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The Incredibly Amazing Adventures of Stoveman

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Superman

Virtually all of you, no doubt, are acquainted with the adventures of the comic book superheroes, Superman, Batman, Spiderman, and even The Fantastic Four.  But, are any of you familiar with the legendary exploits of the most unlikely superhero of them all, “Stoveman?”    

 

Contained herein is the never before told story of how a solitary soldier saved a company of 200 men and officers from near starvation.  Did he accomplish this feat by harvesting the seas of Japan?  Did he apportion the provisions into what, Stateside, might have been called Communion slices?  No, his victory was won with more difficulty: he kept the ancient field stoves working so that the cooks could get their daily meals out on time. 

 

In the Army, the term “field expediency” equates to the maxim, “necessity is the mother of invention.”  In other words, if something you need does not work, make it work or invent something that does.  When the cooks of the 24th Signal Company could not prepare the daily meals on time because of their cantankerous field stoves, they invented Stoveman.

 

Stoveman was a 210-pound Italian-American born and raised in South Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  When I looked in the mirror, Stoveman gazed back me, for I had become him.  When my superiors asked if I were afraid to work around a combustible chemical (gasoline), I replied, “No” and thus was instructed to report to the Mess Sergeant, Werner (“Dutch”) Poppe.  My first meeting with Dutch was short and sweet.  When he asked my name, to which I replied, “Tom Petruzzelli”, he informed me in his thick German accent, “From now on, I call you Tommy.”

 

Things looked bleak as I assessed the gastronomic situation.  All of the stoves had seen better days and parts were in short supply.  But, I had grabbed the tiger by the tail and would not let go. I cannibalized old stoves for parts, laboring to cobble together one functional stove.  It was an exercise in futility, or near-futility.  I was spending so much time in the kitchen, there was no time left for me to perform my other duties.  One day, the First Sergeant told me, “You might as well move in with the mess section, since you’re always on call for them.”  And so, I did.

 

As Christmas neared, Lieutenant Parks, our supply officer, paid me a visit to question me about the stoves.  Risking blasphemy, I replied, “Sir, I’m not Jesus and I can’t resurrect the dead.”   Parks asked me how many good stoves I could make out of the eight stoves we had.  I told him I could make two.  With that, we scrapped 6 stoves and requisitioned 6 brand new ones, which solved our problem.

 

Upon my separation from the U.S. Army, the sergeant who spoke to me for my  exit interview asked what my duties were, so that he could document them properly in my service record.  I proudly stated, “I was the 24th Signal Company’s Stoveman.”  The sergeant then searched though  four large volumes of occupational classifications, only to inform me that there was no classification for Stoveman.  At his wit’s end, he asked me to describe what I did.  When I explained my wizardry with the cooking apparatus, the man shrugged and with a look of complacency, informed me that I was a Utility Repairman #139.

 

Had the sergeant been given a bit of creative leeway, I may have gone down in the record books as the only Stoveman in the history of the U.S. Army.   As the saying goes, “Some men are born to greatness, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them.” 

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