always wondered what the rest of the soldiers thought as we came in all suited up with lots of booze on our breath! One time John had me fly down to L.A. to meet his wife and mother. Now get this, I only had gone to the Caribbean in 1962, never saw anything else that I thought was so exciting until I flew to L.A. and met his mother who had a house near the beach! She had on very high heels and leopard stretch pants and was lying on a chaise lounge, so Hollywood. I thought I had arrived. We went out for dinner at Sam's Sea Food Restaurant in Surfside. Here is John, Sue, his mother Millie and me on March 7th, 1964!


Honorable Discharge Papers - 1969

I'm not sure if I was suppose to continue with yearly training after I left the Army in 1965. I got my first job in San Francisco in 1965 and never looked back. One day my parents sent me an official letter from the government. I wondered what it was. It indicated I had finished my reserve action and I was releaved from USAR Group STANDBY! They never contacted me after 1965 and only then in 1969 indicating I was free and clear of the military. They say don't ask, don't tell, well I never said anything or contacted anyone. I just got these papers and smiled!


Life After the Army

I was discharged in 1965 from a military installation in Oakland, across the bay from San Francisco. I immediately moved into the YMCA across from the Ferry Building and started my first job as a civilian at the IBM Service Bureau in the Ferry Building. After a year there I moved to lower Pacific Heights and started working at Firemanís Fund Insurance. They had the biggest computer center west of Chicago and I was there for 18 years! I bought a condo on Twin Peaks in 1975 with a view of overlooking the City. I started to work at Blue Cross of California for over five years as a business analyst in 1977.

Around 1985 I started to work as a consultant and worked at software companies near San Jose and in the City with companies such as Sterling Software, Boole & Babbage Software, Kaiser, IBM, William-Sonoma, Schwab, and other companies. I retired in 2002 but continued to work on web development, something I started in 1999!

In 1993 I moved downtown to Fox Plaza, a high rise on the 28th floor overlooking the City with a terrific view as I did on Twin Peaks.

Little did I know 36 years later I would meet Viviane on a trip through the Magellianic Straits between southern Chile and Argentina. She was living in Beverly Hills. Here we are celebrating Christmas in Beverly Hills in the photo on the left. I met her in 1999 on a cruise around the tip of South America. She bought a Senior Residence in Woodland Hills in 2004 and I had retired in 2000.

She asked me if I would want to get an Administrator's License to run a Senior Residence so I could fly back and forth to L.A. and expenses would be paid for by the company. So I took the state test and did receive my license, and every two years I had to retake the test due to the new laws passed by California.

So I flew down to L.A. four or five times a year to run the business while Viviane was in Belgium visiting her parents or working in Southern California on the Parkinson Commission. I usually took a few extra days so the two of us could cruise around Los Angeles in her Jaguar convertible and go to lunch at the Beverly Hills Hotel or in West Hollywood. She sold the business in 2012 but we have remained close friends! We ended up going to Morocco and to Austria.

She introduced me to a friend of hers, Gail. Gail and I traveled all over the Netherlands, Zambia and South Africa.

Because of my working in the computer business for over 45 years, doing various jobs and eventually as a computer consultant, I have been able to travel the world. All this due to me being drafted into the Army in Illinois and ending up in San Francisco California!


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  Charles Walter Buntjer




San Francisco California
Created on: 2015.10.17  




Updated on: 2015.10.21