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doc_wv.jpg (14059 bytes)The Real Rebel in the Outfit

A character sketch of "Doc"
by Othello

Ah just loves that Southuhn accent!

 

Imagine if ole Moseby Lovelace (the new recruit in the episode "The Squad") had arrived in Second Platoon just a season or two later. Eventually he would have gotten around to the question, "Enny Ahkansaw bawys in this he-uh outfit?"

And one voice would have piped up in reply, "Yup."

Of course I hesitate to say what would have happened after that. It would have been a rude awakening for poor ole Lovelace. For he would no sooner have discovered a fellow Southerner (Doc), than he would have found out that his own Southuhn-ness, which he counted on as being as deep as the bone, had really come by way of some Burbank dialogue coach, and was in fact no deeper than a chicken scratch on sun-baked Georgia clay.

Moseby Lovelace, you see, made the mistake that most would-be Johnny Rebs make – that of trying too hard to be Southern. Whereas any true Southerner could tell you, being from the South isn’t something you whack at and work for, like a man chopping wood and making an awful bothersome noise in the process ; rather, it’s something you wear as comfortably and quietly (unless you’re a Texan, in which case you feel compelled wear it loudly) as your favorite pair of slippers.

That’s how I know our Doc is one hundred percent authentic down-home Dixie. He doesn’t go around forcing "y’all"s and "ain’t"s and "lookee he-uh"s and "hoo-eee"s and his mama’s dee-lishus brown gravy recipe on the other guys in the squad like some six year old trying out his new Christmas toy. Instead, he’s just plain folks. He blends in, but without losing his uniqueness.

And unique he is, too (along with his twin brother, the MP ...). For without him, excepting a special case like Caje, and the occasional pretender like Moseby Lovelace – a poor man’s Sergeant York (Tennessee boy, by the way) if ever there was one – Lt. Hanley’s outfit would be completely devoid of Southerners. In fact, looking at the personnel who come through Second Platoon, you are almost tempted to conclude that, for the duration of the Second World War, the South had seceded once again from the United States proper and none but a paltry few of her fair sons have stuck around in the Army. So, thank heaven for Doc. He upholds the honor of the South with his presence, and with his unflinching dedication to duty.

And what a duty he has – ripping off ambulances (all for a good cause, mind you), passing out aspirin, dislodging beans from kids’ throats, and taking wild motorcycle rides through dusty vineyards. Being a frontline medic is definitely not for the fainthearted. (Oh yeah, and let’s not forget the crawling-through-enemy-fire-and-reaching-into-bloody-wounds bit.)

What intrigues me is that, coming from the South, Doc became a medic in the first place. After all, that region has a proud warrior tradition, and has produced some of the finest fightin’ men our nation has ever known – Bobby Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and George Patton (a Southerner by way of California), to name but a few. And yet when a war came to his own generation, our Boy from Arkansas, no doubt raised amidst endless tales of Shiloh and mock-battles of Yankees versus Confederates, chose as his weapon not a rifle but a red cross.

I’ve often found myself wondering just why he has done so. Is it for religious reasons? Doc certainly knows his Bible (as all good Southern boys do), and by God, he does take on the passion of a preacher-man at times, ladling out righteous indignation with all the subtlety of a flamethrower. ("But Sarge, there’s a wounded man out there!") And yet this isn’t Doc in his usual temper.

Most times, he’s as easy-going as a slow-winding, lazy river (or a Hoagy Carmichael tune about same), with his laid-back grin and folksy manner. Perhaps the reason behind Doc’s choice to become a Doc was more his own individual personality than anything else. He’s the consummate calm in the center of a storm, soothing the worried and the wounded, even occasionally taking on the role of father-confessor and listening to the secret anxieties of the most private of men. (If Doc can work such wonders on taciturn sergeants, just imagine how much he could have put Braddock’s nervous chicken at ease.)

I have just one small bone to pick with our serene and courageous medic, and that is, I think he should have caught on to that boy Murfree (aka Captain Klepner in the episode "The Long Walk") long before the latter’s scheme was uncovered. Murfree was obviously suffering from a case of Lovelace-itis – tryin’ way too hard to be Southern. Poor Doc was no doubt so starved for Southern companionship that he got took by the first man who came along spoutin’ sweet words about Andy Jackson. We know, you’ll spot ‘em next time, Doc. Beware the good ole boy who speaks too freely about cornbread and white lightning – he just may have gotten his accent from Berlin U.

"Land of Honeysuckle and Magnolia?" Fiddle-dee-dee.

Copyright 1998 by Dorothy Spangler. All rights reserved.
Characters from the television series COMBAT! are the property of ABC-TV.

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