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I Will Never Forget
By Philip J. Zamora
May 4th, 1970 I will never forget! I was at maximum-security in a stockade at Fort Gordon, GA, about that time after being court-martialed and sentenced to 7 years solitary confinement and hard labor at Fort Leavenworth for refusing to pick up an M16. It was a decision I had made long before I got drafted and felt that I needed to do my part in rebelling against the so-called war. Right before my departure to the Ft. Leavenworth stockade, I was visited by the warden of the Fort Gordon stockade. He said, "Private Zamora, I feel if you are willing, we can still make you a good soldier...you still have a chance. I'm going to give you a choice. We can send you to a facility to help retrain you, called CTF, or you can spend 7 years at Leavenworth ...CTF in just 3 months."
CTF is a correctional training facility. What he didn't say was that it was going to be 3 months of hell. Of course, I chose three months of hell at Fort Riley, KS. For those who have never heard of CTF, it is a concertina wired 10 acre camp within the Fort Riley facility. It is protected and guarded with machine-gun nests in four corners. No one escapes CTF, and if you do, there is really nowhere to go in that part of Kansas. Everything is done by the numbers there. You eat by the numbers, you go to the commode by the numbers, you are drilled and watched and brainwashed by the numbers, by forced indoctrination, by watching films of torture and propaganda set up by the government to convince you that communism is going to be spread throughout the United States if we do not stop it in Vietnam.
Again, I was arrested for not picking up an M16 during bayonet practice and was sent to a place called "the cage." There, I was stripped down to my underwear and was made to sit on a steel chair in a steel box with others that were caged with me who refused to obey the rules of CTF. There you are given 14 days of bread, water, and dry cereal for breakfast, and a half a slice of lettuce for dinner, while sitting at attention throughout the day until they break you. I made it to seven days, and for good behavior, they let me go back to my company CTF. As a musician, they gave me a new position as director of music, which later I proceeded to utilize at Fort Lewis Washington. I was eventually released under honorable conditions as unfit. This is my short story.
Philip J Zamora lives in San Mateo, CA, with his wife, Claudia. He's 32 years clean and sober from alcohol and hard drugs, surviving the AIDS epidemic, and still performing and writing music as a recording artist.