Now I would love to say that my final night as a free youth of America was spent in languid, steamy, sexual bliss with some nubile young Officer-to-be, but such was not the case. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I went downstairs to the “bar” of the hotel and cased the place out, but it was apparent that either all the ladies already had other plans, or I was just too early. Having grown up in a part of Alabama where everything shut down after 8 p.m., I didn’t yet know that the REAL fun doesn’t start till after 11p.m. Heck, by then I was sawing some logs up in my room and the last thing on my mind was a booty call.
The next morning, we all piled downstairs for a greasy meal and then it was onto the bus (again) to take us over to Maxwell Air Force base for our in-processing. That whole day was a big blur, but I will give you some highlights that stick in my mind:
- Paperwork. LOTS of paperwork.
- Standing in a large room—in my underwear—with a bunch of other guys, while some middle-aged, potbellied supposed doctor walked around issuing orders like, “Raise your arms;” “Touch your toes,” and “Stand on the balls of your feet.” I remember thinking, in addition to, “Hey, I’m not the only person here wearing white underwear,” also that, this was the worst physical I’d ever seen. Now granted, I’d never had a real physical in my life, but I’d seen them on TV and being a relatively intelligent person, I knew that you couldn’t tell if a person had a hernia, say, by having them bend over necessarily.
- Standing in a lot of lines and not talking to anyone.
- Finally passing everything and giving my oath of service. It was a terribly anti-climactic ending to an uneventful day. We all stood in a room arm-length apart. Some officer from the base we were on strolled in like he was the hottest crap since Rocky Balboa; he swaggered around and gave us some “this is your duty” speech that involved lots of words like “honor” and “upholding” and then he finally got down to it and swore us in.
Let me take a brief diversion here and explain something about myself. I’ve previously mentioned that I’m broken on the inside—that I don’t feel things that I believe others feel. Well, the same goes for my sense of patriotism. In fact, I generally rankle inside when someone tries to prey on another person’s sense of pride in their country and it burns me to no end to see car dealers waving this big American flag on television thinking that those of us who have served can be so easily swayed. Don’t get me wrong—I lOVE THIS COUNTRY. It just so happens that it annoys the ever-loving crap outta me when someone assumes it’s a hot button of mine they can push in order to get me to do something. I mean come on! We’re smarter than that. Aren’t we?
Anyway, I wasn’t impressed. Some of the other recruits’ parents actually came and took pictures of the oath, but not mine (thankfully). After that, it was more standing around and waiting until it was time to head to the airport to catch our plane to boot camp at Lackland Air Force base, just outside of San Antonio, Texas.
In the middle of summer.
The group of us heading to Lackland was a diverse bunch, and relatively subdued. I think it had finally hit us all what we had just done and we were each contemplating the hell that we knew was going to be the next six weeks of our lives. Most of us were young, under 25, so we had active imaginations.
How wrong we all were. It was worse. Much worse.
To be continued…