July 1952: The drill sergeant, with bad teeth and a cold, spoke:

“Gentlemen, do not panic. Ya’ll will not be issued real bullets. We’re not crazy. We just want y’all to know what real soldiers wear into combat, and how to hold them rifles without tripping over them.”

Real soldiers? That was it.

With the Korean war sputtering to an end, someone in the air-conditioned offices on this training base just wanted us to know what the wardrobe of war was like. It was called standard operational procedure.

Today, smart folks are buying and wearing the adornments of this war. No shells are falling, no tanks are roaming the streets of central Maine. But a war is clearly in process, one that takes no prisoners.

Don’t panic. I’ve not come to scare you with the new numbers.


I come as the local Cassandra and OCD boy to bring you up to date on what my daughter is trying to tell me, as she finishes her daily Facetime message. Her whisper is razor sharp.

J.P. Devine is seen wearing a mask with a face shield, because his daughter said so. Photo courtesy of J.P. Devine

“Is that clear, Daddy?”

“I hear you.”

“Do you know what I’m telling you here? You’ve got the masks, the good ones, and especially the shields. Right?”


“Even though SCOTUS Justice Neil Gorsuch won’t wear a mask on the bench.”


I gasp. “I didn’t know that.”

“Check it out.”

And that’s the way it goes. She wants me to know what the wardrobe of this virus war is. That’s her standard operational procedure.

The masks she first sent me from the start of this war, now discarded, came with fancy design features, from companies like “Johnny Was,” a women’s wear label.

They came with floral designs, cute slogans and bright colors, and were very popular with the Boca Raton, Mar-a-Logo and Palm Springs Hollywood crowd.
We now know that those cloth rags are useless, and would never be seen in your local auto parts store.

The new ones are (inhale) FANGTIAN N95 Mask NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) Certified Particulate Respirators Protective masks. (exhale.)


She’s especially adamant that I wear the “shields” she sent me.

They are complete face guards designed to keep unmasked strangers (anti-maskers and vaccination phobics) away, who try to kiss you in the fresh fruit aisle.
Along with this information, I’ve provided you a photo of what it looks like when I prowl the market place.

The shields come with an instruction folder on how to keep them clean.

You must still wear the FANGTIAN N95 Mask underneath them while waiting for your soup. That’s where the shield comes in handy. You can still slurp and sip, but avoid coughing if you’re eating lasagna or chocolate cream pie. It can get messy and alarm those at the next table.

I know I will be mocked by my fellow shoppers. But as General “Bill” Sherman said, “War is Hell.”

J.P. Devine is a Waterville writer. 

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